Introducing SANBio Student Ambassador for Swaziland: Ms Ncobile Trusty Mathunjwa

Ncobile Mathunjwa

I am extremely overjoyed to be selected as the SANBio Student Ambassador for Swaziland. I am greatly honoured and privileged to be afforded such a massive opportunity to represent my country within the SANBio network and to advocate SANBio among young people as well as fellow men and women in Swaziland and the SADC region.

My name is Ncobile Trusty Mathunjwa. I come from kaLiba in Swaziland. I have just completed my final examinations for the BSc Animal Science degree at the University of Swaziland. I envisage graduating in October this year after which I intend to register for an MSc degree in Animal Nutrition with the University of Swaziland.

I am very excited to be given the opportunity to work with SANBio, an organization that is committed to improving livelihoods in SADC through its passion about and funding of innovation, research and development, particularly in the areas of human and animal nutrition and health. I also have a strong passion about animal nutrition and health; I strongly contend that development of these aspects is key to human health and wellbeing in Swaziland and the wider African continent.

More than 80% of farmers in Swaziland are rural smallholders that mainly keep livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and indigenous chickens) as a source of food, wealth and income. To extricate this major but largely unrecognized sector of Swaziland’s economy from poverty and under-development requires innovations that can improve the nutrition and health of their farm animals. One of the major constraints faced by these poor farmers is the high cost of veterinary drugs and the development of drug resistance among bacterial strains that commonly affect their farm animals. I have a strong desire to contribute to improved livelihoods of these farmers in my country and elsewhere in SADC.

In this regard, as part of my final year research project, I investigated Urginea epigea as a potential alternative to conventional antibiotics, such as oxytetracycline, that are too expensive for most of our smallholder farmers. Antibiotic growth promoters have been used successfully in poultry to increase growth rates through improved gut health and better nutrient utilisation. However, the continuous use of these growth promoters has been observed to be consequential to increased bacterial resistance and persistence, as well as accumulation of residues in meat, and hence increasing health risks to humans. This has resulted in a ban on the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics, firstly in Europe and worldwide in general. There is, therefore, an urgent need to explore alternatives to antibiotics that can be used to improve growth and end-product quality in broiler production. Natural alternatives that have received increased attention include phytogenic plants and other herbal products. Phytogenic plants, including Urginea epigea, and herbal products have been traditionally used by households in Southern Africa and across the world to treat some animal ailments. Urginea epigea is an indigenous bulbous plant, with health-enhancing properties, that is widely abundant in the savanna regions of Swaziland. My research has demonstrated that the antibiotic efficacy of this plant is as good as that of the commercially available oxytetracycline. I believe this finding can contribute to the development of plant-based drugs that can help smallholder farmers in our SADC region and beyond.

I am indeed very excited to be part of the SANBio network and to contribute my part in its growth and development – we expect great things to come!

Ms Ncobile Trusty Mathunjwa

SANBio Student Ambassador for Swaziland