Celebrations in Africa

Nairobi, Kenya. 29 May 2017

Throughout 2017, we will be celebrating CIAT’s 50th Anniversary and bring together our partners, donors, and people behind CIAT’s achievements, while reflecting on the future of food and agriculture.

Following the first regional celebrations in Hanoi, Vietnam on 3-4 April 2017, CIAT is pleased to announce the upcoming celebrations in Nairobi, Kenya on 29 May.

On this occasion, we will also be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA).

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Event Highlights

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Building resilience for a sustainable food future in Africa

Monday 29 May

Hotel Villa Rosa Kempinski

Hotel Kempinsky
Chiromo Rd, Nairobi


8:00 Registration

8:55 Introduction

  • John Sibi-Okumu, Master of Ceremony: Introduction to guests and program overview
  • Dr. Ruben Echeverría, CIAT Director General – Setting the scene: CIAT at 50 and PABRA at 20 highlights
  • Sara Menker, CEO and Founder, Gro Intelligence / Member of CIAT Board of Trustees – The power of information
  • Dr. Debisi Araba, CIAT Regional Director for Africa – Regional vision for Africa: the next 50 years

10:20 CIAT50 and PABRA20 cake cutting

10:40 Group photo and coffee break

10:50 Press conference [On invitation only]

  • Mercy Lung’aho, CIAT Nutritionist
  • Debisi Araba, Regional Director for Africa
  • Olufunso Somorin, Senior Policy Officer, Transition Support Fragile States Department, African Development Bank
  • Prof. Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources & Regional Development, Kenya

11:30 From fighting fires to building resilience: we won’t solve the food crisis with more calories alone

Pitch by Mercy Lung’aho, CIAT Nutritionist
Panel discussion facilitated by John Sibi-Okumu

  • Gladys Mugambi, Head, Nutrition and Dietetics Unit, Ministry of Heatlh, Kenya
  • Rachel Njeri, a farmer in the Tana river watershed, Kenya
  • Dr. Olufunso Somorin, Senior Policy Officer, Fragility and Resilience Unit – East Africa, African Development Bank
  • Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
  • Dr. Mercy Lung’aho, CIAT Nutritionist

12:15 Four surprising ways to build resilience

Pitches by CIAT staff followed by a discussion facilitated by John Sibi-Okumu

  • Eliud Birachi, Markets and agricultural value chain development specialist – What we can learn from roses: not just on Valentine’s Day but every day
  • Caroline Mwongera, farming systems and climate change scientist – Climate tools: helping us reach refugees during food crises
  • Job Kihara, soil fertility scientist – Sink carbon in our soil? Not so fast!
  • Solomon Mwendia, forage agronomist – Grass: how it can help us grow a greener future in Africa

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Building a more robust food system in the face of conflict and climate change

Pitch by Dr. Robin Buruchara, Director, Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA)
Panel discussion facilitated by John Sibi-Okumu

  • Dr. Ladisy Komba Chengula, Lead Agriultural Economist, Agriculture Global Practice, World Bank
  • Mr. Peter Mlegulah, Production Manager, Raphael Group Limited, Tanzania
  • Ms. Khalila Salim, Business Leader, Strategic partnerships, Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion, Kenya
  • Dr. Robin Buruchara, Director, Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA)

15:20 Closing

  • Vote of thanks by Geoffrey Hawtin, Chair, CIAT Board of Trustees

15:30 Networking exhibition and cocktail


John Sibi-Okumu


Organization: Freelance Consultant Position: Journalist and broadcaster

John Sibi-Okumu has been a notable broadcaster in Kenya. Amongst his interviewees on television have been such newsmakers as Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibakiand Wangari Maathai. He was quiz master for The Zain Africa Challenge, an inter-university, general knowledge competition originally seen in eight African countries. He was chief anchor for JSO@7, a one-hour TV news’ digest. As an actor, he has taken on about 40 lead roles on stage and appeared in local and international films, including The Constant Gardener, Shake Hands with the Devil and The First Grader. He has written nine plays to date, and directed amongst several other productions Mo Faya! by Kenyan musician Eric Wainaina, which played to great acclaim at the New York Festival of Musical Theatre in 2009. He has narrated and voiced award-winning documentaries and commercials in English, French and Kiswahili. In 2017, he read the audio-book for Peter Kimani’s Dance of the Jakaranda. He is a published author for young readers and a longstanding columnist for a number of publications. He continues to serve as moderator for high level conferences as an engaging public speaker. For his accomplishments, John is featured in the book Life Journeys, Scaling Heights – Conversations with High Achieving Men in Kenya.

Dr. Ruben Echeverría

Organization: International Center for Tropical Agriculture Position: Director General

Born in Uruguay, Ruben Echeverría has worked in agricultural and rural development since 1980. He studied Agronomy at the University of Uruguay and in the early 1980s worked for the Uruguayan Land Reform Institute, heading its extension service. He studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Minnesota, USA (MSc 1985 and PhD 1988) with special emphasis in the economics of technical change. In the mid-1980s, as part of his Ph.D. thesis, he conducted field research in Mexico and Guatemala, based at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT-CGIAR) in Mexico. Previously Executive Director of the Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), based at Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy, it was from there that Dr. Echeverría worked with the 15 Centers of the CGIAR on priorities and strategies, impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation and the mobilization of science. Since March 2009 Dr. Echeverría has been the Director General of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Ruben has received leadership management training at Harvard and IMD and belongs to several professional associations including the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE), Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) and the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD). He is a member of the Board of PIIPA, of the Scientific Advisory Board of Catalan Institute of Agricultural Research and Technology and of the Argentinian National Academy of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine. He chairs the International Board of Rimisp-Center for Rural Development in Latin America.

Sara Menker


Organization: Gro Intelligence Position: CEO and Founder

Sara Menker is Founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence, a data company dedicated to building products that change the way the world understands agriculture. Previously, Sara was a Vice President in Morgan Stanley’s commodities group. She began her career in commodities risk management, where she covered all commodity markets, and subsequently moved to trading, where she managed an options trading portfolio. Sara is a Trustee of the Mandela Institute For Development Studies (MINDS) and on the Board of Trustees of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Sara was named a Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum (when?) and is a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative of the Aspen Institute. Sara received a BA in Economics and African Studies at Mount Holyoke College and the London School of Economics and an MBA from Columbia University.

Dr. Debisi Araba

@DebisiAraba ‏

Organization: International Center for Tropical Agriculture Position: Regional Director for Africa

With extensive experience in agricultural policy and project implementation, Debisi is Africa’s Regional Director for CIAT. Building on strong partnerships, he is focused on delivering innovative science for the region. A strong believer that innovation in agriculture, and in our food systems, should be driven not only by profit, but also by sustainability, his vision is to ensure that every farmer and agribusiness – small and large – can maximize profits, while transforming systems to withstand shocks and stresses in the light of mounting challenges, including climate change. With experience as a senior manager in the African Policy Engagement group to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), a PhD in Waste Management from Imperial College London and a MSc. in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government, he brings much insight to this role. By leveraging CIAT’s global expertise, Dr. Araba intends to position CIAT as a global leader in agricultural data analytics, pioneering the importance of technology to transform climate services for the agriculture sector. That vision entails creating a formidable coalition, focused on reducing hunger, malnutrition, poverty and improving natural resources and ecosystem services towards making farming more competitive, profitable, and resilient.

Photo: Stephan Röhl

Professor Judi Wangalwa Wakhungu


Organization: Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya Position: Cabinet Secretary

Judi Wangalwa Wakhungu is Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources. Prior to joining the Kenya cabinet in 2013, Prof Judi Wakhungu was the Executive Director of the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Nairobi, Kenya. She has been an Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Pennsylvania State University where she also served as the Director of the Women in the Sciences & Engineering (WISE) Institute. She has also served as an Energy Advisor to the Energy Sector Management Program of World Bank and Advisor at The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prof Wakhungu was the first female geologist in Kenya’s Ministry of Energy and Regional Development, where her duties entailed exploring for geothermal energy in the Rift Valley. She was also the first female petroleum geologist in the National Oil Corporation of Kenya and the first female faculty member in the Department of Geology at the University of Nairobi. Prof. Wakhungu has a PhD in Energy Resources Management from Pennsylvania State University and her research interests include energy resources management; materials; energy policy and development; science, technology, and development; and gender issues in science and technology policy. Prof. Wakhungu has served on many boards and committees, both nationally and internationally. She was the Research Director of the Global Energy Policy and Planning Program of the International Federation of Institutes for Advanced Study (IFIAS), which is based in Toronto, Canada. She has served as the Project Leader of the Renewable Energy Technology Dissemination Project of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). Prof. Wakhungu also has the distinction of being the “designated energy expert” for the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (Gender Working Group). She has also served as the Executive Director of the African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS).

 Mercy Lung’aho


Organization: International Center for Tropical Agriculture Position: Nutritionist

Mercy is Nutritionist and Research Scientist in the Bean Program at CIAT. She has expertise in nutrition-sensitive agricultural programming. Her research includes a landmark study documenting evidence that eating beans bred to contain more iron can reduce iron deficiency in women of reproductive age. The study has major implications for women and children in Rwanda, where it was conducted. Iron-biofortified beans are now being tested more broadly in Rwanda, and other countries where malnutrition is a concern. She continuously advocates for more attention for nutrition in the field of agriculture, which is too often separated from health concerns. Mercy received her PhD in Food Science and International Nutrition from Cornell University. She is a member of the American Society for Nutrition, the African Nutrition Society and a registered nutritionist at the Kenya Nutrition and Dietetics Institute (KNDI), among others.

Rachael Njeri


Rachael Njeri is a farmer in Kenya’s Tana River watershed. She has started growing forage strips on her farm which prevent soil erosion and provide feed for her cattle. She is working with researchers at CIAT and other partners including the Kenya Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) and The Nature Conservancy, among others, to provide soil samples from her land, which enable researchers to provide her and other farmers with recommendations about land management and soil erosion prevention, to avoid silting in the Tana River’s waterways for other users further downstream. The work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).

Dr. Olufunso Somorin


Organization: African Development Bank Position: Senior Policy Officer, Fragility and Resilience Unit – East Africa

Olufunso Somorin (PhD) currently manages the African Development Bank’s work on addressing fragility and building resilience within the Horn of Africa region. He provides an oversight for national/regional projects worth about USD2.3 billion across strategic focus-areas which include institutional strengthening and capacity development, economic governance, drought resilience and infrastructure development in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan. He leads a number of policy dialogues with national/regional governments on developing policy frameworks for managing local and regional economic and social issues, resilience, peace- and state-building goals, regional integration, food security, climate change and inclusive growth. Prior to joining the Bank in 2011, Olufunso was an Associate Professional Officer with the Center for International Forestry Research, based in Yaoundé Cameroon. He led a number of a policy-relevant research on mainstreaming climate change adaptation and mitigation into national development policies of the Congo Basin countries. He has published more than 25 peer-reviewed articles on climate policy, natural resources management and sustainable development in many leading scientific journals. Olufunso holds a PhD in International Environmental Policy from Wageningen University, the Netherlands. He has undertaken a number of executive education and advanced training in many leading institutions, including both at Cambridge and Oxford Universities in the UK.

Khalila Salim


Organization: MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion Position: Business Leader, Strategic Partnerships

Khalila Salim is a passionate advocate for human rights and social justice. When she’s not working at Labs, she spends her free time working at a children’s home for orphaned girls and teaching them life skills. She previously worked with international organization, Plan International, following which she became the Regional Program Manager for Praekelt Foundation. She has supervised the development of programs in health and youth engagement across Eastern and Southern Africa. Khalila currently works as a consultant on strategy development with an emphasis on the use of technology to solve people’s problems. She has been critical to in terms of board direction and guidance on matters related to Grant Managements Systems, among others.

Geoffrey Hawtin


Organization:  International Center for Tropical Agriculture Position: Chair, Board of Trustees

Dr. Geoffrey Hawtin, a British/Canadian citizen, is the Senior Advisorand until August 2005 was the Executive Secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international foundation that he helped create, to finance the conservation of the biodiversity of crops worldwide. From January 2008 to April 2009 he was Director General of CIAT. From 1991 until 2003 he was Director General of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI, now Bioversity International), a research center of the CGIAR headquartered in Rome, Italy. Dr. Hawtin obtained both his first degree and Ph.D. from Cambridge University, U.K., carrying out his doctoral thesis research at Makerere University, Uganda. He worked for the Ford Foundation and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) as a plant breeder, based in Lebanon and Egypt, and was the first Leader of the Food Legume Improvement Programme of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria. Dr. Hawtin has also served as Deputy Director General of ICARDA and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Sciences Division of IDRC based in Ottawa, Canada. He has authored or co-authored more than 80 scientific and technical publications. His other responsibilities include membership of the Board of Directors of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), in Costa Rica, and he chairs the International Advisory Committee of Gardens for Life, Eden Project, and Cornwall.

CIAT in Africa in pictures

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