Meet our key note speakers

Welcome by Professor Loretta Feris
Deputy Vice-Chancellor University of Cape Town

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Loretta Feris was Professor of Law in the Institute of Marine and Environmental Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where she taught natural resources law, pollution law and international environmental law. Since January 2017 she has been Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Transformation) at UCT. She holds the degrees BA (law), LLB and LLD from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and LLM from Georgetown University in the USA.

Prof Feris is an NRF rated researcher and has published widely in the area of environmental law, including environmental rights, liability for environmental damage and compliance and enforcement of environmental law. She is a board member of Biowatch and Natural Justice and has until 2013 served on the board of the South African Maritime Safety Authority. She is a Law Commissioner of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and a member of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law where she served on the teaching and capacity building committee for three years.


Ms Caterina Batello
Team Leader, Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO

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I lead the Team in Agriculture Plant Production and Protection Division on Agroecology and Ecosystem Management. I have a Ms. In Agriculture and and I am specialized in Tropical Pastures.

My tasks include providing assistance to member countries in Agroecology, Ecosystem Management, and Biodiversity -related policies, knowledge hubs, information and capacity building. This is achieved through an ecosystem approach where people (farmers, institutions, policy-makers) play the most important role. My work involves the management of biodiversity and ecosystem services capitalizing on natural biological processes in different countries to improve resilience of people and agricultural food systems to climate change, soil and biodiversity erosion, pollution and food insecurity.

I am author and editor of over 10 publications, including” Gardens of Biodiversity” and “the Future is an Ancient Lake” related to traditional knowledge and conservation of genetic resources respectively in the Caucasus and Lake Chad Basin. Author of several articles and technical and policy papers on rangelands, pastoral issues, sustainable agriculture and the role of legumes in sustainable cropping systems.

Our Programme
Subject to change

Ms Thombithini Ndwandwe
Seed Guardian,
Farmer and Activist

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Ms Pregs Govender

Former Commissioner and Deputy Chair of SA’s Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

[ultimate_modal modal_title=”Ms Pregs Govender” btn_bg_color=”#bb7c39″ btn_text=”Read More” overlay_bg_opacity=”80″ img_size=”80″]Pregs is a writer, educator and political activist. Her work over four decades, for political, economic and social justice, equality, peace and freedom has incited conscious action. An introduction to yoga in childhood and feminism and socialism as a youth, enriched her activism. From her grandparents and parents Pregs learnt respect for the earth that sustains all life. As a parent, her experience of the inherent dignity of her children affirms her belief in the dignity of every child. Her book, ‘Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination’ was published in 2007 and the late Ahmed Kathrada, noted that ‘it opens the space for others to speak’. In the second edition in 2016, Graca Machel described it as ‘an inspiration for all those working toward justice and liberation in Africa and through-out the world’ while Gloria Steinem wrote that it ‘tells us how to make a revolution from the bottom up’. Love and Courage has been used as a teaching tool in universities, parliaments and movements.

Pregs became an activist in the struggle against apartheid while in school and university, in community and women’s organizations, including N.O.W and feminist media. She worked as an English and History teacher in schools and in UDW’s (now UKZN) English Department. As national educator of SA’s majority women’s clothing and textile union (now SACTWU), the education campaign she developed, contributed to women being elected into leadership and workers divided by race uniting to provide a unanimous mandate to join the non-racial federation (Cosatu). She wrote the feasibility study for the Workers College before piloting it at UWC. In 1992, during SA’s transition, her work in conceptualizing and managing the Women’s National Coalition (WNC) campaign for a Women’s Charter, took her across SA to listen to women. In SA’s first Democratic Parliament in 1994, Pregs served as an MP. She convened the Finance Committee’s working group on gender and macroeconomic policy. In the 1994 budget debates she initiated SA’s ‘Women’s Budget’ and led its impact on the ‘98/’99 national budget. During her term as chair of Parliament’s Women’s Committee, she ensured that 80% of women’s legislative priorities were enacted. Pregs was the only MP to register opposition to the Arms Deal in the Defence Budget Vote and chaired public hearings on HIV and AIDS during President Mbeki’s term. Her report to the ANC Caucus broke its silence on treatment. Pregs resigned from Parliament in 2002.

During her term as Commissioner and Deputy Chair of SA’s Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) (2009-2015), Pregs crafted a feminist, systemic approach, recognizing structural causes and the interdependence of all human rights. In a global economic system that had deepened Apartheid’s patriarchal, capitalist and racist legacy, the SAHRC demanded government and business accountability to people who were poor. This approach permeated her allocated focus areas namely, the rights to water and sanitation, health, and access to information as well as most other SAHRC work. In 2015, the SAHRC roundtable on the gendered impact of the food system convened feminist organizers, women farmers, people’s movements, trade unionists, academics, scientists and independent state institutions, strengthening solidarity for future action.

An independent writer and educator, Pregs’ work included chairing the Independent Panel Assessment of SA’s Parliament; writing the concept note and facilitating Parliament’s Africa-wide conference on gender and economics; writing and presenting the concept paper for the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s first global conference on HIV and AIDS; facilitating the International Feminist University Network’s curriculum retreat and many workshops on gender budgets. Her writing includes reports, book chapters, op-eds in SA’s major newspapers and online publications. Her keynote addresses include the World Public Health Nutrition Congress (2016) and the UNHRC Seminar on the right to food. Awards include honorary doctorates; the AWID Inspiration Award; the Asoka Fellowship; the Ruth First Fellowship and the 1000 Currents Artist in Residence.[/ultimate_modal]

Prof. Albert Modi
Deputy Vice Chancellor for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

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Albert Modi is the Deputy Vice Chancellor for the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

He obtained his PhD from the Ohio State University (USA), MScAgric from the University of Natal and BScAgric from the University of Fort Hare. He teaches Crop Science and his research focus areas also include sustainable agriculture and water relations.

Both his teaching and research are linked to community outreach programmes for rural development and human capacity development in agriculture. The highlight of his research-led community engagement was the establishment of Ezemvelo Farmers Organisation (EFO), the first rural community to be certified organic and registered to supply organic taro (amadumbe) in South Africa. He has produced 16 PhD and 33 MSc/MAgric students in his academic career.

He has occupied important leadership positions and recognitions nationally and internationally, including being the Chairperson of the South African Society of Crop Production, South African Life Sciences Deans Association and Deputy Chairperson of the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries National Research Forum. He is a GreenMatter Fellow and the Ohio State University Distinguished Alumnus.


Dr Million Belay
Coordinates the Alliance
for Food Sovereignty for

[ultimate_modal modal_title=”Dr Million Belay” btn_bg_color=”#bb7c39″ btn_bg_hover_color=”#742520″ btn_text=”Read More” modal_size=”medium” modal_style=”overlay-show-genie” overlay_bg_opacity=”80″ img_size=”80″ btn_txt_color=”#ffffff”]Dr Million Belay coordinates the Alliance for Food Sovereignty for Africa, a network of major networks in Africa. He is a member of the International Panel of Experts on the Sustainable of Food Systems (IPES-Food). Million is a founder of MELCA – Ethiopia, an indigenous NGO working on issues of agro-ecology, intergenerational learning, advocacy and livelihood improvement of local and indigenous peoples. Million has been working for over two decades on the issues of intergenerational learning of bio-cultural diversity, sustainable agriculture, forests, and the right of local communities to seed and food sovereignty. His main interests include research and advocacy on food sovereignty, agroecology, learning among generations, knowledge dialogues and the use of participatory mapping for social learning. He also has an interest in identity building and the mobilization of memory for resilience. He has a PhD in environmental learning, a MSc in tourism and conservation and a BSc in Biology.[/ultimate_modal]

Dr Emile Frison
International Agricultural
Research for Development

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Dr Emile Frison is a Belgian national with a career in international agricultural research for development. He obtained a MSc from the Catholic University of Louvain and a PhD in agricultural sciences from the University of Gembloux in Belgium. He worked in Africa for six years on agricultural research and development, with a focus on Nigeria and Mauritania. In 2003, he became Director General of Bioversity International and developed a strategy entitled “Diversity for Well-being” focused on the contribution that agricultural biodiversity makes to the nutritional quality of diets and to the sustainability, resilience and productivity of smallholder agriculture.

He is the Chair of the Board of Directors of Ecoagriculture Partners, was Extraordinary Professor at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium from 2007-2009 and is Chair of the International Scientific Committee on Sustainable Food Systems of the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation. Since 2013, Dr Frison has focused on sustainable agriculture and food systems and in 2015, joined the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. Dr Frison is lead author of “From Uniformity to Diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems” and author or co-author of over 175 scientific, technical and policy papers.


Method Gundidza
Earthlore Foundation

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Method Gundidza, trained as a Chartered Certified Accountant, and currently holds the post of Programme Manager for EarthLore Foundation.

He completed a 3 year international training course on Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) in May 2014 facilitated by Gaia Foundation, UK and graduated in Kenya in July 2017. The training has resulted in him facilitating Community Dialogues in Zimbabwe and South Africa to revive indigenous knowledge and food systems. These community dialogues triggered a genuine process for the three Bikita communities and one South African community to revive their lost and underutilised traditional seeds, traditional ecological governance systems but also to gain confidence in their knowledge which helps them mitigate climate change effect and the overwhelming effect of corporate and government control on food systems and general governance through the dominant political dispensation. These communities are really finding their ground in knowing that they indeed possess valuable knowledge to diversify their crops if they have to become climate resilient, they need to protect sacred sites in order to protect the rich Biodiversity that is found there and that the sacred sites are those critical centres of their local ecosystems.

Method values the importance of indigenous knowledge and food systems as systems that have sustained the very fundamental aspects of life and respected the relationship between humans and other non-human elements of the earth community from time immemorial. He is engaged in grassroots community dialogues to revive indigenous knowledge systems and restore the dignity and rights of the earth and all her inhabitants.


Dr Emile Frison
International Agricultural
Research for Development

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Bio forthcoming

Programmatic queries: Haidee Swanby at
Logistical queries: Fahdelah Hartley at 021 650 2866 or