A lecturer from the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has been named as one of three finalists in the Women in Agriculture category of the 2023 Women Changing the World Awards.

Dr. Patricia Mathabe, who hails from South Africa, will attend the awards ceremony in London on April 18, where the results will be announced.

Mathabe said she has no idea who put her forward for the award, and said she was “really surprised” to hear that she was nominated and then “really shocked” to learn that she 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,” she said.

“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.”

A ‘”‘dream come true’

Mathabe applied for a position at RAU after growing up in Pretoria during the apartheid era.

She joined Settlers Agricultural High School, a boarding school, at the age of 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. Mathabe moved to the UK in January of last year.

“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,” she said.

On leaving school, she won various prestigious bursaries and scholarships which enabled her to study in South Africa, the UK and the US.

Through the National Research Foundation Bursary, she completed a Bachelor’s 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.

Mathabe then went on to complete her PhD in Plant Sciences at Montana State University on a Fulbright Scholarship.

She taught and led the BSc (Hons) agribusiness management degree at Easton College in Norwich when she initially moved to the UK last year, before joining the RAU late last year.

“Only if you are from Africa can you really understand how much the RAU is valued throughout Africa and particularly in the SADEC region. The RAU is held in very high esteem – this is the university of choice for most farming families,” she said.

“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.”