Emancipating Communities from Poverty Through Science: Profiling Ms Patience Dorothy Dhliwayo-Chiunzi

Dr Dhliwayo-Chiunzi

As part of the activities related to the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme, SANBio is profiling female bioscientists and bioentrepreneurs working in the innovation space.

“Science-based research and development work has the potential to make long lasting beneficial impact on communities.”

Ms Patient Dorothy Dhliwayo-Chiunzi is a lecturer at the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) in the Department of Biotechnology teaching Plant and Animal Physiology, Plant Tissue Culture, Fermentation Biotechnology and Food Biotechnology. She holds a Master of Science degree in Biotechnology and a Bachelor of Technology Honours degree in Applied Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Zimbabwe.

Ms Dhliwayo-Chiunzi has obtained essential skills in agribusiness, project management, resource mobilization, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, as well as gender and HIV/AIDS. As a result she successfully spearheaded and implemented community based projects which impacted positively on the lives of individuals and groups.

Her experience was enhanced by interaction and collaboration with numerous humanitarian, non-governmental and research organizations throughout her several years of work. Some projects were implemented at local institutional level whilst others involved collaboration with local, regional and international non-governmental organizations (including World Vision, CARE International, Peace Corps, Concern Worldwide and the European Commission).

Ms Dhliwayo-Chiunzi’s career path has been an interesting journey with her involvement in numerous different projects to improve the lives of people in remote rural areas. The work was implemented through organizations such as the Horticultural Research Centre (HRC) in Marondera, Zimbabwe, Biotechnology Trust of Zimbabwe (BTZ), UNESCO, USAID, Southern Africa Roots Crop Research Network (SARRNET), Agricultural Services Management Program (AMSP) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) to mention just a few.

Ms Dhliwayo-Chiunzi has also been invited as reviewer of articles for at least five international journals including; Agroforestry Systems, Chemical International Journal, Greener Journals, International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences and Issues in Biological Science and Pharmaceutical Research.

When she served as the technical coordinator for Sweet Potato Micropropagation Project for Hwedza and Buhera, a project that was funded by the Government of Netherlands through the Biotechnology Trust of Zimbabwe (BTZ), she received the “Best Presenter of the Year” award from BTZ. This project was crowned with a book entitled “From Roots to Riches: A Guide to Profitable Production of Sweetpotatoes” which she authored and was published by the BTZ in 2004. Similarly in the same project she participated in the distribution of high quality sweet potato planting material of selected varieties including orange-fleshed sweet potatoes targeted at improving and increasing consumption of vitamin A in the population of Zimbabwe. A number of communities in Zimbabwe, particularly commercial sweet potato growers, benefited from this project.

She is currently heading the Departmental Subcommittee which facilitates publication of the HIT Journal of Biotechnology: “It is an interesting challenge and my team and I are working hard towards unifying global scientists through this new forum. Since graduating from the University of Zimbabwe, I have not lost my passion to actively contribute to building a sustainable capacity for improving lives through appropriate, relevant science based research and development activities that contribute to income generation, poverty alleviation and capacity building for both local and global communities – in all its variations, it is in such work that I find purpose and satisfaction”.

In harmony with HIT’s institutional theme of Innovation and Technopreneurship, she also leads the departmental project on mushroom services, namely mushroom spawn production and training in mushroom production, to all groups of stakeholders in the country: “This project is a direct effort to improve and expand mushroom production and mushroom based industries in Zimbabwe, a move that has been highly welcome by both new and old mushroom growers.”

“My natural desire to see people getting emancipated from poverty and empowered to prosper, as well as my experiences in research and development, have driven me to impart relevant knowledge and skills to my colleagues, students and members of the Zimbabwean community, thus transferring to them science based entrepreneurial skills that lead to the starting up of beneficial and sustainable projects and businesses,” she stated.

Ms Dhliwayo-Chiunzi is currently undertaking a research project on wild edible indigenous mushrooms of Zimbabwe. The project is funded by the Harare Institute of Technology Research Board and it focuses on sustained exploitation and conservation of mushroom genetic resources of Zimbabwe.