College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences

"I believe this will be an inspiration to the rural girl child"

The foundation

Unisa prides itself as a university that is counted as a contributor to societal problems. Many of its solutions are premised on the hard work of its researchers, who produce impactful research that ensures that the university is a centre of excellence and provider of access to opportunities for the marginalised and a lever of optimum participation in the global knowledge area.

Honoured with the Youngest Female Doctoral Graduate Award at Unisa's 2022 Research and Innovation Awards Ceremony, Dr Makgalake Pabalelo Radingoana grew up in the rural area of Mohlaletse and later moved to stay with her paternal family in Mathibeng Marolo in Limpopo. In both places and the province in general, access to clean and safe water has always been a challenge. She explains: "I used to fetch water from the river we shared with livestock." Although both families were poor, she adds: "There was never a day when I went to bed hungry; however, we ate food I did not prefer and did not have the luxury to choose what I wanted at times." It is this background that influenced Radingoana's research focus. "I have always wanted to focus my research work on issues relating to water, poverty and food insecurity, and some of the social ills we face in society," she says.

Dr Makgalake Pabalelo Radingoana

The Youngest Female Doctoral Award recognises the youngest staff member at Unisa to attain a PhD during the graduation proceedings of the preceding year. The award reflects the importance of increasing the number of doctoral graduates and lays emphasis on the importance attached to South Africans completing doctoral studies at a young age. Sharing her sentiments, Radingoana says: "I never imagined or thought about being honoured with this kind of award. It came as a surprise to me. However, I feel humbled, as it brings me immense joy."

She adds: "I find it more rewarding and self-fulfilling after all the toil and hard work. Now I believe that the sky is the limit, and I feel more encouraged to work even harder and be an inspiration to my subordinates, especially the upcoming young researchers."

Moreover, Radingoana adds that she also owes it to her father, Ramotjatji Klaas Ntobeng, who, from a young age, always encouraged and talked her into reading and solving puzzles. "I was also encouraged by my internship mentor, Obed Phahlane, when I was at the Agricultural Research Council. Phahlane encouraged Radingoana to pursue her honours degree and eventually her PhD. "I am also the first person in my family to have master's and PhD degrees, so you can only imagine how proud I am of myself," she adds.

Alleviating food insecurity in rural Limpopo

Sharing a summary of her research work, Radingoana says: "My research focuses on greywater reuse as an alternative to potable water for crop production." Greywater is the water usually discarded after washing dishes, doing laundry or bathing. "I focused on greywater reuse as a source that can be used to alleviate food insecurity in rural Limpopo − a province prone to droughts and erratic rainfall, and which is largely arid." Her research objectives were to produce a state-of-the-art scientific review on the progress, opportunities and challenges associated with the reuse of greywater for home gardening, evaluate the quality of greywater from different sources for irrigation and assess the nutritional quality of the home garden produce irrigated with greywater to improve food security.

Throughout this research work, Radingoana says she was inspired by her PhD supervisor, Prof Timothy Dube, who made sure to cement the cracks she had in her research. "I am forever grateful for his time and knowledge transferred to me," she says. Besides her impactful research, Radingoana's other achievements include producing three publications with three under review and having supervised to completion 15 honours students so far. "I also currently have two master's students under my supervision for 2022 and am looking forward to having them complete in record time." In addition, while she is a young academic, Radingoana has also been a peer reviewer for the journals Science of the Total Environment, South African Geographic Journal, Applied Water Science, Water and Environment, Scientific African and Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment.

Regarding all these achievements in her young career, she says: "I am grateful to God for everything. The journey hasn't been easy, but the fruits are forever sweet." She adds: "I am also grateful to Unisa for the overwhelming support for and recognition of my academic achievement. I believe this will be an inspiration to the rural girl child. Doctoral studies are very challenging and demanding, but with perseverance and esteemed agility, it's possible," she concludes.

Click here for coverage of the 2022 Unisa Research and Innovation Awards Ceremony.

* By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2022/06/13