What is 30 Years of Service?

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My father is retiring today after 30 years with ICRISAT.

My father is a complex man. He is a devoted, dedicated, and persistent man. Do not confuse his persistence with stubbornness for the two are very different. He is the kind of man who goes out of his way to do the right thing, not the easiest thing, no matter how difficult it may be.

30 years ago my father left Purdue University, nestled in the quiet town of West Lafayette, Indiana in pursuit of bettering his homeland. After 8 or so years in the U.S., many of his colleagues and professors were baffled by this wide-eyed PhD graduate’s decision. They adamantly questioned it and mistook the pride on his face for naivete. 

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Grad ceremony

They said things like, why are you returning to Africa, while others are doing everything they can to come here?” and it’s 1988. You’d be wiser to stay in the U.S., get a green card and never look back.” 


But he ignored them. With my mother and two sisters in tow
(who were 7 and 1 at the time), he packed their belongings and headed for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was a newly independent republic, not quite like Tanzania. It was drier, landlocked, and it didn’t quite have the alpine climate of the slopes of Kilimanjaro. But it was Africa, and Africa was home. He was offered a post-doctoral fellowship with an NGO known as ICRISAT the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. It was the beginning of a long journey towards providing food security to rural communities all over sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. 

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Spice market in India

Over the years, our family grew (hello ME), and he made that teacup-shaped country in southern Africa home. Travelling all over the globe, and becoming more familiar with countries like Cameroon, India, Niger and Laos he took his message and mission from east to west. He gave thousands of presentations about the devastating effects of drought for communities whose livelihoods depended on smallholder farmers, the overwhelming benefits (yes, I said benefits) of GMOs and testified about many other challenges and successes he had encountered firsthand in the field and through his ground-breaking laboratory research. He tirelessly reiterated the harmful effects of fossil fuel extraction, highlighting the fact that farmers in developing countries are most affected by climate change, despite having the least power to significantly impact it.

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Many smallholder farmers in developing countries are women whose singular livelihoods support entire villages.

ICRISAT eventually took my father back to his home country of Tanzania where he has spent his final year with the organization. We have been proud of him every step of the way. Proud that he never abandoned his mission of feeding the world. Proud that he held onto his morals and principles throughout this journey. When the going got tough, he didn’t give up, he persevered. While he is looking forward to retirement and what is to come, I know he is emotional about the end of this chapter.

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Mount Kilimanjaro

In this world that all too often celebrates what is fickle, emphasizes individualism, and prioritizes consumerism, I am immensely proud that my dad’s career has been a powerful example of what it means to truly serve others. Dr. Emmanuel Monyo has so selflessly given himself over to a simple, impactful pursuit: ensuring food for everyone. 



To learn more about ICRISAT, visit
http://www.icrisat.org/
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