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A man who builds bridges: CIMMYT bids farewell to Wilfred Mwangi

MwangiAt the closing dinner of the MAIZE and WHEAT meetings on 20 January 2012, CIMMYT took the opportunity to say farewell to Wilfred Mwangi, Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project Leader, who will soon be retiring.

Mwangi grew up in a rural village in Kenya and completed PhD studies at Michigan State University, USA. Returning to Kenya afterwards, Mwangi eventually became a Professor and Chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nairobi. His career also includes stints as Permanent Secretary in Kenya and as a World Bank economist. He said that, despite all his academic expertise and impressive career, his mother still tells him how to farm!

Speaking at the farewell, CIMMYT Deputy Director General for Research and Partnerships, Marianne Bänziger, who worked for many years with Mwangi in Africa, called him “a person who builds bridges” between other people and noted that “…he could have taken other choices, easier choices” than his 24 years of work for CIMMYT. Mwangi, however, didn’t see this as an option: “We have such a noble mission,” he said. “This is a calling; you’re working for the poorest of the poor. CIMMYT is still my best employer.”

Mwangi has made significant contributions both as a principal scientist and distinguished economist with over 150 authored publications, as Country and Regional Liaison Officer, as Associate Director of the Global Maize Program, and as Leader of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project, one of CIMMYT’s most successful and crucial initiatives.

At the ceremony, Mwangi received a plaque thanking him for “dedication, wisdom, unbiased advice, and mentoring of hundreds of young national program scientists; for strengthening partnerships and mutual understanding across institutions, cultures, and countries; for sharp and pointed insights that stimulated us to change, improve, and be ambitious.” We may yet see more of these strengths: “Retiring is not ‘being tired’,” said Mwangi, “I’ll be around.”