MSU grad appointed Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda

Gerardine Mukeshimana was appointed the new Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) of Rwanda by H. E. Paul Kigame, president of the Republic of Rwanda, on July 24.

August 12, 2014

Gerardine Mukeshimana, a 2013 graduate of the Michigan State University (MSU) doctoral program in plant breeding and genetics in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, was appointed the new Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) of Rwanda by H. E. Paul Kigame, president of the Republic of Rwanda, on July 24.

MINAGRI works to increase animal production, modernize farming, reduce poverty, ensure food security and produce surplus harvest for market sale by developing and managing programs that contribute to modernizing agriculture and livestock. Policies are aimed at increasing the nation’s standard of living through sustainable production systems, institutional development and improved value chains.

Mukeshimana was working as a plant scientist at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub when she learned of her appointment. She was surprised.

“I didn’t expect it at all. But when I was appointed, I told myself, this is an opportunity to serve my country and Rwandans and I’m happy about it,” Mukeshimana said. “We [MINAGRI ] are here to help Rwandans get where they need to be. We are not working for ourselves, but for all Rwandans and our
country, so we are going to work as hard as we can to increase plant and animal productivity although we are facing climate challenges. ”

While in a Ph.D. program at MSU, Mukeshimana’s research focused on the genetics of common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, to identify drought tolerant genes and traits. Common bean is an important food and nutritional security crop in Rwanda, which has the highest per capita consumption of beans of any country in the world. Her dissertation is entitled Dissecting the Genetic Complexity of Drought Tolerance Mechanisms in Common Bean (Phaseolus Vulgaris L.).

In addition to addressing important constraints to bean productivity in Rwanda, Mukeshimana acquired knowledge and skills in molecular genetics that will be important for the future growth and competiveness of Rwanda’s agriculture sectors.

Mukeshimana’s published two scientific papers in 2014: “Quantitative Trait Loci Associated with Drought Tolerance in Common Bean” in Crop Science and “Identi?cation of Shoot Traits Related to Drought Tolerance in Common Bean Seedlings” in the Journal of the American Society of Horticulture Science.

Financial support for Mukeshimana’s doctoral work came through USAID’s Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program (Pulse CRSP, now called the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research in Grain Legumes [Legume Innovation Lab]).

Mukeshimana received USAID’s Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (LEAP) fellowship, which enabled her to spend three months at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT-Colombia), a CGIAR center, receiving training and research mentoring.

In 2012, the Board of International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD) recognized Gerardine Mukeshimana’s achievements by awarding her the prestigious 2012 BIFAD Student Award for Scientific Excellence in a United States Agency for International Development Collaborative Research Support Program. The recognition was based on her contributions to Rwanda’s bean breeding program including the identification of genes for drought tolerance and the development of a fast and cost-effective method for screening for drought tolerance mechanisms.

Mukeshimana is exemplary of successful investments in human resource development by USAID’s CRSPs and the current Innovation Labs that are contributing to the formation of a new generation of agriculture leaders in developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Legume Innovation Lab (formerly the Bean/Cowpea and Pulse CRSPs) addresses issues of hunger and poverty through science and technology research; it has been managed at MSU for more than 30 years.

For more information, contact James Kelly, University Distinguished professor in MSU’s Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at (517) 355-0271 Ext. 1181, kellyj@msu.edu or Irvin Widders at 517-648-8749, widders@msu.edu.

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