Dr Hlami Ngwenya is renowned globally as a social scientist who believes firmly in food sustainability through responsible agricultural practices particularly in Africa. She boasts over 30 years of experience in the field having worked in more than 50 countries. Ngwenya uses her vast experience to equip students with skills to make a difference in their own communities both in South Africa and on the continent.
Ngwenya’s area of focus will enormously assist Africa to overcome the widespread challenge of poverty. Africa is considered the poorest continent on Earth with majority of its people in the sub-Saharan Africa living below the poverty line.
Ngwenya joined the university in 2015 teaching the Advanced Diploma on Extension for Sustainability and the Master’s Programme on Sustainable Agriculture and Extension: Theory and Practice.
Currently she is a lecturer in the University of the Free State’s department of sustainable food systems and development (DSFSD). Ngwenya believes in investing in farmers’ human capital globally and has been consistently making major contributions to the field of research related to agriculture particularly food sustainability. In 2020, she contributed a chapter on ‘Food and Agriculture’ in the United Nations Development Programme report on ‘COVID-19 Rapid Emergency Needs Assessment’ for the most vulnerable groups.
She was also part of a global study titled: Investing in farmers: Agriculture Human Capital Investment (AHCI) strategies, conducted in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Investment Centre.
The latter study was conducted in nine countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America with a view to improving the understanding of AHCI. In addition, the study also provides lessons learned from successful AHCI models around the world, with recommendations and guidelines for future investment that emphasise the importance of the human capital of agricultural producers.
Ngwenya’s contribution is highly valued by high profile industry players, such as the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) of which she is a member of its Consortium for Education and Training.
She is also one of the brains behind the globally developed New Extensionist Learning Kit. Commonly known as NELK, the product was created as a tool to augment and equip agricultural extension personnel with the functional skills relevant to managing the complexities of agricultural innovation and food systems.
The UFS’s DSFSD is one of the leading institutions globally that has not only adopted but has also adapted NELK as part of its curriculum. The South African Society for Agricultural Extension (SASAE) has also adopted the kit to contribute towards the continuous professional development of extension personnel.
Continentally, Ngwenya has been a resource person for the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services and supported the development of agricultural extension and advisory services fora at regional and national levels. Ngwenya is also involved in other agricultural initiatives globally including agricultural policy, agricultural research, as well as agricultural education.
She moderated more than 300 multi-stakeholder engagements, including strategic planning sessions, organisational development, team building, training, and conferences. Ngwenya has also participated in high-level policy dialogues at United Nations level, the African Union Commission, and other continental and regional level organisations.
Despite her coveted accomplishments, Ngwenya remains humble and down to earth. “One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt through engaging in many African countries, is that there is not necessarily co-relation between a country’s strong economy and human capital,” said Ngwenya.