To welcome Lumpkin to the region and so he could meet CIMMYT partners, on 18 November 2008 the Global Maize Program (GMP) organized a gala dinner attended by more than 20 dignitaries, including representatives of Kenya’s agricultural research program, seed-producer organizations, universities and research institutes, and other international centers and major development projects. Joseph DeVries, director of the Program for Africa’s Seed Systems of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), observed that Lumpkin had joined CIMMYT “…at a particularly exciting time for agriculture in Africa,” a theme echoed by several other guests. After drinks and food, Lumpkin spoke of his origins and professional experience, and described important issues and directions for CIMMYT and others working in sub-Saharan Africa. “ All our passion and efforts as partners must come together on increasing agricultural productivity in Africa – to ensure that the poor too have access to affordable food, especially now that we are facing new global challenges: the economic crisis, sky-rocketing food and fuel prices and climate change.
GMP director Marianne Bänziger thanked those attending, saying that “… nothing would be possible without our partners, such as the seed companies, KEPHIS (the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services), and KARI (the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute).” As a prelude to the upcoming retirement of CIMMYT maize breeder Alpha Diallo, Bänziger and Lumpkin awarded him a compact version of a memorial plaque he will receive in December 2008. “CIMMYT is my family,” said Diallo, whose work has contributed to many improved varieties—particularly of stress tolerant and quality protein maize— in sub-Saharan Africa. “When I joined the center as a postdoc in 1983, I was among the first Africans to work here. If I was able to achieve anything, it was because I found people who believed in what they were doing and in what I wanted to do. When I leave, I’m going to be a CIMMYT ambassador.”
Before visiting Nairobi, Lumpkin spent four days in Ethiopia with CIMMYT colleagues and partners who included government officials, donor representatives, national agricultural research teams, seed producers, and farmers. In all interactions it was clear that strong partnerships and good relations between CIMMYT and collaborators were at work. In fact, CIMMYT agronomist Dennis Friesen says that, in Ethiopia, CIMMYT and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) “…are viewed as one.”