Amid growing global food insecurity and an intensifying climate crisis, Gerardine Mukeshimana took up duties from 28th August 2023 as Vice-President of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Mukeshimana, a former Rwandan Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, was instrumental in leading agricultural growth in Rwanda for almost a decade.
“I am thrilled to join IFAD and amplify the global call to invest in small-scale farmers and to keep focus on making global and local food systems more sustainable, resilient and equitable for the people who work in them and feed the world,” said Mukeshimana on her first day in the office.
She joins IFAD at a crucial time while the acceleration of climate change and the rapid decline of biodiversity are threatening food security and the livelihoods of billions of rural people. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have exposed the fragility of global and national food value chains, leading to market disruption and high food, energy and fertiliser prices. Rural populations have been hit the hardest. According to the latest UN estimates, around 735 million people suffered from hunger in 2022, 122 million more compared to 2019.
“As per my experience, I strongly believe that agriculture can be a thriving sector and play a key role in lifting rural populations out of hunger and poverty,” she added. “What is required is political will to invest at scale, deploy the right agricultural know-how and innovations, and strengthen small and medium agri-business and local and regional markets, to boost rural economies overall.”
During her leadership as Rwanda’s agricultural minister between 2014 and 2023, the country’s agricultural sector continued to grow and benefit from remarkable transformation. Among her accomplishments, Mukeshimana was able to attract private sector interest in agri-business, promote women and youth empowerment in agri-food systems, and pioneered the use of climate funds for the agricultural sector.
Before serving as minister, Mukeshimana was a molecular biologist post-doctoral researcher for Biosciences East and Central Africa Hub at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), applying bioscience technology to improve the livelihoods of millions of resource-poor people in Africa. She also served as post-doctoral researcher at Michigan State University, the national coordinator of the World Bank Rural Sector Support Program in Rwanda, and a lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture at the National University of Rwanda.
Mukeshimana has a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering from the National University of Rwanda and a Master’s degree and a PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics, Crop and Soil Sciences from Michigan State University.
At IFAD, Mukeshimana will contribute to the Fund’s strategic direction and operational performance. She has direct oversight of IFAD’s budget, quality assurance, change management and innovation.