Dr Paul Mokoena is an academic from the Microbiology Discipline in the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He conducts research on traditional African fermented foods and beverages obtained from local communities (e.g. Qadi Community in Inanda, Durban outskirts). Amahewu (non-alcoholic fermented maize) umqombothi (alcoholic fermented beverage), amasi (fermented milk) and umcaba (mixture of maize samp and sour milk) are some of the products under current investigations in projects under his supervision. His great interest is to investigate the way in which the local community members use traditional fermentation as a way of enhancing their nutritional status; prevention of foodborne infections; as well as benefiting from the prebiotic and probiotic effects associated with consumption of fermented foods. This project is an attempt to rigorously study knowledge and technology that is embedded in our local communities and in other African countries. This will provide consumers with the assurance that the knowledge embedded in our society may be subjected to scientific enquiry and may contribute to global knowledge regarding treasures hidden in our traditional fermented foods. This is an important element in the creation of a post-colonial future; and augurs well for local communities and institutions such as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which prides itself as the Premier University of African Scholarship.
“There is a specific responsibility that rests with our universities to produce
knowledge that is contextually defined, in this case knowledge embedded in our
communities. If this were not a responsibility to be borne by South African
universities then whose responsibility would it be?” – Prof Ahmed Bawa