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Friday, 11 September 2020

Preserving our heritage for future generations

MODIFYING: Dr Bongani Ncube, a researcher at the Centre for Water and Sanitation Research  believes the restoration of our heritage is everyone’s responsibility. MODIFYING: Dr Bongani Ncube, a researcher at the Centre for Water and Sanitation Research believes the restoration of our heritage is everyone’s responsibility.

As we celebrate Heritage Month, Dr Bongani Ncube, a researcher at the Centre for Water and Sanitation Research, under the Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying devotes her time to working with communities to conserve our natural resources, be it soil, water or plant life.

“When we utilise these natural resources sustainably, we preserve our heritage, making sure that future generations will also enjoy the resources,” Ncube emphasises.  The Zimbabwean-born researcher’s focus is water and agriculture, trying to find solutions for communities at all levels, in areas such as drought, climate change, and water resource management.

“Heritage is ours to celebrate, to uphold and to preserve for future generations,” she says.

Ncube’s longterm goal is to continue to find solutions in water resource management, environmental conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity.  Her research covers both scientific and indigenous knowledge. In 2015, her team of researchers completed a project on: Insights into Indigenous Coping Strategies to Drought for Adaptation in Agriculture in the Karoo.

“We were amazed by the rich knowledge that exists within farming communities at all levels, from commercial to smallholder farmers”. The work remains one of the most interesting research projects she has ever done.

“If we can find ways of integrating indigenous and scientific knowledge, farmers are likely to be less impacted by future droughts and climate change.”

Ncube, also a part-time lecturer in Civil Engineering and Surveying also hopes that women will take charge of restoring heritage in South Africa and in Africa, especially in her field. “I believe the restoration of our heritage is everyone’s responsibility, therefore everyone should participate. Many wonderful attributes make us unique as a people, and we can use these to build a cohesive nation, whether in research or the arts. We can also collaborate with other African nations in these spaces.” 

She is currently writing (an invited) book chapter on indigenous knowledge systems in water management.

“Findings from this chapter will culminate into further research on indigenous knowledge systems in water and agriculture,” she remarks. Her day job entails writing proposals, going out to the field to collect data, talk to the farmers, communities, and organisations that support them. She also supervises Master’s and PhD students and lectures undergraduates in Water and Waste Treatment, Environmental Engineering and Soil Science.

“I would like to do my bit in reducing poverty and improving food security. Water scarcity, drought, and climate change pose huge challenges that require multidisciplinary approaches. I would like to create more research linkages locally, nationally, and internationally,” she adds.

With her busy schedule, Ncube finds a very thin line between work and relaxation for a researcher because there is always a paper to be written or a thesis to mark. However, she loves singing, “so you will always find a good song playing from my phone or car and I sing along... I also love walking along the river or the beach or to just sit and marvel at the beauty of nature”.

Written by Aphiwe Boyce


Provides coverage for the Engineering and the Built Environment and Applied Sciences Faculties.