Edward R. Sawer, Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Arts (MA), was assistant to the secretary for agriculture of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the first editor of the Rhodesia Agricultural Journal, which commenced publication in August 1903. In November 1906 he was appointed director of experimental stations in the Department of Agriculture of Natal, a post that was later renamed director of agriculture and forestry. He was stationed at the Cedara agricultural research station (founded in 1902), near Howick, and served also as principal of the Cedara School of Agriculture (which later developed into the Cedara College of Agriculture). He furthermore acted as conservator of forests of Natal from T.R. Sim's* retirement in 1907 until the appointment of A.W. Heywood* in October 1910.
Sawer's Lecture notes for the Cedara School of Agriculture, dealing with the principles of both agriculture and stock management, were published in Pietermaritzburg in 1908 (71p). The next year he brought out the first volume of the Cedara Memoirs on South African Agriculture, containing six reports, all written by him, on cereals in South Africa. Volume 2, containing six reports on feeding crops and livestock experiments, appeared in 1911. Volume 3 (1912) included four reports, dealing with the sugar industry and the cultivation of tea, fibre crops and tobacco. Articles by him on agricultural topics were published also in the Natal Mercury and in the Natal Agricultural Journal. Particularly during 1907-1908 he contributed many articles to the latter, dealing with topics such as the cultivation of pineapples, Bullrush millet, cultivation of sweet potatoes, cereals under irrigation, domestication of the eland, tea cultivation, the role of legumes in agriculture, Persian sheep in Natal, poplar timber for the manufacture of matches, and tobacco cultivation. During 1912 he contributed two further articles to the Agricultural Journal of the Union of South Africa (Vol. 2), one on experiments with soya beans in Natal, the other on the prospects for wheat cultivation in Natal. By 1914 he was no longer working in the civil service of the Union of South Africa.
Sawer became a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science and at its annual congress held in Natal in 1907 read a paper on "Agricultural education in South Africa". An abstract was published in the association's Report for that year (p. 125). He was still a member of the association by 1910. Later in his career he wrote A review of the agricultural situation in Palestine (1923), published by the Palestine Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.