“Something that was so humbling for me, was on the day we were about 30 people present and just the realisation that out of the 30 people only about 10 or 15% were there in person. The majority were receiving on behalf of people who have passed on. I am lucky to have been receiving this award while I am still alive. ” This according to Dr Hlamalani Judith Ngwenya, who received one of the highest awards the country bestows on its citizens who contributed towards the advancement of democracy and who made a significant impact to improve the lives of South Africans.
Dr Ngwenya received the Order of the Baobab in honour of her work in sustainable agriculture and community empowerment from President Cyril Ramaphosa. She told Bloemfontein Courant the Baobab tree is a true symbol of her life story. “I am being celebrated like a baobab. For me, the true celebration goes to the many people at local, national and global level across the 50 countries that I have worked with in the past 30 years. This is significant for them too.”
She is recognised for the three qualities she is most passionate about – capacity building, sustainable agriculture, and community empowerment. Dr Ngwenya lectured students in the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of the Free State (UFS) between 2015 and July 2021, teaching the Advanced Diploma on Extension for Sustainability and the master’s programme on Sustainable Agriculture and Extension: Theory and Practice.
“The university has become a home for me at many levels. Under the progressive leadership of Prof. Johan van Niekerk, Head of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (Censard), I was not only allowed to innovate, but was encouraged to go out into the world to harvest knowledge and skills, to bring it home, and to share it with our students. I am confident that we have contributed positively too many students’ lives.”
Dr Ngwenya said her advice to her younger self would be to: “Keep doing great things, keep on reaching out and helping people because you have to remember that while you are climbing the ladder there are people who are holding that ladder to ensure that you do not fall.”