30 May 2022

Mnyambo, the first in his family to go to university, received a distinction for his research under the topic: Resistance status of Bambara groundnuts to root-knot nematodes and nematodes management using plant extracts.

“My achievements are dedicated to my late mother who never had the opportunity to go to university. I wish she was still around to witness the person I am today. For the past six years, I never imagined I would be here. I appreciate the help I received from my supervisor, lecturers, family, and friends. I'm ecstatic; being among those who graduated Cum Laude is the most amazing feeling I've ever had,” he says.

Mnyambo is currently registered for a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Agriculture) at the University of Mpumalanga.

“I am funded by NRF and with the research that I will be doing, I believe that I will contribute in the field of academia. My career goal is to become a lecturer and researcher at the University of Mpumalanga. My interest is to contribute towards the field of teaching and tutoring of students at UMP,” he says.

Mnyambo hails from Makoko, a small village in Mpumalanga, which he says has not produced anyone who graduated with a Master’s degree and Cum Laude. “I admire God's work. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a young person that is part of the growing state-of-the-art university in South Africa, UMP.

Leadership skills

Mnyambo further says that his passion for leadership and helping others began when he was a Bachelor of Science student.

“From 2017 to 2020 I worked as a chemistry tutor under the guidance and supervision of Dr Nokuthula Khanyile. Some of my responsibilities included tutoring, facilitating student’s practicals, marking, and commenting on student assignments, participating and moderating online discussions and forums, and teaching small student groups,” he adds.

“The tutorship programme has enabled me to effectively manage time and schedules, to communicate effectively both orally and in writing, and to apply knowledge of test administration techniques and procedures. It also taught me how to maintain the confidentiality of records and information, basic data entry and/or word processing skills, knowledge of tutorial/learning materials and instructional aids, skills in preparing instructional aids and plans, and organizing and coordinating skills.”

In 2019, Mnyambo was part of the Student Representative Council (SRC) under the office of Sports and Recreation.

“In this role l received training in the following areas: SA Higher Education Legislative Imperatives, Ethical and Values-Driven Leadership, Communication in Leadership, Conflict Resolution, Negotiation Skills, Financial Management, and Work-Life Balance for Leaders. I captained the university soccer team for a period of two years (2017-2018) and participated in the major University tournament called University Sports South Africa (USSA).

UMPNicholus Mnyambo has a passion for teaching and academia.

Mnyambo also excelled in his undergraduate studies, getting a merit award of appreciation for excellence in 2019.

“This gave me an edge over my colleagues which enabled me to receive funding from NRF for my master’s studies for the year 2021.

During my first-year postgraduate (MSc) in 2020 under the supervision of Dr ZP Dube, I assisted with student practicals and student supervision. Part of my responsibilities was to assist in project proposal design, experimental setups, data collection, and data analysis.

“Dr Dube also assigned me to co-supervise two Honours students for the year 2021 (Charles Ngwenya and Zizo Tetyana) under his tutorage. I was a Residence Student Assistant (RSA) in the year 2021. I was part of the two students who were part of the Postgraduate committee called Postgraduate Studies Committee of Senate (PGSCS) in 2021.”

Research focus to improve lives

An agriculturist at heart, Mnyambo grew up in a family that is agriculturally orientated, which prompted him to fall in love with agriculture.

“My research focuses on the use of a traditional plant, Bambara groundnut also known as tindlubu in Siswati. Bambara groundnut is a traditional underutilized crop which is important as a food source, particularly for most rural communities where levels of food insecurity are very high. The crop is grown in marginal soils high in nematode infestations known to reduce yield,” he adds.

“Moreover, there is a huge gap between production from commercial agriculture and production from substance farming. This is due to the resources available in commercial agriculture, which are absent in rural areas. People from rural communities don’t have enough capital to purchase these chemicals that assist in improving yields.

Also, there is an increase in the general awareness of the harmful effect that these chemicals have on the environment and human health, which resulted in some being withdrawn or restricted from the market.”

His dream is to promote the traditional crops to assist in addressing issues caused by the growing human populations such as high food demand. “The research will provide an alternative cheap method that can be adopted by farmers and control nematodes and simultaneously improve yields.”

@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures Supplied.