The 1662 award commemorates the first apples that were harvested in the Company Garden at…
By Elise-Marie Steenkamp
Professor Karen Theron and Dr Mono Mashaba received the Hortgro 1662 Industry Award at an event held in Stellenbosch recently. This is the fourth year that the industry recognizes industry titans with the 1662 Award. Previous recipients of the 1662 Award were horticulturist, Koos Lötter, the previous HOD of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Joyene Isaacs, and apple historians and authors, Buks Nel and Henk Griessel.
The award commemorates the day that the first two Wittewijn Appels were picked in the VOC’s Garden on the 17th of April 1662 – this day is also considered the birthday of the modern and world-renowned deciduous fruit industry of today. Traditionally the award is given on the day closest to this date. The 1662 Award reflects the historic journey of the South African deciduous fruit industry since its humble beginnings and celebrates those who have made considerable contributions over an extended period.
According to Hortgro Executive Director, Anton Rabe, the industry decided to give the 1662 Award to Mashaba and Theron who are both respected experts in two very different industry fields. Mashaba played an instrumental role in vastly improving market access for the industry over many years, while Theron’s work as a researcher and horticulturist, had a massive impact on improving production practices for the industry.
Dr Mashaba, who until recently also sat on the Hortgro Board, had been instrumental in ensuring closer collaboration between government and various agriculture industries in the negotiations for international market access. He served as an agriculture attaché in the South African Embassy in Beijing for eight years. During this period, his work was instrumental in enabling the opening of new markets for agriculture products in Eastern Asia.
“My good friend, Dr Mono Mashaba, has been a committed supporter of the SA Fruit industry, and devoted his extended time-based in China as our Agricultural Attaché, with the principal objective to get market access for South African fruit into this major market,” said Charles Hughes, another industry champion, and previous MD of Tru-Cape.
“So committed was he that he left the Government to work within the industry fighting the cause with the Department of Agriculture, keeping the needs of the industry foremost in the halls of Government.”
Mashaba played a decisive role in the South African pome fruit industry’s application to access the Chinese market for apples and pears with the successful signing of export protocols in 2015 (apples) and 2022 (pears). After leaving the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (now the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development) in November 2012, Mashaba established a consulting company called Africa Excel Advisory Services, from which he continued to support market access for South African fruit.
From left: Charles Hughes, Nic Dicey, Dr Mono Mashaba and Andre Smit
Whilst Dr Mashaba helped with market access; Prof Theron’s work contributed to the scientific side of the deciduous fruit industry. Before retiring in September of last year, Theron worked in the deciduous fruit industry for forty years. During that time, and through her research, she helped to make the South African deciduous fruit industry internationally more competitive.
She spent 36 years at the Department of Horticultural Science at Stellenbosch University, 12 years as Chair of the Department, and since 2014 has been the first Chair in Applied Pre-Harvest Deciduous Fruit Research. It was not only her research, which mainly focused on reproductive biology, where she made an impact but also her influence on undergraduate and postgraduate students, many of whom are making their own impact on the deciduous fruit industry today. As an applied researcher Theron was not scared to get her hands dirty and producers and technical advisors can attest to her accessibility and the ease with which she investigated industry problems, did the research, and communicated solutions for practical implementation thereby increasing profitability for producers.