In this new series, Nehanda Radio shines a spotlight on the many talents and contributions of a diverse number of Zimbabweans who are flying the country’s flag in the diaspora. With estimates suggesting that over 3 million Zimbabweans are in the diaspora, just what are some of them doing. Lets find out together.
By Lance Guma
Those who have watched the TV series ‘Narcos’ will have witnessed a reverting dramatisation of the real life story of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar and his reign of terror in Colombia. So imagine a Zimbabwean with a PHD working in Colombia?
Pablo Escobar is dead but one can be forgiven for having reservations about moving your family to a place well known for this notorious history, high murder rate and other drug related problems. Enter 39-year-old Dr Ngoni Chirinda. He holds a PhD in Agroecology and is working as a Soil and Climate Change scientist in Colombia. He moved there in 2014.
I sat down for a chat with Dr Chirinda and he told me; “It was an exciting opportunity which my wife and l thought had an element of adventure attached with it.”
“The reality is different. The Colombian people are loving, friendly and welcoming. They may have had their abnormal share of challenges in the past, but which country hasn’t? In my opinion, the notorious images that people have of Colombia, now, do not depict the realities on the ground. The country has since moved way ahead of those images.”
So what drove you to pick this occupation?
“A combination of chance and not attaining the grades necessary for the choices l had back then. I had always wanted to be a medical Doctor, but God had other plans for me.
“Surprising the first subject l ever got an Ungradable grade (U), during a form two school term, was Agriculture. So, while l may have had every reason to dislike agriculture, it was in that very subject that my blessing and future was.
“When I learnt that agriculture and a subject area I liked, environmental science, could be integrated around the goal of increasing agricultural productivity and reducing poverty and hunger without significantly harming the environment, l decided that that was the path l would follow.”
What do you do in a typical day?
“Being a new year, my typical day has changed a lot, as l have decided new (Re)-solutions for my typical day. I wake up at 4am to go to the gym for 30 mins. I then meditate for 15 mins. Then write down any new thoughts.
“I arrive at work at 0630h think for 30 minutes before starting to read about the latest research around the area l will be working on that day. I then add any new ideas l get in any research article or proposal l will be working on that day.
“I usually start checking and replying emails around mid-morning. As much as l can, l try not to schedule meetings in the morning. At lunch, l go swimming for 30 mins before eating. After eating l take a thinking walk.
“In the afternoon l read and write down any new ideas into whatever l will be working on. I leave work at 5pm to make it in time for dinner with my wife. So, in the absence of meetings and traveling, my typical day is spent trying to generate new ideas or creating an environment, within and around me, that enables me to thrive.”
Why is your job important?
“Firstly, l strongly believe that since every job is created to solve some existing or envisaged future problem, it must be important at least for someone. On the importance of what l do, to quote a previous mentor: “What we do is aimed at ensuring that there is food on the farmer’s table and money in their pockets”.
“We do this by identifying, evaluating and promoting technological, management and policy options that increase farmer productivity and enhance adaption to climate variability and change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“In other words, we attempt to inform strategies that foster the creation of an environment which enables current and future generations to thrive. Currently, l am mostly working with rice and livestock farmers and stakeholders.”
Based on your experiences in Colombia and on your job do you have any ideas for Zimbabwe to implement?
“I have stayed in contact with several former colleagues, that are in my field. So, we continuously discuss ideas and possibilities. I think we all agree that our agricultural sector has huge potential to thrive. To realize this potential, there is need to invest more in agricultural research and extension.
“That way we can support existing and even create more platforms for idea generation, testing and dissemination. I also think that we need to continue thinking and investing in reducing and/or recycling our agricultural, household and industrial waste.”
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