21 March 2023
A South African lecturer in Agricultural Technology, who describes working at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) as “my dream come true”, has been named as one of just three finalists for a prestigious global award celebrating women.
Dr Patricia Mathabe, who only joined the RAU last November, has been selected as a finalist in the Women in Agriculture category of the 2023 Women Changing the World Awards. She has been invited to the awards ceremony in London next month where the results will be announced.
Patricia, who has no idea who put her forward for the award, said: “I was really surprised to initially hear that I had been nominated and then really shocked (in a good way!) to hear that I was one of the three finalists!
“I do work hard and am always on the go but I think that sometimes we just do what we do and we don’t ever look back and realise how much we have actually achieved in our lives. It was very heart-warming to have been nominated – that someone out there thinks that I deserve this – and now I am very happy to have made it to the final!”
Born in Pretoria during the apartheid era, Patricia was raised by her single mother and received Bantu education, deigned to educated black South Africans for the unskilled labour market. But Patricia always knew that she wanted to get a better education.
She joined Settlers Agricultural High School, a boarding school, at the age of just 12, as one of the first four black students to be admitted into the traditionally white school. There she chose agriculture over “house craft” and was the only girl in the agriculture classroom.
On leaving school, she won various prestigious bursaries and scholarships which enabled her to study in South Africa, the UK, and the USA.
Through the National Research Foundation Bursary, she completed a Bachelors Degree in Biotechnology at the Vaal University of Technology, before acquiring the prestigious Nelson Mandela Scholarship to study a Master’s Degree in Biotechnology at Cambridge University. She then went on to complete her PhD in Plant Sciences at Montana State University on a competitive Fulbright Scholarship.
She has vast experience in agricultural technology diffusion, undergraduate and post-graduate student supervision internationally, and has also worked in the research space focusing on Agricultural Proteomics.
Patricia only moved to the UK in January 2022 and initially taught and led the BSc (Hons) agribusiness management degree at Easton College in Norwich before joining the RAU late last year.
She said: “Only if you are from Africa can you really understand how much the RAU is valued throughout Africa and particularly in the SADC region. The RAU is held in very high esteem - this is the university of choice for most farming families.
“When I saw the position at the RAU advertised I had only been in the UK for a few months but I just knew I couldn’t let is pass me by and I had to take the chance. Now I am here and it really is my dream come true!”
Patricia is rightly proud of her achievements and committed to continuing to make an impact through her work and to spread her knowledge in other parts of the world to empower both men and women to follow careers in STEM and agriculture.
She added: “People must follow their calling to make a difference. It always starts with a bold move! Remember to never allow anyone to say no to your dreams. Become relentless and keep walking!”
The winners of the 2023 Women Changing the World Awards will be announced at an event in London on 18 April 2023.