Limpopo pupil’s research to save marula tree earns her a trip to US

A thirteen-year-old budding scientist from Phalaborwa in Limpopo is currently participating in a programme for rising stars in maths‚ applied science‚ technology and engineering in the US.

Lehlogonolo “Nolo” Msuma’s interest in old marula trees in her community‚ has earned her a spot at the Broadcom Masters International programme‚ which chooses participants for “their excellence in science‚ engineering and leadership“.

Nolo‚ who is in grade 8 at the Gerson Ntjie High School‚ has been in Los Angeles this week for a week of “fun and engaging hands-on science and engineering activities“‚ was curious about why there were only old marula trees in her community.

“We only know that big trees are being eaten by elephants‚ goats‚ cows and wanted to know [what] the small seedlings of marula were being eaten by; I found out that they were being eaten by rodents‚” she told the SABC.

Her project led her to discover that the Bushbuck gabble and the Namaqua rock rat were eating the marula seedlings daily‚ and that had a negative effect on the growth of marula trees.

Nolo‚ who wants to become an environmental scientist‚ has outlined various ways in which this could be dealt with‚ enabling the trees to grow.

The fruit from the tree is used in many ways in her community: to ferment alcohol‚ and to make soap and jam.

She is also an ambassador for the Bush Babies Environmental Programme and believes South Africa can make positive contributions to global environmental research.

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