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Nokwethaba Makhanya

Nokwethaba Makhanya

2021 Intern

Nokwethaba Makhanya holds research and sharing of knowledge in high regard and believes that these play a significant role in creating a future that benefits people and nature. She has a Master’s degree in Environmental and Geographical Science from the University of Cape Town and she is interning with WWF in a Climate and Energy role. In her internship, she is involved in projects that help drive innovation and transformation towards a low-carbon economy. Her tasks include workshop facilitation with trade unions, report compilation and participation in discussions around climate change policy.

Through her academic background, combined with the skills and experience that she is building, she hopes to make her mark in the environmental sector.

We asked her to tell us more about her aspirations for her career journey:

What are you passionate about?
I enjoy conducting research and solving problems that I encounter in my profession. I also like gathering information that I can share with others to assist them in making a difference for themselves and the environment in which they live.

What inspired your choice of study?
Growing up in the bushy Newlands West neighbourhood of Durban, I was constantly surrounded by nature. My childhood home was near a riverbank, and there were several types of creatures – from snakes, monkeys, and moles to grasshoppers, fireflies, butterflies and frogs, and a variety of trees to climb or snack on. We also had a warm humid subtropical climate with thunderstorms.

So, I chose Geography as a subject in high school because I was interested in the ecosystem I was a part of, and I wanted to understand thunderstorms so I wouldn't be afraid of them. I could also see worrying changes to the environment during my time in high school. As the weather got hotter, grasshoppers, fireflies, and butterflies vanished, to be replaced by moths and bugs. The thunderstorms became more intense. I needed to find out why the climate was changing and what else was going to vanish. That’s how I was inspired to enrol for a degree in Environmental and Geographical Science for my undergraduate.

In my second year, I took a course called "The Physical Environment," which included a section on "The Climate System," and it hit me like a ton of bricks: this was what I wanted to do with my life. I then switched all my Social Geography courses to Physical and Atmospheric Science – the best decision I've ever made! I went on to earn an Honours degree in Atmospheric Sciences and then my Master’s degree in Environmental and Geographical Science.

What excites you about your internship?
I believe that WWF is innovative and values continuous learning, which aligns with my ambition of working for a forward-thinking organisation. Organisations that consistently innovate are often at the forefront of their industries and continue to grow. Lifelong learning is essential to me, and I aspire to be a prolific researcher in climate change mitigation. I believe that this internship will help me accomplish this.

What are your expectations of this internship?
During the internship, I plan to develop my skills, such as time management, professional confidence, communication, listening and problem-solving abilities. Aside from that, I'd like to learn how to apply theoretical knowledge in practice and build meaningful connections with people. These skills will also prepare me for future employment opportunities.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?
I wish to continue doing research and hopefully publish some of my work on mitigating the impacts of climate change on water resources in South Africa.

Who inspires you the most and why?
I admire my mother’s fortitude. Her strength, perseverance and humility have always inspired me to carry myself in the same manner in both my personal and professional life.

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