Science Stars Agriculture Issue

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AGRICULTURE

ISSUE 2022



See the night sky in all its splendour! The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is open again for tours in both Cape Town and Sutherland.

Cape Town Open Nights:

Sutherland Tours:

When: 20:00 on the 2nd & 4th Saturday of every month Where: SAAO HQ, Observatory, Cape Town Cost: Free

When: Daily, except Sundays & public holidays Where: SAAO site, just outside Sutherland Cost: R120 (adults)

Tours include a talk relating to astronomy/ physics, and a visit to the historic McClean telescope, the observatory museum and the library. On clear nights, you’ll also have the opportunity to observe through telescopes set up for the evening.

Visit the SAAO’s facilities in the Karoo! We offer both day and night tours. The site hosts our major telescopes, including SALT, the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. School tours are also available.

To book, please visit:

https://www.saao.ac.za/visitus/ Facebook: @SAAOnews Twitter: @SAAO Instagram: @saao_astro


FEATURES

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meet local agripreneurs

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industry insight: merino wool and mohair fibre

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local initiative

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more on hydroponics

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top 5: tech innovations

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dsi budget vote

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career talk

21 REGULARS

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26 38

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COVER STORY

SCIENCE NEWS

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quiz

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puzzles

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facts

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science centre

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ED’S NOTE

team Science Stars

LETTER FROM

THE EDITOR

Editor • Shani Tsai Graphic designer • Stacey Swartz

Land love

Contributing writers • Zakiyah Ebrahim • Nadine Sims • Chireez Fredericks • Lusanda Tamesi I spent my high school years in Stellenbosch, where the valley is home to so many wine farms. A drive in almost any direction in or out of the town centre will spoil you with views of vineyards that either march straight ahead or twist and turn on the mountainside, into the far distance.

Apart from the wine the town is so loved for, there are also many different types of agricultural develpoments taking place. Those that feed, those that provide and those that prepare to share South Africa’s great resources with the outside world through exports.

Chairman • Madambi Rambuda Ambassador • Prof. Azwindinni Muronga Subscriptions • info@sciencestars.co.za

Copyright 2021 Science Stars Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or any means, electronically or mechanically, without prior permission. Science Stars is published by Science Stars Pty Ltd

For me, highlights of this issue include the feature on the mohair industry (page 17) and the piece on local agripreneurs doing amazing things (page 12). If you’re interested in agricuture, turn to page 30 for a guide to what career you can plan towards. We hope you’ll enjoy this issue!

1 Bridgeway, Century City, Cape Town, South Africa, 7441

Shani Tsai

+27 21 830 5240 info@sciencestars.co.za www.sciencestars.co.za

Editor

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COVER FEATURE

AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA: WHAT DOES OUR FUTURE LOOK LIKE? AND HOW HAS THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IMPACTED FOOD SECURITY FOR MULTIPLE AFRICAN COUNTRIES? WE TAKE A LOOK. By: Zakiyah Ebrahim

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COVER FEATURE

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World War II. The long period of lockdowns and restrictions have also made it difficult for farmers to sell their products, leaving them with limited or no income.

frica is home to 60% of the world’s arable land – it

is considered an important centre of agricultural production. It has enormous potential to meet our own food needs and those of other countries on other continents. But several factors are changing the environment in which our continent’s agriculture operates and are leading to huge concerns around food security. (Food security means that not all people have access to safe, affordable and nutritious food.) Science Stars looks at what has changed over the years for our continent, how we are coping today, and what the best way forward is.

FOOD SECURITY IN AFRICA Agriculture, or the practice of farming, in Africa dates as far back as 3000 BCE, with sources pointing to its emergence in West Africa, where farmers grew a diverse range of food crops. Today, the agricultural industry plays a vital economic role – not only does it employ a large portion of the continent’s people, but it also contributes to the GDP in subSaharan Africa. GDP refers to the total value of the goods and services produced in a country, usually during a year. Coffee, fruit, vegetables and cocoa, for example, are exported from Africa and are considered important sources of foreign exchange. In many rural parts of Africa, agriculture is also the primary source of food and income.

WHAT’S CAUSING THE PROBLEM? Some experts believe that before colonialism, crops were grown in abundance and could sustain Africa’s people, but under colonial rule, indigenous farmers were coerced into growing and exporting commodities, such as cotton and palm oil nuts. Unfortunately, this provided little benefit and forced indigenous farmers to neglect their own food crops in the process. Because of this redirection of the agricultural production systems, there were severe food shortages, which can still be seen in some countries today, including Ghana and Senegal. Export crops are grown on more than 50% of cultivable land, for example, while food is imported. (Export crops are food items that a country produces and then sells to a foreign country, while import crops refer to buying and bringing foods into a country that was produced in another country). A report by McKinsey tells us that sub-Saharan Africa imports more than R225 billion in food crops, including grains, sugar and edible oils from Asia and South America. Scientists at the University of South Australia explained in an article for The Conversation: “Agricultural development became based on western economic, technological and political ideologies, rather than African solutions for African conditions.” Despite this, they say African farmers were innovative and entrepreneurial, and seized opportunities when they encountered them.

“The journey to transforming agriculture and eradicating food insecurity in Africa will be a long one but is possible”

But growth in this sector has been limited, and farmers’ incomes across the continent are also lower than anywhere else in the world. Africa’s population is also expected to triple by 2050. With many barriers limiting its ability to reach its full potential, experts say this will threaten food security, especially in East Africa.

WHAT ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES?

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa experienced severe food insecurity. In 2018, the World Food Programme predicted that food insecurity would double in three decades from now and that more than half would be in sub-Saharan Africa. What’s even more worrying is that, even though food is still being produced and distributed during the pandemic, the experience could cause one of the worst food crises since

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Rainfall patterns have become unpredictable while African soils are, geologically, very old and infertile. Fertile soils can mainly be found in the East African Rift Valley near Kenya and Uganda but need proper agricultural water management. Droughts, pests and diseases have also led to crops taking a toll, causing food losses. Other researchers say groundwater resources are enough to transform agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. The reserves could be used for irrigation – watering crops through man-made systems, such as sprinklers, pipes and canals. But the resource has been poorly managed or untapped for a long time.

IS THERE A SOLUTION? The journey to transforming agriculture and eradicating food insecurity in Africa will be a long one but is possible. To realise the Mother Continent’s full agricultural potential, the continent will need innovation in its agricultural sector and get involved in new farming techniques. McKinsey suggests that they will need more than eight times more fertiliser, more improved seeds and billions of rands of investment for storage technology and irrigation. This can only work if farmers, civil society organisations and policymakers work together to create sustainable solutions to grow this sector.

Heifer International, a US-based non-profit organisation, also conducted a survey that showed that many agricultural organisations had to temporarily close because of the pandemic. But the survey also found that combining technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and agriculture, known as ‘digital agriculture’, will offer hopeful solutions. Omri Van Zyl, Africa Agriculture Leader at Deloitte, is optimistic: Africa’s agricultural sector can experience exponential growth over the next decade, he says. But this can only happen if the industry diversifies enough and invests in certain factors limiting its development, such as financial and infrastructural challenges. He gives an example of storage infrastructure through grain silos, a structure used in agriculture that can store bulk materials. “Using technology and innovation for food security and sustainable development is one way of making certain that the food produced is secure for consumers. The use of modern technology, like seed varieties … is able to increase agricultural production without using any genetically modified crops,” says van Zyl. With these suggested solutions put into practice, Africa will be able to enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume for generations to come, say experts.

Imaged source: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo

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NEWS

MAKING HEADLINES

See a sea squid National Geographic reported that the first photos of the very elusive giant squid were taken in 2004. Prior to this, scientists would only have access to the beached carcasses of the squid that lices 300-1000m beneath the ocean’s surface. That is, until an injured one was spotted on a Cape Town beach on 30 April this year. According to beachgoers, the giant squid was just over 2m long!

April flood’s day The recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape devastated the areas, resulting in damage of property and the tragic death of a few residents. Now, scientists have confirmed that the heavy floods were largely due to the effects of global warming. “If we do not reduce emissions and keep global temperatures below 1.5C, many extreme weather events will become increasingly destructive,” said Dr Izidine Pinto, at the University of Cape Town, to Theguardian.com.

Job joy With the recent unemployment statistics at a shocking low, it helps to focus on the opportunities that are currently available and those that will soon become available. A May article by Businesstech.co.za shows that the sectors with a recent increase in demand since 2020 include IT (113%), science and technology (115%), legal (120%) and medical and health (130%). So if you’re still deciding what to study, these sectors may be worth looking into!

Solar (girl) power! With a project ficused on solar power, 14-year-old Chaylin Myburgh from Kimberly was chosen to partake in an international programme through the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. Myburgh represented South Africa in the US at the Broadcom Masters International Programme that tok place in May. We’re so proud!

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LOCAL STORIES

ALL ABOUT AGRIPRENEURS What is an agripreneur? And why do they matter? We have the answers. By: Lusanda Tamesi

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tatistics South Africa (Stats SA) released a statement

that we are at a staggering 35.3% of unemployment rate. The agricultural sector recorded 38 000 jobs, but industry group Agri SA noted that there was a 20.6% decline in skilled agricultural employment. This decline causes stress to the sector, and many factors hinder the sector’s growth.“It remains a concern that this drop in skilled employment represents a brain drain for the sector,” Agri SA said. Now the real question is can young talent transform farming? And is farming really the way to go? Let me introduce you to the term “agripreneur” – a combination of agriculture and entrepreneurship to help tackle the world’s pressing issues like unemployment, climate change, food insecurity and more. It is the transformation of a vision into a business venture. Here, we chat to a few local agripreneurs.

Special spinach “I learned farming through Google”, says Ncumisa Mkabile, known as ‘Spinach Queen’. She is a 28-year-old Tourism graduate from Cofimvaba in Eastern Cape but is based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. When South Africa had a hard knock from the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Ncumisa’s world came crumbling as she was forced to close down her catering business. She survived by selling hardbody chicken through door-todoor deliveries. This was not generating enough income for her so she starting thinkong of other ways to make money. She noticed a gap in fresh produce in the market, and that was the birth of the Spinach Queen. Through the power of the internet, Ncumisa’s idea became a reality. Despite not having an agricultural qualification, no farming background and no mentor, Ncumisa used the influence of social media to obtain suppliers. “I had to research the type of crop that would be suitable for sandy soil and would survive all weather conditions hence I planted spinach”, said Ncumisa. She explained that she used social media, specifically Facebook, to market her spinach, where many people showed an interest in her business. Through this strategy, she was able to supply spinach to supermarkets in Khayelitsha. In addition to employing people in her community, this was the foundation of a nationwide famed farmerette. Ncumisa emerged as an AFASA Newcomer of the year award winner, Against all odds start award winner, UN Ambassador, and Standard Bank Farming Influencer. “I believe that to achieve something you should have a strong why as to why are you doing what you are doing and that way you will find your passion,” she said. Ncumisa envisions opening a training academy in Khayelitsha where youth will learn about farming. Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za

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Something about sommeliers A group of nine graduates made their dream a reality when they produced the uLutsha wine, one of South Africa’s finest Pinotage wines. uLutsha, which means youth in isiXhosa, was created in 2020 by a group of graduates who acquired their skills from PYDA. PYDA is an NGO that offers a year-long preparation programme for students that wish to make positive changes in their lives. This programme focuses on tourism and the fruit sector. Ziyanda Njalo, one of the people behind the uLutsha product, was excited to learn about harvesting and the science of distillation and crushing grapes. “Whenever it was time to harvest, I would always be excited because this way I had time to put theory into practice,” said Ziyanda. ULutsha also gained popularity, and marketed its product on social media. The group is busy with another wine that will hopefully skyrocket the markets!

“We are pioneering a new language of graduates that instead of hiring a graduate, we say support a graduate initiative”

Farming a future Graduation gowns were put aside, and they had to find ways to generate income. No capital, but a vision is what made Ulibo Agricultural Enterprise a success. Ulibo is a food security initiative focusing on crop and piggery farming that is aimed at addressing the country's food insecurity and unemployment crisis. It is an emerging farm located in Ncera 101 km away from Alice, Eastern Cape.

The farm was established in April 2020 by a group of graduates from the University of Fort Hare. A 20-year lease agreement for Alice's unused arable land was signed by Alice's community members shortly after the graduates wrote down the vision they had for the land. “We are pioneering a new language of graduates that instead of hiring a graduate, we say support a graduate initiative”, said Amahle xxx?. In its initiative, the group intended to prove that agriculture could solve the nation's crisis. With the farm growing, they supply supermarkets and local stalls around Alice and Fort Beaufort, as well as create jobs for the people of the village and supply them with fresh vegetables. Students studying agricultural science nationwide can also gain free practical skills through Ulibo if they provide a letter of recommendation from their institution. Ulibo aims to create more jobs and ensure stability within the community of Alice, and throughout South Africa, and also have a nursery where they supply seedlings to supermarkets.

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Living with Space Weather What is space weather? There is no greater influence on the Earth and its space environment than that of our local star, the Sun. Did you know, just like Earth, space has weather too? Snowstorms and thunderstorms occur on Earth while in space they are known as “solar storms” and like their counterparts on Earth they too may cause problems for us humans, especially because we are so dependent on satellite technology.

Can space weather affect life on Earth? Although space weather can pose a health risk for astronauts in space, it will not harm humans and other life forms on Earth as we are protected by the Earth’s magnetic field. However, space weather can cause a geomagnetic storm, which can result in disturbances to technological systems such as GPS, radio communications, internet, cell phones, DStv and our electrical power grids.


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INDUSTRY

INDUSTRY INSIGHT WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MERINO WOOL AND MOHAIR FIBRE INDUSTRY IN SOUTH AFRICA. By: Zakiyah Ebrahim

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griculture isn’t only about growing fruit and vegetable crops and rearing animals to provide the world’s population with food. Instead, it includes raising livestock and preparing animal products, such as fabrics, for people to use. For example, cotton, wool, (animal) fibre and leather are all agricultural products.

from merino to be worn by NASA’s astronauts! Merino sheep must be cut, known as ‘shearing’, at least once a year. If this isn’t done and their wool is overgrown, it can cause heat stress and even blindness. An average merino wether (a mature male that is used only for wool production) can produce up to 4.5 kg of wool each year!

Sheep and goats are believed to have been domesticated after dogs as far back as 7500 BCE, with breeding for woolly sheep beginning around 6000 BCE. Today, farming merino sheep for their wool and Angora goats for their lustrous mohair fibre is a huge true success story within South African agriculture.

Records suggest that the first specimens of merino sheep arrived in SA in 1789. However, the first person to successfully commercialise merino farming in SA was Michiel van Breda, notes Farmer’s Weekly. He began farming merino in 1817 on the historical Zoetendals Vallei farm, situated in the Overberg near Cape L’Agulhas. Today, merino farming is the backbone of many farming businesses in SA.

THE MERINO WOOL INDUSTRY The merino, one of the most important breeds of sheep in the world, accounts for a large percentage of the globe’s sheep population. Merino wool was first introduced in Spain, but in the 1800s, the merino wool industry shifted to mainly Germany, the US and Australia. Currently, however, merino sheep are raised across the world, and its wool is produced by several countries, such as New Zealand, Argentina and SA. Merino wool is hard to cut through, making it very durable. Studies have shown that merino wool can bend 32 000 times before breaking, compared to cotton at 3 000 times. It also dries faster than cotton and can withstand extreme environments, such as high heat. Because of this, in 2016, the BBC reported that a British company started producing clothing

Merino South Africa is the representative body of all merino farmers and stud breeders in the country. It was established in 1937, and in 2014 said that merino was the largest sheep breed in SA, with about 13 million sheep and 2 500 farmers at the time. Most merino farmers receive about 40% of their income from wool production and the rest from meat. THE MOHAIR INDUSTRY AND SA’S STRONG INFLUENCE Mohair has become one of the world’s best-quality luxury fibres, so much so that it’s commonly called the ‘diamond fibre’. Mohair is made from the hair of the Angora goat, which are believed to have evolved into its current form in Tibet, but over time, migrated to Turkey. Today, a handful of countries are the

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INDUSTRY

top producers of mohair, including SA, Argentina and the US. The fleece of an Angora goat is a lot softer than a sheep’s wool and it has a noticeable sheen. Since it is considered a luxury textile, clothing items made entirely from mohair are generally more expensive than those made from other types of yarn. The Angora goat’s hair needs to be sheared twice a year, as it grows 12-15 centimetres every six months. Some of the mohair’s unique properties that makes it even more desirable are that its fibre is almost non-flammable, is extremely strong, and resists stretching during wear. Their prized fibre is used to create so many things, from sweaters and scarves to winter hats, coats and carpets. South Africa is a world leader in both mohair fibre production. By 2020, the country was said to produce just over 50% of the world's mohair, while around 90% of it is exported internationally: Europe, Italy, China and the UK are the biggest markets for local manufacturers. Hinterveld Mohair, which is based in Uitenhage, the Eastern Cape, exports as many as 50 000 mohair blankets per year, mainly to Europe. They are a weaving mill that makes fabric from mohair fibre (as well as merino wool). The biggest mohair sale of 2022 took place on 22 March, where a whopping 165 677.60 kg of the luxury fibre was on sale! Most of SA’s Angora goats are farmed in the Karoo area of the Eastern Cape, with Gqeberha considered the mohair capital of the world. Around 10% comes from the Western Cape and the Northern Cape, while Lesotho is the second biggest producer. Mohair South Africa, the industry body committed to ethical mohair production in SA, markets and promotes the fibre around the world. They set up a trust a few years ago hoping to attract farmers into mohair production. In 2020, Mohair SA partnered with Textile Exchange, a global non-profit, and launched the Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS), which aims to ensure the mohair industry is ethical, and that the goats are humanely treated, healthy and well cared for. Mohair SA also set up Mohair Empowerment Trust, a nonprofit organisation focused on partnering with emerging black South African farmers, and uplifting them to give them financial independence and become commercial Angora farmers in SA. Marco Coetzee, general manager at Mohair South Africa, told Science Stars that one of the benefits of farming with Angora goats compared to sheep is that you get cash flow twice a year for their fibre, since they need to be sheared twice a year, whereas sheep only get sheared once a year. He also said that any person can farm with Angora goats. While there is an RMS in place for the mohair industry, it’s not compulsory for a farmer to comply with that standard. “The standard basically just makes the specific farmer’s access to the market bigger,” said Coetzee. “There’s a big demand for mohair that complies to that standard, but the mohair that doesn’t comply with that standard also currently sells, so it’s not like there’s a restrictive barrier to individual access to the market.” 18

SIDENOTE Angora wool comes from rabbits, while mohair comes from Angora goats – a fun fact worth knowing and that will avoid confusion!

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INDUSTRY

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What causes space weather? Space weather is caused by four main components: solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high speed solar wind and solar energetic particles and refers to the effects that the Sun has on the Earth and the planets of the solar system.

Solar flares How do you monitor events on the Sun? The South Africa National Space Agency (SANSA) is host to the only Space Weather Centre in Africa which provides an important service to the nation by monitoring the Sun and its activity. SANSA space weather forecasters utilise a variety of ground and space-based sensors and imaging systems to view activity at various depths in the solar atmosphere. With this information the Centre is able to form a picture of the environment from the Sun to the Earth providing forecasts and alerts to anyone affected by space weather.

The Sun is a huge ball of boiling gas with loop-like structures on the solar surface. When one of these loops becomes unstable, it breaks off from the Sun and creates a solar flare. FACT

The biggest flares can be hundreds of times the size of the Earth. Approximate size of the Earth

What is a Satellite? A satellite is a moon, planet or machine that orbits a planet or star. Earth and the moon are examples of natural satellites. Usually, the word “satellite” refers to a machine that is launched into space and moves around Earth or another body in space. FACT

Satellites are used for communications, such as beaming TV signals and phone calls around the world.

Coronal mass ejections A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a massive cloud of hydrogen ions which erupt from the surface of the Sun when stored energy is suddenly released. The impact of a CME causes a disturbance to the Earth’s magnetic field and can interrupt communication and navigation systems.

FACT

CME’s travel at supersonic speeds of up to 2 000 km per second. That speed would get you from Johannesburg to Cape Town in less than one second.

For more info on SANSA 20

See our website: www.sansa.org.za South African National Space Agency | @sansa7 Science Stars Agricultural Issue | |Fax: www.sciencestars.co.za Tel:Science 028 312-1196 028 312-2039 | E-mail: spacesci-info@sansa.org.za


INITIATIVE

THE POWER OF A POTATO WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE PASS THE POTATO INITIATIVE. By: Chireez Fredericks

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n recent years inequality in South Africa has increased and the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened a dire situation. The hard lockdown in March 2020 has propelled the unemployment rate as it stands at an alarming 35.3%, according to Statistics SA’s latest data. It is probable that the real rate is considerably higher, leaving at least a third of South Africans with a heavy burden to meet even their very basic needs. Since 1 March 2022, the National Minimum Wage (NMW) stands at R23.19 per hour, which means that even those lucky enough to hold on to their income during the pandemic, do not necessarily fare well when it comes to feeding themselves or their families. As millions of South African households desperately struggle to survive, not knowing where their next meal may come from, Potatoes South Africa has stepped up to the plate with the #PassthePotato initiative which was first launched in December 2021. This initiative aims to encourage South Africans to donate potatoes to those in need, and to challenge friends and family members on social media to do the same.

Jacobs noted that in addition to their versatility, potatoes offer particularly significant benefits in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. There are four dimensions when it comes to food security: food stability, food access, food use and quality and food availability. Due to the potato’s highly diverse distribution pattern and its current cultivation and demand, particularly in developing countries like South Africa with its high levels of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, the potato (among several other food sources) is one that can help match all these constraints worldwide. Potatoes South Africa has also rallied support from a variety of other businesses including Grow Fresh Produce Agents, Al3Boerdery, Tammy Taylor Dainfern Square, PR Worx, and Instant Pot South Africa, who have all donated towards buying potatoes to help curb hunger. Although #passthepotato was a festive season campaign, Potatoes South Africa encourages people to continue donating the staple food to those in need. And for anyone seeking hunger-busting recipes head on over to the Potatoes SA’s website potatoes.co.za for a wide rage of budget-friendly potato dishes.

In most of the world, the main currency of food aid has been staples like grains, wheat and rice. Now, the humble potato should be playing a much larger role to ensure a steady supply of food in the developing world, according to a number of scientists, nutritionists and aid specialists. Currently, potatoes are the fourth most consumed crop in the world, behind rice. Not only are potatoes a good source of protein, starch, vitamins and nutrients, but as a crop, they require less energy and water to grow than wheat, taking just three months from planting to harvest. Potatoes South Africa CEO Willie Jacobs has been quoted saying “During the past two years, the sector and its members took praiseworthy responsibility for local communities left destitute and who otherwise would have found it extremely difficult to survive,” he goes on to say that “notably, potatoes are host to several important vitamins and minerals, including potassium, zinc and calcium, which is crucial for households lacking diverse diets. A single 150g skin-on potato even provides nearly half an adult’s recommended daily amount of vitamin C. But perhaps most significantly, potatoes offer an important source of complex carbohydrates for increasing feelings of satiety and providing sustained energy – a vital benefit for households facing issues of hunger.”

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FUTURE TALK

HYDROPONICS: THE FUTURE OF FARMING? IT’S KNOWN AS NEXTGENERATION FARMING, WHICH USES UP TO 90% LESS WATER THAN CONVENTIONAL FARMING METHODS, MAKING IT SO MUCH MORE SUSTAINABLE. HERE’S EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW. By: Zakiyah Ebrahim

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FUTURE TALK

Hydroponic farming refers to growing plants without soil and providing their nutrients directly through water - referred to as ‘nutrient-rich water’. No fertiliser or chemicals are needed. From Greek, it translates to ‘working water’ – hydro meaning water, and ponos meaning labour. The first evidence of hydroponic cultivation stretches back to over two thousand years, but it has advanced so much in the last century that even NASA has considered using hydroponics as a potential food source for astronauts on Mars!

HOW IT WORKS

This technique combines a growing medium (which is substituted for the soil), water and added nutrients. Some of the commonly-used mediums are rockwool, sawdust, clay pellets and coconut fibre. There are several unique hydroponic systems that farmers and gardeners adopt worldwide, including the Deep Water Culture, Ebb and Flow, Aeroponics and Drip systems. However, the common feature all of them share is that they produce crops without using soil, but rather using three main ingredients: nutrients, water and oxygen. The growing medium provides oxygen to the roots, puts the roots and dissolved nutrients in contact with the water, and anchors the plants so that they don’t fall over.

EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW

This method of farming is the healthier option, uses fewer resources and, best of all, produces higher yields. It also requires less space than traditional farming. Plants are grown in a controlled environment in indoor spaces or greenhouses. As a result, farmers can supply vegetables out of season and harvest the crops about four times a year, according to Business Insider South Africa. Some of the greatest benefits of hydroponic farming are that it allows people to produce and provide food at any place, anywhere in the world. Plants also tend to grow 20% faster in hydronic systems than plants grown in soil. Importantly, it is water-saving. This means it’s a huge plus in dry areas. If you think about the rising temperatures, increasing droughts and water-scarce

regions worldwide, it becomes clear that gardens with high water consumption will be in trouble. Hydroponic systems are sealed, so no evaporation occurs, meaning no water is lost. And any run-off water can be recirculated back into the system. In agriculture, this farming method uses just 10% of the water that soil agriculture does. This is why this age-old technique has a futuristic quality and is expected to be embraced by farmers worldwide. But, while hydroponics allows you to grow any crop, it does not mean it is efficient for all crops. For example, certain large-rooting vegetables, such as potatoes, are best grown in soil, while broccoli heads grow large and are pretty heavy, making hydroponics the least favourable production method. Business Insider SA notes that lettuce, tomatoes, hot pepper, cucumber and strawberries, among other fruits and vegetables, thrive when grown hydroponically.

RELEVANCE TO SOUTH AFRICA

Hydroponics has already become an essential part of fruit and vegetable production in South Africa. It is especially valuable since our population is growing, while water is a scarce commodity in many parts of the country. In 2016, the SABC reported that hydroponic farming was fast taking over Joburg's rooftops. Catherine Khambule, a previously unemployed woman who now grows and sells spinach through hydroponics, told the SABC: “When you have a garden, you cannot go hungry.” According to Food for Mzansi, many hydroponic farming operations in South Africa are done in greenhouses.

DIY HYDROPONICS

Hydroponics is increasingly becoming a popular buzzword in gardening circles. It may sound like a complicated and intimidating process, but it's actually quite straightforward. Consider what a plant needs to grow: fresh water, nutrients, light and space. As a beginner, it is best to opt for the Deep Water Culture system as it is the most basic of all hydroponic systems, is cost-effective and is easy to operate. To find out how to get started with this method, visit farmhydroponics.com for some great tips.

Imaged source: freepik.com/free-photo

Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za

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TOP 5

TOP 5… TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS IN AGRICULTURE. By: Chireez Fredericks

Since the birth of human civilisation, agriculture has drastically changed. Plagued by numerous challenges such as land scarcity, climate change, the spread of pests and diseases and the loss of biodiversity, farming has gone from being a labour-intensive industry to a strategic and logical decision-making one. And rightly so! According to the World Bank, agriculture is critical to the African economy as it employs 65-70% of Africa’s workforce and typically accounts for 30-40% of the GDP. This means that Africa must maximise agricultural productivity to ensure food security and economic growth. This is where the latest technological innovations come into play. Let's take a look at the top 5 technological innovations in agriculture:

Agricultural robotics In large field operations, a shortage of labour is a critical problem facing farmers. This is where agricultural robots play an important role. These robots can be used for several tasks that will ease the burden on the farmers and allow them to focus more on improving overall productivity, without having to worry about slow farm processes. The primary role of agricultural robots is to tackle labour-intensive, repetitive and physically demanding tasks.

Aerial imagery Aerial imagery is captured using a satellite or a low altitude aircraft, such as a plane or a drone. The main advantage of aerial imagery is its ability to provide a bird’s eye view of a farm. With aerial images farmers can decide when pruning might be necessary by looking at the tree canopy from above. Aerial imagery is also essential for land mapping. The maps created from captured images are linked to land ownership records to create formal land registers and keep track of land ownership. Farmers can feel secure about their land ownership as a result of this.

26

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TOP 5

Regenerative agriculture Land degradation in Africa negatively impacts nearly half of all productive land as conventional farming practices lead to longterm erosion and crusting of soil. Often, the ploughing, tilling and overgrazing don’t allow much time for the soil to revive before the next cropping season. Regenerative agriculture, on the other hand, causes minimal soil disturbance while focusing on improving soil biodiversity and topsoil revival. It involves different practices like no-till farming, reduced tillage, crop rotation and more.

Digital information sharing In our ever-growing digital age, data is recognised as a powerful tool in all sectors, including agriculture. New digital technologies from satellites to telecommunications and even the internet have made farming data more reliable. Not only does this data and information sharing allow farmers to access a wealth of knowledge at a click of a button but also allows them to find buyers for their harvested produce, reduce food waste and assist them in making timely decisions.

Indoor vertical farming The land for agriculture is very limited so vertical farming has become popular in countries such as South Africa. Vertical farming is a farming technique where plants are grown stacked in vertical rows. Along with the scarcity of land, the drought crisis and the harsh African climate, vertical farming offers a promising outlook on food and crops. A large reason for that is because vertical farming allows for the use of up to 95% less water than what is normally used for crops.

Imaged source: freepik.com/free-photo

Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za

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DSI BUDGET

DSI BUDGET OVERVIEW 1. STRATEGIC OVERVIEW As South African embarks on rebuilding and reconstructing following the devastation of the COVIID19 pandemic, as well as the KwaZulu-Natal floods, science, technology and innovation (STI), has been recognised as a key pillar of this mammoth endeavour. The 2022/23 budget is tabled at a time, when the country and the world is facing huge economic pressures. Innovation aimed at development and increasing competitiveness is no longer a choice but a priority if the local economy is to survive to harsh global economic environment. The Department of Science and Innovation has received approval on it Decadal Plan which will guide the implementation of the new White Paper. The Decadal Plan is premised on advancing a holistic approach to innovation in South Africa. Support for the country’s Economic Recovery Programme initiatives, Climate Change, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Transformation of the National System of Innovation will be key among the 2022/23 initiatives. The NSI will build on progress made in the previous financial year in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, by driving the local vaccine manufacturing endeavour not for local consumption but for the African Continent as a whole. The DSI's total budget R9,1 billion for 2022/23 up from R8,9 billion in 2020/21. The majority of the Department's budget is spent on transfers to entities with the National Research Foundation receiving the largest share. 2. SOME KEY PRIORITIES IN 2022/23: ECONOMIC RECOVERY Through a number of its initiatives the DSI support this area of work through its contribution to ensuring energy security. In February the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation launched the Hydrogen South Africa Roadmap, the document will assist the country to create new sectors of growth and help to transition to a carbon neutral economy; Modernizing economic sectors like mining through supporting research and development activities continues as it not only ensures a safer work environment for miners but more importantly increases the life span of mining in South Africa. The implementation of high-tech industrialization processes using advanced manufacturing to increase economic competitiveness, remains a key priority. CLIMATE CHANGE The DSI continues to invest significantly in research and development (R&D) that builds the adaptive capacity and resilience of some economic sectors to climate change impacts and mitigates the risks to society as part of the Department's contribution to a just transition in South Africa. This is done through the implementation of the DSI-led Global Change Research Plan for South Africa and associated programmes and interventions like the Alliance for Collaboration on Climate and Earth Systems Science (ACCESS), the Southern Ocean Carbon-Climate Observatory, the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), and the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme. The Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres (RVSCs) have been crucial in building the capabilities of rurally based universities to engage effectively in global change research that facilitates the identification and profiling of local environmental risks and vulnerabilities. Some of these centres have been able to leverage funding provided through the RVSC programme to forge strategic research partnerships. Funding support for postgraduates (bursaries) and researchers, and knowledge generation through a wide range of knowledge and innovation products are at the heart of the programme. 28

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY The implementation of the Agricultural Bio-economy Innovation Partnership Programme (ABIPP) continues to make significant contributions on a number of fronts. The DSI is intensifying agricultural research and introducing new smart agriculture technologies in a bid ensure food security and modernizing agriculture. This also includes increasing support for R&D activities in veterinary research. Outbreaks of animal diseases impacts economic growth. The agro-processing and value chain development under ABIPP is making significant progress. WOMEN AND YOUTH The Department continues to prioritize women and young people and has mainstreamed these groups in all its economic and social development initiatives. These groups are included in the Hydrogen Society Roadmap launched earlier to ensure capacity building and economic opportunities. Young people from TVET colleges also received training at part of the projects under the HYSA roadmaps. Programmes like the Grassroots Innovation Programmes and Living Labs aimed at supporting local innovation are also women and youth centric. Other noteworthy milestones for this year includes the flagship initiatives like National Science Week (NSW), which is an annual celebration of science, engineering and technology, attracting thousands of learners and members of the public to workshops, science shows and lectures, which are held at universities, schools, science centres and public facilities countrywide continues. As do the South African Women in Science Awards, it celebrates the best of women in science, technology and innovation PROFILING THE WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, DRIVING PARTNERSHIPS IN GOVERNMENT AND IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR The DSI’s Brand Campaign Strategy, #itspossible, will continue and be at the centre of driving awareness around the investment made in the national system of innovation for the benefit society and continues into the foreseeable future. Beyond ensuring that the citizens become aware of how science, technology and innovation improve and saves lives, it is also important to drive appreciation and adoption of locally developed technologies and innovation, and the use of research to inform evidenced based decisions in government and the private sector alike. It is anticipated that with greater awareness, partnerships will increase for economic opportunities and better coordination among government departments on the basis of the initiatives driven through the Decadal Plan. 3. EXPENDITURE FINANCING Funding is allocated to the DSI by National Treasury. For the 2022/23 financial year, the Department is allocated R9,1 billion.

Over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period, the resources allocated to the DSI are as follows: The Department also receives official development assistance from other countries through various funding instruments. 4. FUNCTIONAL CLASSIFICATION OF EXPENDITURE The DSI's total budget for the 2022/23 financial year is R9,1 billion. The chart below shows how this is divided between the Department's five main Programmes, which represent various core focus areas.

Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za


DSI BUDGET

Research Development and Support receives an allocation of R5,1 billion. In 2022/23, initiatives are underway to ensure that flagship projects that profile SA’s NSI capabilities will include non-traditional NSI participants and extend to areas that have been previously marginalised. There will also be support for the development of critical high-end skills in the bio-economy, space science and technology, energy, intellectual property, nanotechnology, robotics, photonics and areas of technology convergence that are important in building a knowledge society. This will be done in the form of specialised training interventions (formal or informal), and graduate and postgraduate student support. This will also include the development of technical and artisan skills to support the deployment of newly developed innovations, as well as technology dissemination. The implementation of the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Act, 2019, will lead to the development of new policy initiatives. Regulations will have to be facilitated to enable the DSI to lead the implementation of the Act. A special services delivery unit (SSDU) will be established to serve as the authority regulating the IKS sector. The registration of indigenous knowledge through the National Recordal System will run on the SSDU platform. The setting up of institutional units for the recognition of prior learning in IKS disciplines will be a novel contribution by the DSI to developing human capabilities in ways currently outside the mainstream. Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships receives R1,7 billion. the pursuit to enhance the growth and development priorities of the government through targeted S&T-based innovation interventions and the development of strategic partnerships with other government departments, industry, research institutions and communities, and the provision of statistics and analysis for purposes of system-level monitoring and evaluation continues. This will mean the enabling of the modernisation of sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, agriculture and mining to ensure that these sectors are competitive and can contribute to higher GDP growth and participation in the aerospace, mining, and automotive sector master plans. It will be as important to develop new industries based on new sources of growth and increase the NSI contribution to exports, by putting in place measures to accelerate the conversion of ideas and knowledge to products and services and continue efforts towards industrialisation, transitioning towards a circular economy and the development of high-end skills required for a digital economy. Technology Innovation receives an allocation of close to R1,7 billion. Strides made in leveraging the scientific infrastructure continue, and there will be further investments made, particularly in vaccine manufacturing and in active pharmaceutical ingredients, ensuring that South Africa is self-reliant and is able to supply the necessary vaccines in the rest of the continent. Investments geared towards supporting the translation of publicly financed IP into social and economic value will be made in 2022/23 financial period. Through NIPMO, a database of disclosures of publicly financed IP will be used as a basis for tracking the utilisation of IP through the conclusion of commercial agreements and the introduction of products and services to the public. Administration receives R379,5 million for the overall management of the Department and to ensure that organisations funded by the DSI comply with the standards of good corporate governance and align their activities with the strategic focus of the NSI.

International Cooperation and Resources receives an allocation of R149,8 million. International partnerships that strengthen the national system of innovation (NSI) and enable the exchange of knowledge, capacity, innovation and resources between South Africa and its international partners, particularly in Africa, in support of South African foreign policy through science, knowledge and innovation diplomacy will be fostered. Using international cooperation opportunities to advance the transformation of the NSI is key, including the promotion of international partnerships to increase knowledge production and knowledge utilisation, especially in the context of the focus on STI in the Sustainable Development Goals. There will be engagements with the European Union and BRICS partners on participation framework and implementation of NSI activities. 5. PARLIAMENTARY GRANTS FOR ENTITIES REPORTING TO THE MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION The National Research Foundation (NRF) (R997,408 million) supports and promotes research through the funding of human resource development and the provision of facilities to enable the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge systems. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) receives (R1,350,039 billion) to foster industrial and scientific development, particularly through multidisciplinary research and technological development, either by itself or in cooperation with public and private sector institutions. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) (R321,098 million) undertakes, promotes and coordinates policy-relevant, problem-oriented research in the human and social sciences, including research projects for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies, in partnership with researchers all over the world, but particularly in Africa. The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) (R458,370 million) stimulates and intensifies technological innovation in order to improve economic growth and the quality of life of all South Africans. The agency is key to ensuring the translation of the research and development outcomes of higher education institutions, science councils and public entities into commercial technology products and services, thereby intensifying the impact of innovation on the economy and society. The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) (R33,8 million) promotes common ground across all scientific disciplines; promotes innovative and independent scientific thinking, and the optimum development of the intellectual capacity of all people; and provides effective advice and facilitates appropriate action in relation to the collective needs, opportunities and challenges of all South Africans. The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) (R162,439 million) promotes the use of space and cooperation in space-related activities, while fostering research in space science, advancing scientific engineering through developing human capital, and providing support to industrial development in space technologies. In addition to the parliamentary grants, the DSI's entities receive project funding to implement specific departmental projects.

Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za

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CAREERS

The history of agriculture dates back to thousands of years ago when man-made tools were used to practice farming and where subsistence farming (farming for family) was introduced. Over time, as technology evolved and the climate changed, people had no choice but to adapt so machinery in agriculture was created. BRANCHES OF AGRICULTURE Agriculture has an official list of 20 branches, including forestry, agricultural engineering, agribusiness, animal and soil sciences, to name a few. Choosing a course in this field will also require you to do studies that revolve around economics, plant pathology, horticulture and entomology. It is proven in the National Development Plan (NDP) that scientific knowledge in agricultural production is a critical skill. BUT FIRST, FARMING Types of farming include: MIXED FARMING This involves the growing of crops, and rearing of farm animals such as cows, goats and sheep, on the same piece of land. Qualifications in mixed farming: • National Certificate (NQFLevel 2): Mixed Farming Systems • National Certificate (NQF Level 1-4): Plant Production • National Certificate (NQF Level 1-4): Animal Production • BAgric Majoring in Mixed Farming Management (University of Free State )

This is a large-scale farming operation, owned by a corporation, that produces crops and other agriculture for profit. This type of farming often involves monoculture, where you grow a single type of crop - the wine farms in Stellenboch are examples of this type of farming. What you can study: • Soil Science • Agricultural Science • Veterinary Science • Biochemistry What you can be: • Agricultural lender • Crop adjuster • Agricultural lobbyist PASTORAL FARMING Also known as livestock farming, this is aimed at farming animals rather than crops. Here you would raise beef cattle for meat or sheep for wool. What you can study: Animal Science or Animal production - a type of science where you study farm animals, their diseases, their growth and production, or their genetics. Studying time period: 4-5 years if you apply for a B.Sc 3 years for a Diploma 1 year if it is a Higher Certificate

Other study paths include: • Plant pathology • Agronomy • Animal and crop production • Animal breeding • Commercial farming

CULTIVATING YOUR CAREER Read on if you are passionate about agriculture and considering career options in the industry. By Lusanda Tamesi 30

Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za


CAREERS

TOP AGRICULTURAL COLLEGES IN SA IN 2022 • Tsolo Agriculture and Rural Development Institute (TARDI) • Tompi Seleka Agricultural College • Taung Agricultural College • Owen Sithole College of Agriculture (OSCA) • Lowveld College of Agriculture (LCA) • Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry Training Institute (FCAFTI) (Private Institute) • Ekurhuleni Agricultural College • Potchefstroom College of Agriculture • Glen College of Agriculture • Elsenburg Agriculture Training College • Marapyane College of Agriculture • Madzivhandila College of Agriculture QUALIFICATIONS OFFERED BY COLLEGES • Higher Education in Agriculture • Diploma in Agriculture • Diploma in Agribusiness • Diploma in Animal Production • Diploma in Forestry UNIVERSITIES OF CHOICE • UNISA • University of Free State • Stellenbosch University • University of Pretoria • University of Fort Hare • Nelson Mandela University • Rhodes University

REQUIREMENTS TO STUDY AGRICULTURE • NSC or IEB school leaving certificate is required for most courses with at least 24 points (APS) • English (HL or FAL): Level 4 • Mathematics: Level 4 or Mathematical Literacy: Level 6 • Life Sciences / Agriculture: Level 4 • Physical Sciences: Level 4 WHERE YOU CAN APPLY FOR WORK • Department of Agriculture • Seed and plant producers • Department of Water Affairs and Forestry • VinPro Limited • Corteva Agriscience

Steps to success

• Use your social networks to meet people in the field. • Make use of unused land or your garden at home (first, seek permission as there are laws that prohibit the use of land without consent). • Learn to identify your skill, and take advantage of them. • Try cooperative farming. • Don't be afraid to try again if you fail at anything.

QUALIFICATIONS OFFERED BY UNIVERSITIES • Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc.) Mathematics and Science • B.Sc. Plant Pathology • B.Sc. Viticulture and Oenology • B.Sc. Soil Sciences • B. Sc. Agric Agronomy

Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za

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QUIZ

g n k i i P your c brain 1 2 3

South Africa’s unemployment rate is currently at… A. 35.5% B. 34.5%

4 5

An agripreneur is… A. Someone who is angry B. Someone who starts a business

C. 38%

Which is not part of the agricultural field? A. IT technician B. Soil Science C. Plant pathology

Agriculture in Africa dates back to… A. 1776 B. 3000 BCE C. 10 000 years ago

8

What is vertical farming? A. A farming technique where plants are grown stacked in vertical rows B. When farmers have to stand on ladders to reach the plants C. When plants are planted directly on top of each other

9 10

Merino wool comes from a… A. Cow B. Sheep C. Plant

Who is known as the “Spinach Queen”? A. Ulibo Agricultural Enterprise B. uLutsha wine C. Ncumisa Mkabile

C. An entrepreneur in the agricultural sector

Africa’s population is expected to triple by… A. 2045 B. 2050 C. 2028

6

What is not needed for hydroponics? A. Water B. Money

7

Which vitamin can be found in a potato? A. Potassium B. Mercury

C. Fertiliser or chemicals

C. Vitamin D

Science Stars Agricultural Science Issue | www.sciencestars.co.za

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PUZZLES

SUDOKU Fill in the 9×9 grid with digits so that each column, row, and 3×3 section contain the numbers between 1 to 9. 6 1 2

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TEST RESULTS What was your score for the Space Science issue?

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FACTS

IT’S A FACT agricultural industry employes the 1 The most workers worldwide. and sheep have a hard upper 2 Goats palate that helps them grind their food as

is the world’s second largest 6 India agricultural producer. feed the world’s expected 7 Topopulation in 2050, farmers will

they don’t have teeth on their upper jaw.

have to produce 70% more food.

have been found to be the 4th 3 Pigs most intelligent animal in the world.

are the most consumed 8 Bananas fruit in the world.

roll in mud to stay cool as they don’t 4 Pigs have sweat glands.

9 Soybeans can be used to make soy crayons.

to science and technology, 5 Thanks farmers can now grow more food in

to a 2021 report, between 10 According 720 – 811 million people went hugry

smaller spaces

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in 2020.


SCIENCE CENTRE

CENTRE OF ATTENTION IF YOU WANT TO DEVELOP YOUR SKILLS WITH COURSES THAT ARE LINKED TO THE DISCIPLINES OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, YOU CAN DO THIS THROUGH THE MANAGEMENT OF INFORMATIONAL PROGRAMMES ON NATIONAL EDUCATION (MOIPONE) ACADEMY CENTRE. By: Zakiyah Ebrahim

A

re you looking to further your science and technology skills while you’re studying? Look no further than the Moipone Academy Centre - an independent, non-profit educational centre that offers South African high school learners, from grades 7 to 11, the opportunity to complete technical development courses. These courses can help you to pursue science and technology careers. The centre is based in Gauteng, although it also offers online courses to learners. For online classes, you will need a smart device (such as a smartphone or laptop), data and the Zoom app. Not clued up on technology? Don’t worry! The centre says they “will teach you how to use a computer with confidence.” LENGTH OF PROGRAMMES If you are interested, you will need your parent or guardian to complete a consent form. Moipone’s after-school progammes take place Monday to Thursday, but the centre also offers Saturday classes. It takes 8 weeks to complete a course, with classes being 1 hour 30 minutes each. After passing their assessments, you will graduate and be given a nationally recognised certificate. In 2019, they honoured just over 120 graduates with Computer Skills & Robotics Skills Certificates!

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SCIENCE CENTRE

Some of their popular courses include robotics, physical science, mathematics, software development (coding), basic computer skills, engineering technical drawings and environmental education. They also provide after-school support for certain subjects, such as maths literacy, physical science, natural sciences and life sciences. According to the centre’s website, you will learn about science and technology through an interesting mix of digital worksheets, videos and summaries of each topic. Moipone also hosts exciting science shows, science lectures, educational science visits, and science competitions and Olympiads.

Keen to find out more? Website: moiponescienceacademy.org Location: 4/457 Andrew Maphetho Drive & Thami Mnyele Street, Kopanong, Tembisa. Contact details: 060 919 3672 info@moiponescienceacademy.org / moiponesciencecentre@gmail.com Opening times: Mon-Fri: 08h00 - 16h30 Saturdays: 09h00 - 12h00

images from: http://moiponescienceacademy.org/

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IN PREPARATION FOR THE 2024 GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL UNION

Forum on Astronomy in Africa

Find out more about the Africa Forum and preparations for the 2024 IAU General Assembly:

www.astronomy2024.org