Meet the team

Prof. Frans Swanepoel

Principal Investigator and Director: FSNet-Africa (University of Pretoria)

Professor Frans Swanepoel is a Research Fellow in Residence at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship. With a PhD in Animal Breeding and Genetics (graduate coursework completed at Texas A&M University, USA), his early research career spanned more than a decade. During this time, he did pioneering research in beef production science and obtained international recognition, as confirmed by his South African National Research Foundation (NRF) rating. His research interest advanced to smallholder agricultural production systems, agricultural education and training, and agricultural research and innovation leadership in Africa. In this context, during the past 15 years, he has worked extensively in a leadership or advisory capacity with several African actors on agricultural research and capacity development on the continent. 

 

Research interests:

Advanced to smallholder agricultural production systems, agricultural education and training and agricultural research and innovation leadership in Africa.

Prof. Claire Quinn

Prof. Claire Quinn Co-Director and Co-Investigator: FSNet-Africa (University of Leeds)

Claire Quinn is a professor in Natural Resource Management at the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds. She is an Environmental Social Scientist with over 20 years of experience working on interdisciplinary projects in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Her research advances understanding of social-ecological systems and focuses on (i) smallholder livelihood vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience; and (ii) knowledge and governance for climate-smart agriculture.

She is interdisciplinary in her approach, drawing on theories and methods from both natural and social sciences. Her research has improved our understanding of the roles played by natural resources and institutions in smallholder livelihoods and adaptation to climate change. It has also advanced practice in stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange.

Research interests:

The interface between social and agricultural dimensions of environmental change and sustainability.

Dr Tshilidzi Madzivhandila

Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator: FSNet-Africa (FANRPAN)

Dr Tshilidzi Madzivhandila is the Chief Executive Officer of FANRPAN. He has over 20 years’ experience in research, policy analysis, and monitoring and evaluation, with a particular focus on the food, agriculture, and natural resources sector. An excellent communicator with strong intellectual and analytical skills, Dr Madzivhandila has served in senior positions in national research institutions, government, and international development organisations. He holds a PhD degree in Economics from the University of New England, Australia, specialising in public policies and programme evaluation. Dr Madzivhandila is a member of various professional associations, including the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA), the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA), and the Pool of International Experts for the Food and Business Applied Research Fund of the Dutch Research Council’s science division.

Prof. Lindiwe Sibanda

Strategic Partnerships Liaison: FSNet-Africa (University of Pretoria). Director: ARUA-SFS

Prof. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda is a recognised leader, transdisciplinary scientist and esteemed advisor with a career spanning 30 years. She has served in numerous leadership capacities at management, trustee, and advisory levels.

Prof. Sibanda currently serves as the Director and Chair of the African Research Universities Alliance – Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems (ARUA-SFS) at the University of Pretoria where she leads a team of research experts in transdisciplinary research on Africa’s Food Systems.  She is also hosted by the University’s Centre of Advancement of Scholarship as a Senior Research Fellow.

Prof. Sibanda is an SDG12.3 Champion among the SDG Target by 2030 Champions on Reducing Food Loss and Waste and also sits on the Nestle, World Vegetable Centre and the One CGIAR boards.

In previous roles, Prof. Sibanda has served as the Chief Executive Officer and Head of Diplomatic Mission, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and has also held senior positions at Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Prof. Andy Dougill

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environment (University of Leeds)

Prof. Andy Dougill is the Dean of the Faculty of the Sciences, University of York, York, United Kingdom. He is a dryland environmental change researcher who has developed research approaches that integrate various disciplines, including soil science, ecology, climate change, development studies, and environmental and social sciences. He has led the design and implementation of interdisciplinary problem-based research projects focused on environmental sustainability issues in a wide range of developing world contexts, focusing on African agricultural systems.

His research projects have gained significant external funding from a wide range of sources, including GCRF, National Environment Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, Leverhulme Trust, Royal Geographical Society, British Council, and Department for International Development. His work has developed innovative research methodologies for using scientific approaches together with local participation to ensure locally relevant research outputs in both dryland Africa and the UK uplands.

Research interests:

Environment and development; soil science; African agriculture; climate change adaptation; climate services.

Dr Melody Mentz-Coetzee

Senior Researcher and Network Learning Lead: FSNet-Africa (University of Pretoria)

Dr Melody Mentz-Coetzee is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship (University of Pretoria, South Africa).

Dr Mentz-Coetzee has worked for a number of years as an independent monitoring and evaluation consultant undertaking projects at national, pan-African, and international levels. She focuses on theory-based mixed-methods evaluations and the evaluation of higher education initiatives, research capacity building, and leadership, with an emphasis on gender and agriculture in the context of development in Africa.

Research interests:

Theory-based mixed-methods evaluations, and the evaluation of higher education initiatives, research capacity building and leadership.

Dr Elizabeth Mkandawire

Network and Research Manager: FSNet-Africa (University of Pretoria)

Currently the Network and Research Manager for FSNet-Africa, Dr Elizabeth Mkandawire has a PhD in Rural Development Planning. Her research and publications have focused on integrating gender in nutrition policy, and especially on men’s involvement in maternal and child health. 

Over the past several years, Dr Mkandawire has been involved in numerous food security and nutrition-related activities, including research work for the Feed the Future Food Security Policy Innovation Lab at the University of Pretoria. As part of the Lab, she led the gender and nutrition case study conducted in Lilongwe, Blantyre, and Ntcheu, Malawi, where she researched men’s involvement in maternal and child nutrition. She has also contributed to the CAADP process in several African countries. She played a central role in preparing a scoping report for Malawi for the International Food Policy Research Institute Compact 2025 initiative.

Research interests:

Gender, food security, and nutrition.

Dr Helen Coskeran

Impact Coordinator: FSNet-Africa (University of Leeds)

Dr Helen Coskeran is an international development professional with a background in project management in the non-profit and private sectors. She is Programme Executive Officer of GCRF-AFRICAP, a programme aimed at making agriculture and food production in sub-Saharan Africa more productive, sustainable, and resilient to climate change, with partners in Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, the UK, and Zambia. As part of her role, Dr Coskeran leads on the programme’s capacity-strengthening pillar; oversees all governance and financial processes; and develops and implements monitoring and evaluation tools to track the programme’s progress and impact.

Dr Njongenhle Nyoni

Engagement and Liaison Manager: FSNet-Africa (FANRPAN)

Dr Njongenhle Nyoni specialises in developmental project designs and implementation under the climate-smart agriculture thematic thrust. He has organised, convened, and facilitated several high-level, regional, and national policy dialogues on climate-smart agriculture. Dr Nyoni has experience with facilitating the development of costed Country Action Plans and Agendas to address performance gaps against the CAADP Malabo commitments. His work at FANRPAN also involves the publication of reports and policy briefs and the development of capacity-building tools. His most recent work includes co-developing a Youth Policy Training Manual, which explains how key stakeholders can engage effectively in policy development processes within the food, agriculture, and natural resources sector. In addition, he has conducted capacity-building training sessions, using the Manual to train youth from across the African continent.

Ms Esley van der Berg

Administration & Communication Liaison: FSNet-Africa (University of Pretoria)

Ms Esley van der Berg graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She continued her studies at the University of the Free State, obtaining two honours degrees with distinction – one in Psychology and another in Practical Theology. She further honed her language editing skills by completing a copy-editing course through the University of Cape Town.

Before joining the FSNet-Africa team, Esley worked as an independent contractor specialising in language editing of research and academic texts as well as offering research support services such as assistance with qualitative data analysis, data capturing, desktop research, transcription, translation, and general administrative and project management support.

Dr Nadia Fouché

Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow: FSNet-Africa (University of Pretoria)

Dr Nadia Fouché is a Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship (University of Pretoria). She has several years’ experience working as an independent research consultant, with a special interest in quantitative data analysis and the analysis of big data. In her capacity as a quantitative analyst, she has worked on numerous research and evaluation projects in collaboration with universities and private companies across South Africa.

Dr Colleta Gandidzanwa

Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow: FSNet-Africa (University of Pretoria)

Dr Colleta Gandidzanwa (PhD Agricultural Economics) is a Postdoctoral Fellow with FSNet-Africa at the University of Pretoria. She previously worked as a Researcher for the Centre of Collaboration on the economics of agricultural research and development. Colleta has been part of an inter-institutional team of scientists analysing the Land Reform’s Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy farms. Part of her experience to date includes investment analysis and research project management.

Research interests:

The agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers, agricultural input investments and impact assessment.

Dr Nobuhle Sharon Lungu

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH FELLOW: FSNET-AFRICA (University of Pretoria)

Dr Sharon Lungu  (PhD Animal Science) is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the ARUA-SFS. She has been part of the Meat Science and Food Security and, the Medicinal plants for Economic Development (MPED) research centers at the University of Fort Hare. The two research centers collaborated on research that focused on the use of medicinal plants in animal production and meat processing. Sharon’s published research integrates ideas from animal science, botany, food chemistry and consumer science.

Research interests:

Meat science, consumer science, public health, food security and, nutrition.

Dr Eness Paidamoyo Mutsvangwa-Sammie

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH FELLOW: FSNET-AFRICA (University of Pretoria)

Dr Eness Paidamoyo Mutsvangwa-Sammie (DPhil Agricultural Innovations) is a Postdoctoral Fellow with FSNet-Africa at the University of Pretoria. She has been awarded several fellowships, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Future Africa Early Career Research Leader Fellowship (ECRLF). Eness has previously worked as a Senior Lecturer at Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (MUAST); Interim Programs Coordinator at WaterNet; and Scientific Officer at the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)-Bulawayo. She is passionate about training and capacity building, especially for livelihoods empowerment in rural communities. This entails making use of innovative interventions to promote inclusive economic growth and improve the welfare of marginalised people and communities.

Research interests:

Agricultural development, food security, resilience, climate change and natural resource management.

Mr Jonathan Tager

Financial Administrator (University of Pretoria)

Jonathan Tager works in the International Strategic Partnerships office at the University of Pretoria as a Research Assistant and as Executive Assistant to Prof Frans Swanepoel. Since 2020 he has been seconded to spend half his time working within the broader UP sustainability portfolio, including sustainability reporting and the UN Sustainable Solutions Development Network (SDSN). He holds a BA in Linguistics and French and a BA(Hons) in Applied Linguistics. He is currently a Master’s student in the Unit for Creative Writing in the Department of English at UP.