Borlaug LEAP Fellow Gerardine Mukeshimana began her Borlaug LEAP fellowship in November 2011 under the mentorship of Dr. James Kelly, professor of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University and Dr. Stephen Beebe, leader of the bean program at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Mukeshimana’s research was integrated with a project of the Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program. The Borlaug LEAP fellowship enabled her to spend three months at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT-Colombia), a CGIAR center, conducting field research on beans under the mentorship of Dr. Beebe. The fellowship strengthened her doctoral research by including field trials in Colombia and Rwanda, broadened her exposure to drought selection techniques, and expanded her international network.
Dr. Mukeshimana completed her doctoral program in plant breeding and genetics at Michigan State University in 2013. After achieving her PhD, Mukeshimana joined the research team at BecA Hub, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa facilities located at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Nairobi, Kenya. On July 24, 2014, Dr. Mukeshimana was appointed by President Paul Kigame of Rwanda as the new Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda.
USAID has played a major role in Dr. Mukeshimana’s professional development through her involvement in several USAID sponsored institutional capacity strengthening and training programs. In 2001, Gerardine Mukeshimana first enrolled in a Master of Science program at Michigan State University (MSU) under USAID’s PEARL (Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages) project. After a stint back in Rwanda serving as a lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture of the National University of Rwanda and Coordinator for the World Bank’s Rural Sector Support Project, she returned to MSU in 2008 to pursue a PhD degree with financial support through USAID’s Dry Grain Pulses CRSP (currently branded as the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research in Grain Legumes; Legume Innovation Lab). In 2011, she received her Borlaug LEAP Fellowship.
Ms. Mukeshimana’s doctoral thesis research focused on “Dissecting the genetic complexity of drought tolerance mechanisms in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.).” Common bean is an important food and nutritional security crop in Rwanda which has the highest per capita consumption of bean of any country in the world. In addition to addressing an important constraint of drought to bean productivity in Rwanda, Dr. Mukeshimana acquired knowledge and skills in molecular genetics during her graduate program that will be important for the future growth and competiveness of Rwanda’s agriculture sectors. Two scientific papers were published in 2014 in Crop Science (Quantitative trait loci associated with drought tolerance in common bean) and the Journal of the American Society of Horticulture Science, giving evidence of the significance of her research findings.
In 2012, the Board of International Food and Agriculture Development (BIFAD) recognized Gerardine Mukeshimana’s achievements by awarding her the prestigious 2012 BIFAD Student Award for Scientific Excellence in a United States Agency for International Development Collaborative Research Support Program. The recognition was based on her contributions to Rwanda’s bean breeding program including the identification of genes for drought tolerance and the development of a fast and cost-effective method for screening for drought tolerance mechanisms.