BANGKOK: APSA is pleased to welcome Paul Hategekimana as an intern who will be helping the Secretariat out with various research and administrative tasks through to May. An international student from Rwanda, Paul is pursuing a graduate degree at Kasetsart University, and will be interning with APSA for eight Wednesdays over a three-month period that commenced in March. Asian Seed sat down with Paul to learn more about him and his tiny-yet-widely known country in the heart of Africa.
Tell us about yourself, and your life in Rwanda
I was born in a historical town in southern Rwanda called called Nyanza. It’s a very touristic and historic part of Rwanda, it was the old capital (1958-1962) and is the location of the monarchy’s old palace.
My family comprised of my mum, dad, sister, grandparents, uncles and aunts. My family was very rich, but they were all killed during the genocide and civil war in Rwanda, which began around 1994, when I was still only four years old. I was the only survivor out of my family.
It was a struggle to grow up. A friend of my family looked after me at first, but he died in 1999. Since then, I learned to take care of myself. I have some land from my parents. On one field, I’ve experimented with growing crops, but couldn’t do that much when I was young. I allocated some of the field for some local people to look after, in addition to my own plot. In the future, I intend to go back and farm this land.
I really took a liking to science during secondary school years. I went to the Nyanza School of Science, where I gained a good foundation in maths, biology and chemistry, graduating in 2009. Later I pursued an agriculture degree from the National University of Rwanda from 2011-2014.
What are you studying at KU?
I am pursuing a Master’s Degree with a focus on tropical agriculture, and plan to graduate in 2018. Particularly I am researching crop physiology and seeds [of crops with] resistance against drought and diseases, as well as plant breeding for increased productivity.
Why did you choose to further your studies in Thailand?
Thailand is very developed country in agriculture, more so than Rwanda. Thailand and Rwanda are collaborating on technology development involving rice and maize. In Rwanda, breeding new rice varieties is currently very expensive. As an agronomist I need to figure out how to change the mindsets of Rwanda farmers. In Rwanda we have two seasons: rainy and sunny, but mostly during the sunny season it is considered the “off-season” for agriculture. But here in Thailand agriculture production is running year-round. I think if we apply this in Rwanda we can increase yields and productivity. I will show our farmers that we need to think more on other sources of water for agriculture, not just be dependent on rain patterns, which are increasingly unpredictable in light of climate change.
What is your view on seeds, and what do you hope to gain at APSA?
Seeds are key for better yield production. Seed treatments and enhancements will facilitate increased production. Thus it is wise to know how to choose the best quality seeds so as to maximize production. Interning at APSA will be a great opportunity and help me to increase knowledge on seed selection, seed treatments, farmer cooperation, agricultural business development and demonstration plot establishment.