grantees » Rhoda Malgas

Rhoda Malgas, South Africa

Rhoda is a highly committed South African woman dedicated to researching and sharing knowledge about sustainable resource use in the light of climate change. “I’ve always enjoyed explaining how things work, from something as large as an ecosystem to something as small as the cells in an ant – I used to tell my mother all my lectures in the evening!” Originally from the Cape Flats in Cape Town, which were segregated townships during the apartheid era, she has soared beyond all expectations. Rhoda has now completed her MSc. in Botany from the University of Cape Town and is a Lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, specializing in the human interaction with the environment in rural contexts and sustainably managing commercially important wild species. She is a long-running contributor to Indigo Development and Change, an NGO committed to empowering marginalized groups focusing on both social and environmental justice. Today she serves as a Board member whilst also juggling the demands of being a mother of two young children.

With the help of the JWH initiative grant, she attended and spoke at numerous conferences; notably, she won the prize for Best Paper by a Young Scientist at the Arid Zone Ecology Forum in 2007 for her paper on the benefit of small grants to small-scale rooibos farmers. She also gained valuable knowledge and skills in development planning, evaluation and program management, which she was quick to incorporate in her own work with Indigo. Her natural leadership was compounded by a series of courses and workshops, and she continues to inspire those around her by choosing to “contribute from [her] experiences to other institutions in the sector who also seek to improve their development practices.” Years later, she says; “One of the most powerful things I still use today is that I went on a course on time management. It reallly changed the way I do a lot of things, even today.” All in all, her incredible sensitivity to both local knowledge and current research catalyzes concrete action for conservation and resource management. In future, Rhoda hopes to expand her professional work experiences across the African continent. She also will complete a PhD about the interface between the biological and social perspectives on sustainably harvesting wild species. She says: “I’m always fascinated about how people relying on very small incomes make their incomes work now that they value their environment. That has to do with culture, heritage, what people believe about themselves and their place in the world.”



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