By Evans Dakwa
As the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) celebrates 30 years of fruitful existence in the country, France has been hailed for supporting Zimbabwe through one of its most difficult period since independence.
With over thirty projects having been implemented since CIRAD first touched down in 1993, supporting resilience building in mostly rural areas, praises have been showered on France the parent country for CIRAD, for standing by the Southern African country at its hour of need.
CIRAD partners, stakeholders including government officials gathered at the residency of French embassy to partake in this momentous occasion that is testament to the long-standing relationship between France and Zimbabwe amplified by the work of CIRAD in research, animal health, sustainable production systems, agroecology, forests and biodiversity and processing of plant and animal products to mention but a few.
Professor Eddie Mwenje, the Vice Chancellor of Bindura University of Science Education raved about how a partnership between CIRAD and local university helped the country when no one else could.
” CIRAD has been here for 30 years and during our hardest period as a country around early 2000, there was a lot of brain drain, research was very low because of (lack of) funding and CIRAD partnered with Zimbabwean universities in the training of research students, to help mitigate the brain drain which was taking place, “said Professor Mwenje.
“Quite a number of European countries did not want to work with us because of sanctions but France stuck with us and at that particular time we began to build partnerships where some of the French colleagues would actually be attached to universities like the UZ.”
Professor Mwenje was beaming with the results of local universities’ collaboration with CIRAD.
“As l look back now, some of the students that have been trained have occupied lectureship positions in our universities, others are directors in government departments, this partnership has been fruitful. We have trained over 100 researchers during this during this period graduating with Masters and PHDs, we have also produced publications as a platform which keeps the academic environment vibrant and also keeps us on the map.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment Climate Tourism and Hotel Industry, Ambassador Raphael Tayerera Faranisi expressed his Ministry’s satisfaction with the results they have seen on the Ambassador Faranisi echoed the sentiments of Professor Mwenje highlighting how France through organisations like CIRAD has been a friend indeed.
“There was a time when there was a decline on account of issues related to our differences with Western countries but they (CIRAD) stayed on and l am happy that they have indicated they will be available and offering us more assistance. For us it is very important, climate change is real and this is the time we need a lot of resources to complement our own national effort in terms of raising resources for agricultural research, climate mitigation and also sustainably managing our resources, ” said Ambassador Faranisi.
One of the beneficiary students of the partnership between CIRAD and local universities, Claris Mudzengi who is now a lecturer at the Great Zimbabwe university was grateful to CIRAD for giving her the opportunity to learn and contribute to the development of her own country.
” I got a scholarship under what is called research platform Production Conservation and Partnership (PCP) established with support from CIRAD. The PCP funded my PHD studies, research and all other expenses associated with research.
“This program gives you the opportunity to work in your own country, with your own communities and the work under CIRAD is great as it’s developmental, you do not just go as a student and take from the community but you go work and give back, in my example l developed a (livestock) feed that is being used by farmers during the dry season in the lowveld where l was attached,” said Claris
The work of CIRAD in Zimbabwe especially in areas of human resources development, research, , sustainable management of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change over the past 30 years amplifies the cordiality of the Franco-Zim relationship with more expected from the continued existence of CIRAD in Zimbabwe.