Maize technology research enhanced through Maize Trust bursaries

SA Graan/Grain editorial team
Published: 5 June 2024

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The Maize Trust bursary scheme is a financial support scheme that is aimed at providing funding for students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the field of maize technology in South Africa. Grants are disbursed from the annual income generated by the trust, which comes from dividends and interest on donations received from the Maize Board. Bursaries are paid out based on approved progress reports submitted by both the student and their supervisor.

Here are some of the recent beneficiaries of the bursaries:

Ncumisa Yekelo
Ncumisa Yekelo grew up in a rural village in the Eastern Cape and became interested in agriculture through her parents. With the assistance of a Maize Trust bursary, she completed her MSc degree in Plant Pathology in 2021 with specific focus on antifungal activity of endophytes from Arctotis arctotoides against Pythium and Rhizoctonia root diseases of maize (Zea mays L.). She encourages young people to take up career opportunities in agriculture to help the country with issues such as food security. ‘There are many opportunities if you are prepared to work hard,’ she said. She is currently a laboratory technician in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Limpopo.

Balungile Dlulisa
Balungile Dlulisa grew up in Clearwater township in Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal and recently completed her MSc degree in Horticultural Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. During her studies, she researched the effect of elevated CO2 on the growth, development and post-harvest parameters of sweetcorn(Zea mays L. var. saccharata) as a significant global horticultural commodity. She said that the funding she received from the Maize Trust enabled her to finish her master’s degree. ‘The communication and support that we received from the Maize Trust were fantastic; they made me feel part of the Maize Trust family.’ Dlulisa wants to study further and do more research as she understands the importance of agricultural research in improving crops and enhancing food security.

Stefan Links
Stefan Links grew up in Sandfontein on the Cape Flats where going to university is not a given. With a bursary to study Plant Pathology and Genetics at Stellenbosch University, he quickly realised his love for agriculture. For his master’s degree Stefan wanted to focus on a staple crop and soon learnt about the many projects of the Maize Trust. He received a bursary from them and completed his MSc in 2019, focusing on building a model of resistance to Fusarium ear rot in maize. Following his studies, Stefan was offered an internship at Grain SA. He is currently a research and protection manager at Forestry South Africa.

Dr Stephano Haarhoff
Dr Stephano Haarhoff is an agronomist at Anthesis South Africa and an extraordinary lecturer at Stellenbosch University. Even though he grew up in Hermanus, it was holidays on their family farm in the Free State that made it easy for him to choose a career in agriculture. He obtained a BSc Agric in Soil Science and Agronomy at Stellenbosch University and it was there that he learnt about the Maize Trust bursaries. Securing a bursary from the trust enabled him to complete his PhD in 2019, focusing on maize.

Dr Richard Kotze
Dr Richard Kotze is from Pretoria and started his studies in Plant Sciences. During his honours year he decided to focus on agriculture and specifically mycotoxins. He finished his MSc degree specialising in mycotoxins and was planning on finding a job, when he got the opportunity through the Maize Trust to do his PhD on northern leaf blight in maize at the University of Pretoria. He is currently a plant pathologist at Bayer Crop Science in the Production Research Division.

Angelique Daniell
Angelique Daniell is a lecturer at the North-West University in the School for Environmental Sciences. Through the Maize Trust, she was able to hand in her PhD in Soil Science and Agronomy at the end of 2022.

Nozibusiso Maphumulo
Nozibusiso Maphumulo grew up in a small rural village in KwaZulu-Natal with her family dependent on social grants. She was exposed to agriculture through subsistence farming in the community and heard of the Maize Trust during her honours year. Thanks to the Maize Trust bursary she has completed her MSc degree in Plant Protection and Integrated Pest Management.

Ayesha Shaikh
Ayesha Shaikh is currently enrolled for her PhD in Plant Pathology at the Stellenbosch University. Even though the Western Cape isn’t a large producer of maize, Shaikh’s research is focused on maize breeding and diseases and that made the Maize Trust bursary a perfect fit for her. ‘To date, my practical experience relates mostly to maize and wheat and encompasses a range of scarce skills such as DNA-based molecular work and mycotoxicology.’ She hopes to pursue a career in agricultural research.

Dr Abongile Balarane
Dr Abongile Balarane is currently the CEO of the South African Poultry Association’s Egg Division. Dr Balarane comes from a humble background, and he is full of praise for the Maize Trust’s assistance in his post-graduate studies. He obtained a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the North-West University. His dissertation was titled ‘Determinants of livelihood strategies among smallholder farmers on irrigation schemes in the North West Province, South Africa’.

How to apply
To be eligible for a Maize Trust bursary, students must be South African citizens or permanent residents, and they must be enrolled or accepted for studies at a recognised South African tertiary institution. They must also demonstrate academic excellence and show a commitment to the maize industry.

The amount and duration of the bursary vary depending on the level and nature of the course of study. Successful applicants may receive funding for tuition, accommodation, and other related expenses.

For more information about the Maize Trust bursaries and how to apply, interested students can visit the Maize Trust website (maizetrust.co.za) or contact the trust directly.