09 January 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Thabo Kessah
Ntebohiseng Sekhele Read More
Ntebohiseng Sekhele hopes her PhD study will address conservation conflicts that exist between communities and protected areas.

The University of the Free State’s Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) based on the Qwaqwa Campus has recently concluded the process of recruiting candidates for the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP). Through this programme, two historically disadvantaged South African universities; Universities of the Free State (Qwaqwa Campus) and Venda (UNIVEN) and three universities in the United States will be collaborating on a number of PhD research projects.

“The programme is funded through the US-SA Higher Education Network and will give candidates and their supervisors the opportunity to regularly travel to the USA and spend time at participating US universities where their co-promoters will be based and allow them to collaborate with identified suitable academics based at those institutions,” said Prof Geofrey Mukwada, Associate Professor in Geography and the coordinator of the project.

One of the young academics selected for this is Ntebohiseng Sekhele from the Geography Department. She will be doing her research in collaboration with the Colorado State University.

“I am delighted to be part of this programme and it still feels like a dream. I feel honored to be selected to participate in such a prestigious programme. To be chosen amongst other applicants means the coordinators believe in my potential, and I look forward to working towards my full potential,” said Sekhele, who describes herself as ‘a simple and ambitious village girl from Monontsha in Qwaqwa.’ 

Sekhele’s proposed PhD study will focus on determining strategies and impacts of conservation practices by the local communities. “It will address conservation conflicts that exist between communities and protected areas; different interpretations of sustainability (including indigenous knowledge) and offer recommendations of harmonising the conservation practices with the sustainability of conservation areas. There is a great need to develop management strategies that will simultaneously satisfy conservation and human needs. She will be graduating with an MSc (Environmental Geography) degree in 2019.

Other US universities involved in the UCDP are Appalachian State University (ASU) and University of Montana (UoM).