Dr Nokuthula Vilakazi, who was recently awarded a PhD degree by the University of Pretoria (UP), developed an interest in nutrition during her high school years. She explains that when her mother was diagnosed with diabetes she was the one who was really interested in ensuring that her mother did not receive medical treatment only, but also followed a diet that would help manage her condition.
Dr Vilakazi chose to work in the food industry, where she hopes to help rural people find ways to manage common medical conditions by relying on local foodstuffs, rather than on medication and expensive food grown elsewhere. Her research, which resulted in a locally produced superfood, is bringing her closer to realising her dream.
For her PhD research, she chose to investigate the possibility of using locally produced grains – sorghum and cowpea – to develop a nutritious, ready-to-eat meal comparable to some of the so-called superfoods sold in shops. She was particularly interested in improving the diet of young children in rural communities, and chose cowpeas and sorghum to achieve this as both these grains are grown in rural areas locally and across sub-Saharan Africa.