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Photo of Tsakani Ngomani

Tsakani Ngomani

Rural Development Specialist (Deputy Director General level): The Presidency, Department of Planning and Evaluation

South Africa

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

Tsakani Ngomani’s deep commitment to development in South Africa is evident in all her work and engagements. She is well recognized as an influential leader with a passion for agriculture and seeing improvement in rural areas.

Recognition of her significant investment in her country’s development and competency at managing complexity is evident in the agreement between the President’s Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation and the University of Pretoria seconding her to that high office for purposes of establishing one of the most important national accountability and management information systems. She has subsequently pioneered the development of a set of performance indicators for the rural and agricultural sectors, and mobilized the three-tiered national management system to monitor the implementation of public programmes to achieve the national goals and outcomes in terms of rural development. She is certified in evidence based-policy making for executive managers by the University of Cape Town and The Presidency.

The leadership of the University of Pretoria turned to her to support the development of appropriate and innovative academic offerings for one of the new Universities in democratic South Africa, nominating her for SENATE membership. And in July and August 2014, she was appointed extra-ordinary Professor in the University of Mpumalanga and Executive Council Member, respectively. She is a professional facilitator, qualified in International Organizational Systems and Development under the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland’s Organization and Systems Development Training Program—the first training program in the world to integrate Gestalt theory, systems theory, and organizational development theories into coherent curriculum for organizational change facilitation, and conducted on site spanning 5 continents.

She has served as the first female President (1999- 2001) for the Advisory Committee to the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA), ACP-EU Cotonou Convention, and used her position to champion the plight of women in agriculture, resulting in several gender focused initiatives, and South Africa hosting the 4th World Congress of Rural Women in 2007—a first for the African continent. Prior to that Tsakani had served as the Steering Committee Member and Producer Group Coordinator for the World Bank International Assessment on the role of Agricultural Science and Technology in reducing hunger and improving rural livelihoods (see  for final report).

Tsakani has been a recipient of several awards, including the 2004 Penn State Graduate Student Award for Outstanding Dissertation, LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award for strengthening the global agenda for the Pennsylvania State University, the top USA/SA Fulbright Scholar Award for the year 2000 and recipient of the first Amy Bielh Award, the Ethel Parker Fellowship of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences 2002-2004; research grants by the Social Sciences Research Council, the National Research Foundation’s African Youth in a Global Age Fellowship (2002) and in 2003,  the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • I grew up in a rural village called Lillydale in Bushbuckridge where agriculture comprised the backbone of sustainable livelihoods for members of the community and especially important for my family. 
  • My father worked as a driver in the Kruger National Park earning very little, whilst my mother was, as they would say today, a homemaker. Raising a family of 8 children on next to nothing required lots of creativity, resilience and getting all hands on deck so to speak to put food on the table. So my mother a disciplinarian and true hard worker raised us through her engagement in micro-agriculture, producing and preparing nutritious food.  I always had a passion for agriculture, because of what my mother was farming for us. She also believed strongly in education as a liberator from food insecurity and related ills, and capable of breaking inter-generational poverty.
  • However, because of the hard labour associated with agriculture, my mother did not want any of her children, and myself in particular, to take up studies or a career in agriculture. She envisioned careers not so back breaking for her children. So I dutifully applied for admission in medical school and was successful.  But no bursary and no funds were available, so I could not enroll.
  • Bursaries were, however, available for students in the former homeland areas of SA to study agriculture – at Diploma level. I received a bursary to enroll for diploma in agriculture at Fort Cox Agricultural College in the former Ciskei, now Eastern Cape.
  • My experience with agricultural development suggests to me that it is an area with great potential since people always fall back on agriculture to alleviate poverty. Like my mother I believe in the liberation power of education, but even more so when educators empowers in sectors that matter, which transform societies and the poort for the better.

How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers? 

  • Ensure that students are exposed through practical hands-on training, with strong dedicated mentors willing and capable of nurturing an excited and contemporary cohort of young entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector and its value-chains; embrace and adopt e-learning given the huge potential that technology brings to the sector – bridging all kinds of gaps, including the rural urban divide; rich and poor; young and old; developed and developing economies, etc. 

 Career highlights

  • Sector Specialist on Rural Development (Deputy Director General level): The Presidency, Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation: 2011 – to date.     
  • Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader, Extension: Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, University of Pretoria: 2009  to date
  • Acting Superintendent General & Head of Department of Education Mpumalanga, SA: 2009, and  Deputy Director General for the same department 2006—2008
  • Senior Lecturer and Associate Director: University of Pretoria (Post Graduate School of Agriculture and Rural Development): 2005 – 2006.
  • General Manager: Limpopo Department of Agriculture: 2004 -2005.
  • Principal Community Agricultural Technician: 1995 – 1996.
  • Lecturer, University of Zululand, KwaZuluNatal, SA: 1994.

Educational background

  • Primary school:
    • Rhandzekile in Lillydale Trust, Mpumalanga, S A              
  • Secondary school:     
    • Giyani High, Limpopo, SA
  • University:     
    • Diploma in Agriculture, cum laude, Fort Cox Agricultural College, Eastern Cape, S A: 1986.
    • Bachelor, Home Economics, University of Zululand, 1991.
    • Bachelor of Home Economics Hons, University of Zululand, 1993.
    • M. Agricultural Extension, University of the North, Limpopo Province, SA: 2000.
    • Ph.D. Agriculture and Extension Education, cum laude, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, USA, 2004.