Petronille Dusingizimana works at the nexus of agriculture and technology to build sustainable food systems in Rwanda and Africa. She talks about her motivation as a Sustainable Land Use Fellow at the African Food Fellowship.
Who is Petronille, the food systems leader?
I am a PhD candidate, researching conservation agriculture and its potential to adapt to climate change at the African Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Université Félix- Houphouët-Boigny, Cote d’Ivoire and Universite Mohammed VI, Morocco. I have six years of experience in research related to food systems, agriculture, and climate change.
Tell us more about your area of study, and what you are hoping it will contribute to food systems research.
I am investigating the effects of climate change and land degradation on yields, production cost, and soil quality for my PhD thesis. The research will boost conservation agriculture adaptability in Rwanda for more productive, climate-smart, and sustainable food systems. Climate change and land degradation are two of the biggest challenges facing the African food system today due to unsustainable agriculture practices. These challenges are exacerbated in Rwanda due to the country’s small size, vulnerability to climate change, and limited adaptation capacity. Conservation agriculture can mitigate land degradation and rationalise resource use.
What new trends are emerging in agriculture and climate change and how will they shape food systems in Africa and the rest of the world?
Climate change is already stressing food systems, with negative consequences for livelihoods, food security, and nutrition for hundreds of millions of people, especially in developing countries. The global food system is failing to address food insecurity and malnutrition in an environmentally sustainable way. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2022 report, trends in climate change in Africa will pose even bigger risks to food and nutrition security and livelihoods due to reduced food production from crops, livestock, and fisheries. African food systems actors need to invest in effective adaptation options, together with supportive public policies to enhance food availability and stability and reduce climate risk for food systems while increasing their sustainability.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as a food systems leader?
It would have to be playing a part in developing the Rwandan Food System Transformative Integrative Policy (FS-TIP). Our team was selected to examine Rwanda’s food systems and the policy landscape with the aim of informing national and local conversations for transformation. I was able to contribute my knowledge and skills as a leader and build invaluable networks. FS-TIP had great impact on igniting discussions around ways to build more synergies within Rwanda’s food system for a more sustainable, nutritious, and prosperous country.
What would you do differently if you could go back to the beginning of your career?
I did not have a clear focus at the beginning and tried to pursue every opportunity that I could get, despite my heavy workload. In the end, I failed to meet deadlines, and could hardly get time to rest. It was time for a reset. I sat and defined what I wanted my career to be like and what I needed to prioritise and invest effort and time in. This resulted in tremendous career growth and it left me with a lesson that It is important to be determined and not lose focus if you want to be successful.
You have been a Fellow of the African Food Fellowship for six months. What is the best thing you have learnt, and why should other food systems leaders apply to join the Fellowship?
It has been a great experience learning new concepts on leadership in food systems, meeting new people and building networks within and out of the Fellowship. I have learnt how to apply leadership skills to bring about systemic change by designing solutions from a systems perspective in order to address challenges and harness opportunities for everyone’s benefit. The Fellowship has helped me understand what good leadership is.