Meet the Africa Fellows
Meet the Africa Plant Biosecurity Network Senior Fellows
Antónia Vaz Tombolane
Antónia Vaz Tombolane is an agronomist working in the Laboratory of Plant Pathology in the Plant Protection Department of Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. Antónia is an experienced plant pathologist, working in identification and diagnosis of fungi and bacterial disease, and plant protection in general. She enjoys working with farmers as part of Mozambique’s Plant Clinic program to diagnose crop pests and diseases.
Her aim as a Senior Fellow is to improve her knowledge of new tools and develop her diagnostic skills for the identification of key pests and diseases of concern, as well as to learn more about surveillance and management of pests affecting production to maintain pest free areas. Antónia also sees her time in Australia as an excellent opportunity to learn about the plant biosecurity experience of other countries, and to partner with other professionals on biosecurity issues.
During her time in Australia, Antónia will work with Dr Suzy Perry at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and other researchers at Agri-Science Queensland, with a focus on the control, containment and management of Panama disease tropical race 4 of bananas.
Armando Marcos W. Come
Armando Come is in charge of Mozambique’s Phytosanitary Inspection and Plant Quarantine Service, which ensures compliance with national and international phytosanitary regulation and standards. As a Senior Fellow, Armando sees a need to review Mozambique’s quarantine pest lists and procedures for pest risk assessment, train phytosanitary inspectors and improve inspection facilities at entry/exit points, and develop post-entry quarantine detection and treatment facilities.
During his time in Australia, Armando is looking forward to learning from Australian and other AAPBP countries’ experiences of handling biosecurity issues, especially improving his knowledge of the tools Australia uses to understand and analyse biosecurity issues. Armando is one of three Senior Fellows who will spend a week each in rotation with three Australian fruit fly researchers, gaining experience in the key aspects of fruit fly research and management in Australia; fruit fly biology, market access, monitoring and control. The researchers are: Tony Clarke, Queensland University of Technology; Peter Leach, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; and, Peter Crisp, South Australian Research and Development Institute.
Bellancile Uzayisenga is Head of the Crop Protection Programme under the Rwanda Agriculture Board. Bellancile’s role is to plan, coordinate and supervise the Programme’s crop protection research and extension activities, as well as leading the development of research to address the needs of farmers.
Agriculture is the main economic activity of ninety per cent of Rwanda’s population. With losses due to pests in the field as high as 40 per cent, pest and disease control is a major factor in improving food security in Rwanda. Rwanda is implementing a Crop Intensification program, hence making effective management of pests and plant diseases is a national priority. As a Senior Fellow, Bellancile’s focus is developing an Early Warning System for pest and diseases in Rwanda. Her goals are to put in place mechanisms for early detection, reporting, rapid assessment and rapid response to plant threats, and ensure the system is implemented at all levels.
Bellancile will work with Rod Turner at Plant Health Australia on surveillance, pest lists, emergency response and early warning for pests of horticulture crops.
Doreen Chomba is Principal Agricultural Research Officer in the Plant Quarantine and Phytosanitary Service (PQPS) Unit of Zambia’s Ministry Of Agriculture and Livestock, under the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute. As a Plant Health Inspector, Doreen conducts inspections to certify plants for export, issues import and export documents, undertakes pest risk analysis and seed health testing.
Zambia is one of the leading exporters of seed in the region, however outbreaks of disease have meant that many countries have introduced stricter import requirements. A lack of technical expertise and facilities has meant that exporting seed companies are referred to labs abroad, lengthening the time and cost of doing business. If companies are unable to send samples for testing abroad, market access opportunities are lost.
An important part of Doreen’s role is laboratory analysis of seed samples and conducting seed crop inspections. By improving her diagnostic skills in identifying key pests of concern, these skills can be passed on to inspectors at Zambia’s borders. While she is in Australia, Doreen will work with Dr Brendan Rodoni at AgriBio in Melbourne, Victoria, on methods for rapid diagnosis of seed diseases.
Ephrance Tumuboine is Assistant Commissioner of the Phytosanitary and Quarantine Division in the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. Her role is to guide Uganda’s phytosanitary service, including surveillance, border controls, inspection and certification, pest risk analysis, research, contingency and emergency response planning, and training of inspectors. A key part of her role is to advise on prevention of entry, establishment and spread of exotic pests.
As the head of Uganda’s plant health authority, Ephrance recognises the importance of proper planning to develop effective surveillance and early warning systems. This is a key part of being prepared for, and hopefully avoiding, food and agricultural threats and emergencies. Ephrance sees her Senior Fellowship as an opportunity to develop her forward planning skills, as well as a chance to learn from the practical examples of other countries, including Australia. In addition she would like to use her new knowledge to mentor other departments, agencies and ministries involved in biosecurity such as animal health and food safety.
During her time in Australia, Ephrance will work with Rod Turner at Plant Health Australia on surveillance, pest lists, emergency response and early warning for pests of horticultural crops.
Epitace Bizimungu is Branch Head of Pest Control in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, where he supervises plant protection activities to prevent the introduction and propagation of pests in the western zone of the country. As a Senior Fellow he is well placed to pass on the knowledge and experience he develops in Australia to other staff working in Burundi. Burundi is highly reliant on agriculture, for employment, food security and export income, but the sector is increasingly challenged by pests and diseases that reduce the amount and quality of harvested products and make Burundi less competitive in regional and international markets.
Epitace is particularly interested in fruit fly (Bactrocera sp.), a major pest for Burundi affecting fruit exports to neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, and to European countries such as Belgium. The implications of improved plant biosecurity for Burundi go far beyond its borders. His focus as a Senior Fellow is to reduce the impact of Bactrocera on mango crops.
Epitace is one of three Senior Fellows who will spend a week each in rotation with three Australian fruit fly researchers, gaining experience in the key aspects of fruit fly research and management in Australia; fruit fly biology, market access, monitoring and control. The researchers are Tony Clarke, Queensland University of Technology; Peter Leach, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; and, Peter Crisp, South Australian Research and Development Institute.
Watch Epitace's interview on YouTube.
George Ngundo Wabere
George Ngundo Wabere is a Senior Inspector and the Laboratory Manager of the Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity Station of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). His role includes coordinating the activities of the Station laboratory system which includes the Tissue Culture, Nematology, Virology, Mycology, Bacteriology, Entomology and Molecular Biology Laboratories, as well as development and implementation of standards, regulations and general procedures for plant disease detection and biosafety regulation.
George has experience in seed certification, plant variety registration, phytosanitary inspection and plant disease diagnosis. He is interested in the development and implementation of diagnostic protocols, especially for quarantine pathogens of interest to Kenya. As a Senior Fellow, George’s goal is to develop linkages between personnel working for both plant protection organisations and industry; understand the challenges facing phytosanitary systems around the world and find ways of addressing them; and learn from Australian experiences in biosecurity, applying those lessons locally.
George will work with Dr Brendan Rodoni at AgriBio in Melbourne, Victoria, on diagnostics of plant pathogens, especially quarantine viruses and viroids, utilising a range of diagnostic tools in the laboratory and the field environment.
Dr Godfrey Chikwenhere
Dr Chikwenhere is Deputy Director in the Research Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Zimbabwe’s national plant protection organisation. He is responsible for coordinating plant biosecurity research and service delivery activities and is in charge of plant quarantine issues, dealing with exports and imports of agricultural commodities. Dr Chikwenhere has been working in the field of plant protection since 1986 and is particularly interested in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of invasive plant and insect species.
His goal as a Senior Fellow is to integrate the latest available techniques and technologies for the protection of Zimbabwean crop productivity, as well as promoting networking with national, regional and international partners. He aims to improve his knowledge with the aim of quickly resolving plant biosecurity issues before economic damage is realised, ensuring that the most vulnerable communities benefit from the latest worldwide achievements in plant biosecurity.
Zimbabwe has seen recent incursions of fruit fly and false codling moth, affecting major overseas export fruit such as mango, citrus, lychee, stone fruit and strawberry. Dr Chikwenhere will spend three weeks working on citrus with Kirsty Bayliss from Murdoch University in Western Australia, focusing on control of fruit flies, false codling moth and black spot disease.
Dr Haimanot Abebe Alage
Dr Alage is a Senior Expert in the Plant Pest Risk Analysis and Surveillance Case Team of Ethiopia’s Plant Health Regulatory Directorate in the Ministry of Agriculture. Her work includes developing Ethiopia’s crop protection strategies and preparing policy, legislation, regulations, and directives on phytosanitary issues. Dr Alage’s main area of experience is crop protection, specifically plant quarantine, and she is interested in learning more about the way Australia assesses and manages risks from imported plant materials.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Ethiopian economy, and a robust plant quarantine system is essential for both importing planting material and maintaining Ethiopia’s agricultural export markets. Dr Alage is particularly interested in developing Ethiopian risk assessment and management procedures for key plant pests, as well as a nationally coordinated surveillance system to facilitate early warning of pests, emergency response and eradication.
Dr Alage will spend three weeks working with Dr Pauline Glocke at the Plant Quarantine Unit at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a state of the art facility providing plant quarantine services to industry and the research community. Dr Alage will work on the quarantine procedures for management of imported plant material and other aspects of running a post-entry quarantine facility.
James Mushayija is Professional in charge of Plant Quarantine at Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. James’ role includes inspection and certification of imported and exported agricultural commodities, conducting monitoring surveys to update the national pest list, and enforcement of Rwanda’s plant health law and regulations.
Rwanda exports chillies to the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Belgium, but faces trade restrictions due to a lack of pest identification knowledge during inspections. Pests of concern include false codling moth and African bollworm. Similarly, fruit fly is a concern for Rwandan mango imports from East African countries, due to lack of expertise in effective risk assessment, decision-making tools and risk analysis techniques.
James is looking forward to improving Rwanda’s biosecurity capacity through hands-on training in pest surveillance, monitoring and management systems for plant biosecurity. He is particularly interested in developing practical diagnostic skills, principles and techniques he can take back to his team, and learning more about the latest tools for diagnostics and pest identification. During his placement in Australia, James will work with Dr Laura Boykin at the University of Western Australia, on molecular diagnostic tools for identification of pests.
Johnny Masangwa is a Senior Plant Pathologist with Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture. Johnny’s role includes providing plant disease diagnosis and advisory services to cereal farmers, undertaking Plant Pathology research trials, screening newly bred and introduced cereal lines for disease tolerance and conducting plant disease surveys and surveillance of new plant diseases.
Maize is the staple food for Malawians and maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) is a major threat to maize production in Malawi and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). While the disease is present in East African countries that share boundaries with Malawi, it is not yet present in Malawi. There is formal and informal trade between Malawi and East African countries where MLND is present. Seed companies, organisations and individuals import maize seed into Malawi, increasing the risk of introducing MLND.
Johnny’s goal is to improve quarantine services in Malawian and SADC countries seed imports, to ensure all maize seed entering Malawi and SADC countries is tested for MLND. Johnny will use the skills he develops as a Senior Fellow to build capacity with his team at the Ministry, develop action plans, surveillance strategies and diagnostic infrastructure, and collaborate with other scientists in the region to develop a regional project preventing the introduction of MLND. To advance this project, Johnny will work with Dr Andrew Geering, a plant virologist and pathologist at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Johnny will receive training in a range of diagnostic tools for the detection of viral diseases and develop a regional project proposal.
Katemani Mdili is a Senior Agricultural Officer with Plant Health Services in Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives. Katemani conducts pest surveillance and monitoring to detect pests, conducts pest risk analyses (PRA) to regulate imports of agricultural commodities, and develops Tanzania’s quarantine importation regulations and regulated pest lists. He also provides guidance on the development of training requirements for plant quarantine inspectors in phytosanitary inspection theory, methods and procedures.
Exotic pests have had a serious impact on Tanzania’s agricultural exports and the economy in recent years; getting export access for Tanzanian agricultural commodities is slow due to a lack of information and institutional capacity to appropriately handle phytosanitary issues including risk management. Katemani plans to use his experience as a Biosecurity Senior Fellow to benefit his professional career and acquire skills and experience he can pass on to others in Tanzania. His aim is to strengthen the capacity of Tanzania’s PRA unit, boosting its ability to conduct more pest risk analyses, and eventually establishing a Tanzanian quarantine pest list.
Katemani is one of three Senior Fellows who will spend a week each in rotation with three Australian fruit fly researchers, gaining experience in the key aspects of fruit fly research and management in Australia; fruit fly biology, market access, monitoring and control. The researchers are: Tony Clarke, Queensland University of Technology; Peter Leach, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; and, Peter Crisp, South Australian Research and Development Institute.
Lucien Masabarakiza is Chief of Burundi’s Phytosanitary Control Service, where he coordinates phytosanitary inspection of imports and exports, issuance of phytosanitary certificates and import permits.
Lucien’s Fellowship will focus on prioritisation of key pests for traded commodities, to reduce biosecurity constraints to Burundi’s imports and exports. Fruit, vegetables and flowers are major exports for Burundi, however losses attributed pests and diseases are significant, both for producers and for Burundi’s economy. Capacity building for surveillance, diagnosis and control in Burundi is therefore a high priority. Lucien is looking forward to sharing experiences and skills with other Senior Fellows, as well as learning more about Australia’s biosecurity system.
Lucien will spend three weeks with Associate Dean Giles Hardy and other researchers from Murdoch University in Western Australia, focusing on reducing the impact of Tuta absoluta on tomato and eggplant to comply with export market requirements.
Mable Mudenda is a Senior Agricultural Research Officer with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Zambia. She currently coordinates phytosanitary activities, including inspections and surveillance, and conducts pest risk analyses. Her areas of experience include pest diagnostics, training stakeholders in phytosanitary matters and pest risk analysis.
Limited resources and capacity have meant that pest surveillance in Zambia is sporadic and pest detections are mostly reported by industry, researchers and the public. This has led to several pests of concern being undetected when first introduced and becoming established, including Banana Bunchy Top virus disease and fruit fly.
Mable aims to improve the Zambian plant biosecurity system by building capacity to respond to plant pest emergencies and through development of an effective surveillance system. She would like to improve her skills and gain experience through her Australian placement, while learning more about aspects of a successful biosecurity system. She looks forward to sharing her experiences in Australia through the training of other members of staff in biosecurity matters. During her placement in Australia Mable will work with Dr Suzy Perry, at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and other researchers at Agri-Science Queensland on surveillance of Panama disease on bananas in Zambia.
Mary Githinji is a Senior Plant Health Inspector with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). Her role includes ensuring imports and exports of plants and plant products comply with phytosanitary requirements. She also coordinates and carries out farm and facility audits, and is involved in training of stakeholders on phytosanitary requirements as well as Good Agricultural Practice (GAP).
Mary is interested in improving her understanding of how effective biosecurity systems work, especially in the case of incursions by new pests. Her focus is on pests of economic importance in the horticulture sub-sector, notably cut flowers, which are key exports for Kenya.
Mary will work with Vikki Fischer at the Australian Department of Agriculture in Canberra to understand how Australia manages export inspection systems for grain and horticultural commodities. Mary will also spend time with Plant Import Operations staff where she will have the opportunity to work on cut flower, timber and stockfeed import procedures. Mary’s aim is to use her knowledge and experience to lead in the development and establishment of early warning and rapid response systems in Kenya’s cut flower industry, particularly in small scale production of Eryngium (Sea Holly) and Gypsophila (Baby's Breath).