AT THE HELM
A natural fit: Top academic Prof Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi heads KZN’s Institute of Natural Resources
One of South Africa’s most respected scientists, Prof Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi, is taking the helm at the Pietermaritzburg-based Institute of Natural Resources. His mission is to enhance the research and development organisation’s capacity to create sustainable solutions to global challenges.
The appointment of Prof Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi as director of the Institute of Natural Resources (INR) signals an ambitious vision for the organisation in the research and development sphere of water, energy, food, environment and health.
It’s a role Mabhaudhi relishes, and one he approaches with a refreshing down-to-earth demeanour.
“One of the first things I addressed with the board was to change my title from executive director to director,” he says. “I’m more comfortable with a less formal approach.”
His mission is to ensure that INR scientists play a more prominent role in research and development in southern Africa and further afield.
“We’ve identified the need to scale the INR’s reach to a more regional level and make it a partner of choice for organisations wanting to work in the region,” he says.
With a passion for transdisciplinary research and capacity development, Mabhaudhi is hoping to build on the INR’s legacy of bottom-up development – a philosophy complemented by his standing in the international scientific community.
Among other activities, Mabhaudhi plays a leading role in international forums and networks, including the Global WEF Nexus Community of Practice.
His involvement in strategic regional and global initiatives on water resource management for sustainable and resilient food systems has produced some valuable insights, not least on how to best align scientific principles with local knowledge and institutional perspectives.
“Developing locally sustainable solutions to global challenges is deeply rewarding, and the product of collaboration and cooperation.”
Mabhaudhi’s diverse research credentials will stand the INR in good stead. He holds a BSc Honours in crop science from the University of Zimbabwe and an MSc and PhD in crop science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), with a particular focus on agricultural water management.
During his tenure as a research professor and co-director at the Centre for Transformative Agricultural and Food Systems at UKZN, Mabhaudhi played a leading role in formulating policies to achieve on-the-ground change for the benefit of vulnerable communities.
“I’m a firm believer in credible research by qualified scientists which informs evidence-based policymaking and transforming society.”
In 2022, Mabhaudhi was named as one of UKZN’s top 10 most-published researchers under the age of 40. He has authored more than 250 publications and supervised 12 MSc and 10 PhD students. Currently, he is overseeing eight postdoctoral fellows, six PhD candidates and seven MSc students.
Under Mabhaudhi’s leadership, the INR is poised to expand its sphere of recognised research in the interconnected domains of science, policy, practice and society.
“The credentials of the organisation are well established. I believe the INR has a significant contribution to make in sustainability discourses and practice at local, national and regional levels.”
As a natural integrator, Mabhaudhi is looking forward to positioning the INR for growth, internationalisation, collaboration and partnerships in the research and development community at large.
His first priority is to create a facilitative platform for the INR researchers to do their jobs.
“Their knowledge and skills are the fulcrum of successful applied research in the management of natural resources, environmental management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and rural development,” he says.
“We’re building an enabling environment to support our scientists and partnerships which will enhance the INR’s capacity to deliver on its vision. It’s an exciting future beckoning.” DM