Borlaug LEAP Alumni Nafeti Mheni believes that one of the most important abilities a leader can have is good communication skills. Farmers and scientists require different communication styles and Mheni has worked to develop skills to bridge the gap between the two groups. Gaining the trust of the community is critical to successful leadership and Mheni notes that leading by example is key.
Mheni’s research addressed some of the important issues in the seed industry by using modern breeding techniques to efficiently provide farmers with stress-avoiding and stress-tolerant crop varieties. The study was focused on wheat and he hopes the varieties he worked on will be used in Burundi, Kenya, and Ethiopia as well as Tanzania. His Borlaug LEAP Fellowship allowed Mheni to include International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) wheat in his study. He was mentored by Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, a senior scientist on the Wheat Lead for Seed Discovery Initiative at CIMMYT. Dr. Singh believes that training wheat breeders in cutting-edge breeding methods is a cornerstone for Africa’s self-sufficiency in wheat and was happy to play a part in Mheni's fellowship. Mheni’s US mentor and advisor, Dr. Clay Sneller, Associate Professor at Ohio State University, has over 28 years experience in genetics research and crop variety development.
Mheni has been employed since 2007 by the Tanzanian government’s Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), and took study leave to pursue his Master’s of Science in Horticulture and Crop Science from Ohio State University. Upon completing his Master's degree in Horticulture and Crop Science in 2013, he returned to SARI where he plans to use his leadership skills to influence breeders, educate people, and build teams to achieve the goals of Tanzania.