Meet the woman who never squirms at worms

Unlike her friends little Nomakholwa Stokwe would not squirm at the sight of creepy crawlies.

In fact playing with insects was one of her favourite things to do as a child growing up in Middledrift‚ in the Eastern Cape.

Dr Nomakholwa Stokwe holding up a bottle of nematodes that are being studied in the hopes that these will help control insect pests. Photo: Engela Duvenage

Today she continues to stand out as one of the country’s foremost entomologists. In fact she has discovered a new species of nematode also known as a roundworm.

Stokwe‚ who at the tender age of 32 is a lecturer at Stellenbosch University‚ has also been selected as an African Academy of Science affiliate. She has completed her PhD in entomology and focused on woolly apple aphids which pose a threat to South Africa’s apple industry.

Stokwe‚ according to an article issued by the university‚ looked whether “nematodes and fungi can parasitise’’ on woolly apple aphids and help bring the pests under control.

Growing up she said she said she did not fear insects. “I didn’t find them gross. I remember how I enjoyed playing with dung beetles‚’’ said Stokwe.

She matriculated from Kama High School where she was encouraged to take Mathematics and Science. She then completed her BSc at Fort Hare University. She took entomology as an elective and did so well that she was offered a bursary to do her honours which she passed with distinction.

She admits that there are few female entomologists in the country.

“I think it’s because the agricultural industry as a whole is male dominated. Within the black society though‚ it could also be a lack of knowledge. For instance I also did not know about it until I got to university. And even now I still find it difficult to explain to people what I do.’’

There is no difference between men and women working in her field but she said some tasks do require one to be physically fit.
In addition to her pioneering work she said one of her greatest achievements was becoming a lecturer.

“It went well‚ I received very positive feedback from the students.’’

– TimesLIVE

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