Speakers Profile

Healthy and environmentally sustainable food systems start with soil and root health.

Dr. Abdelfattah A. DABABAT

Senior Scientist, Country Representative for Turkey, CIMMYT

A native of Palestine, he received his PhD from the University of Bonn, Germany, in 2007 and joined CIMMYT in 2009 as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Soil Borne Diseases (SBD) program in wheat. He is based in Ankara, Turkey, where he has led the SBD program since 2012. This program focuses on identifying resistant sources to fungal crown and root rot diseases and nematodes and transferring these resistances into elite spring and winter wheat.

In addition to research, Dababat is very involved in capacity development within the global SBD community. He has organized several international conferences on SBDs, holds regular training courses and has co-supervised more than 40 Master and PhD students from around the world. He has published three books and manuals, and more than 300 peer-reviewed articles, proceedings and abstracts.

Azariah Soi

President of African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA).

AFSTA is a nonprofit membership organization with a mandate to create a conducive environment for trade and innovation in quality seed for increased agricultural productivity in Africa. 

Mr Soi has vast experience in the seed industry. He has served in various senior leadership positions in the seed industry which include that of Group Managing Director of Kenya Seed group of companies which has a presence in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. Mr Soi also served the seed industry in various capacities such as Chairman of the Seed Trader Association of Kenya and in the Board Directors of the International Seed Federation (ISF). He holds a B.Sc. degree in Agriculture from University of Eastern Africa and Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Kenyatta University in Kenya.


Dr. Debisi Araba

Managing Director for the AGRF

Dr. Debisi Araba is a public policy and strategy specialist and is currently the Managing Director at the AGRF, the premier catalytic, multi-partner platform for food and agriculture transformation in Africa. Previously, he was the Africa Region Director at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, a member of the CGIAR, where he led strategy and business development in Africa. He has also served as the Technical Adviser on Environmental Policy to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria, where he co-authored Nigeria’s National Agricultural Resilience Framework and led global and national partnerships in the development of climate-smart strategies for the agricultural sector. He has a Doctorate degree from the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a Masters in Clean Technology from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and a Bachelors degree in Physical Geography from the University of Ibadan.

Dr. Dominik Klauser

R&D Lead, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Dominik completed a PhD in crop physiology at the University of Basel. Dominik leads the Syngenta Foundation’s activities to improve soils and help smallholder farmers deal with climate-change. He holds teaching assignments at several Swiss Universities to lecture on Sustainable Farming.

Prof. Driekie Fourie

Lecturer and researcher, North West University

Driekie Fourie is employed by the North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa) as a lecturer and researcher. Her research focus is primarily on the identification, ecology and management of nematode pests that prevail in conventional and conservation agriculture grain crop fields. Her team, therefore, mainly conducts research that is focused on the identification and management of economically important nematode pest genera such as root-knot and lesion nematodes. Driekie also manages a diagnostic laboratory to assist producers and other role-players regarding nematode identification, counts and recommendations to mitigate nematode damage.

Erik Fyrwald

Syngenta Group CEO, Chairman of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

About Syngenta Group:
Syngenta Group is one of the world’s leading agriculture innovation companies, with roots going back more than 250 years. Its 49,000 people across more than 100 countries strive to transform agriculture through breakthrough products and technologies that play a vital role in enabling the food chain to feed the world safely, sustainably and with respect for our planet. Swiss-based and Chinese-owned, the group draws strength from its four business units – Syngenta Crop Protection headquartered in Switzerland, Syngenta Seeds headquartered in the United States, ADAMA® headquartered in Israel, and Syngenta Group China – that provide industry-leading ways to serve customers everywhere.

Dr. Grace J. Chirchir

Dr. Grace J. Chirchir holds a PhD in Seed Science from Kenyatta University, Kenya (2015); M.Sc Degree in Agricultural Studies(Tropical Crop Sc.), University of Queensland, Australia (1994) and a B.Sc Degree in Agriculture (Hons) from University of Nairobi (1984). She worked for the Ministry of Agriculture (Kenya) from 1984 to 2019 holding various positions in crops development, biotechnology, plant breeders rights, extension and agribusiness management; and agricultural policy development. Upon her retirement from public service, she is engaged in agribusiness and is a consultant in Sustainable Food Systems.

Dr. Gül Erginbaş-Orakcı

Research Associate, Soil Borne Diseases Program at CIMMYT, Turkey

Gul got her PhD degree from the University of Osmangazi, Eskisehir-Turkey, in 2009. Her PhD thesis was entitled as: ‘The Identification of resistance and genetic control of Fusarium crown rot in wheat’.  She joined CIMMYT International Soil Borne Pathogens (SBPs) Program in Turkey to conduct work on SBPs especially the Dryland Root Rot disease (Crown Rot) caused by Fusarium culmorum on wheat in 2006 as well as screening wheat germplasm against cereal nematodes i.e., the Cereal Cyst Nematodes (Heterodera spp) and the Root Lesion Nematodes (Pratylenchus spp).  

She is highly involved in writing peer reviewed articles, capacity building activities, international meetings, co-supervising national and international students, training researchers from many countries.  

Gul is working on projects funded by Syngenta since 2009 tackling root rot diseases. 

Hennie le Roux

Farm Manager, AB InBev

I was born and raised in Caledon in the Western Cape of South Africa. After I matriculated in 2007 I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Bagric at Elsenburg in 2010. In 2011 I custom harvested in the USA. I started at ABinBev Model Farm as a manager since 2014 up to date. 2018 I was nominated for young farmer of the year for the Western Cape and the farm achieved a record yield. In 2020 I achieved another record yield and I completed a post graduate diploma in Agronomy at the University of Stellenbosch.

The ABinBev Model Farm gives me the freedom of living my passion for agriculture and conservation agriculture.

I look at minimum and no till trails, the best crop rotation for better soil health, to always have a cover of material or growing plants in and on the soil, while still maintaining excellent profit.

İrfan Donat

İrfan Donat completed his undergraduate education at Selcuk University Faculty of Communication, received his master’s degree in business administration at Kennesaw State University.

Donat started his media career in 1997 in Milliyet Newspaper, and worked as an economy editor in Sabah Newspaper between 2009- 2012.

Donat carries out news, researches and special interviews about energy, agriculture and food sector, and  has been working as the Agriculture Editor at Bloomberg HT channel since 2013.

Donat prepares and presents Agricultural Analysis, Smart Agriculture and Seasonal Agriculture programs on Bloomberg HT Television, as well writes columns about agriculture and food sector on www.bloomberght.com

Irfan Donat  awarded by NGO’ s such as Turkey Chamber of Agricultural Engineers, Agriculturists Association of Turkey and Association of Economic Journalists.

Ignacio Ardanaz

Africa and India Business Development Manager, Rizobacter

Ignacio Ardanaz is an Argentinean Agricultural Engineer and he is responsible of Rizobacter´s operations in Africa and India, being Rizobacter a global leader in microbiological solutions for agriculture.  

In his career Ignacio got vast experience in different roles, segments, regions and companies, accounting positions in R&D for maize breeding at Pioneer Hi Bred in Iowa, USA;  Seeds Product and Business Development, as Seeds and Crop Protection Marketing and Commercial roles for Dow AgroSciences in Argentina.  

Currently and since 2017 he is based in Pretoria, South Africa, focusing in business development of biological solutions in Africa and India. 

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi is currently the Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and is a member of FAO’s core leadership team.

From 2012 until her appointment with FAO in November 2020, Dr. Elouafi was Director General at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture.

Dr. Elouafi had held senior scientific and leadership positions, including Senior Advisor to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Branch in Ottawa, Canada (2006-2007), and Manager then Director of Research Management and Partnerships Division at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2007-2012).

She worked as a scientist with several international research organizations, including the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Dr. Elouafi holds a Ph.D. in Genetics (2001) from the University of Cordoba, Spain and an M.Sc. in Genetics and Plant Breeding (1995) from the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, Morocco.

Prof. Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda

Executive Director, ASARECA

Prof. Jean Jacques Mbonigaba Muhinda is an Agricultural Engineer and Soil Scientist by training. He holds a PhD Degree in Agriculture Sciences and Biological Engineering from Gembloux Agriculture University (now University of Liege, Belgium), with specialization in soil chemistry and soil microbiology. He further attended a Post-Doctoral Research program at the University of Bergen (UiB, Norway) under the Research Group on Biodiversity and Land-use Change. J.J. Muhinda has over 20-years’ experience in agriculture development, research, technology transfer and academia. During the last decade, he was charged with the following responsibilities: Executive Director of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA, current position); Strategic Advisor and Senior Consultant to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in areas of Country Support and Policy Engagement; Lead Consultant and Principal Investigator for the study on evaluation of agricultural inputs markets and inputs subsidy programs in 10 AGRA target countries in Sub-Saharan Africa; International Expert for the FAO’s program on land-husbandry and soil fertility improvement in the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe; Director General of the Rwanda Agriculture Development Board (RAB); Chairman of the Rwanda’s National Irrigation and Mechanization Task Force; Professor and Vice-Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies at the Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Rwanda (now University of Rwanda); Senior Consultant for international organizations such as FAO, AGRA, WFP (2016-2017). He is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). Professor Muhinda has a track record of scientific publications in various areas of agricultural research. He is fluent in both English and French.  

Luc Henry

Seedcare Head AME, Syngenta

Trained at the French National Institute of Agriculture, Luc started his career in the fields as an agronomist in Eastern and Central Europe. After his MBA graduation from the University of Cape Town, he moved to the Global Headquarters of Syngenta in Switzerland where he held various Global positions in Strategy, Marketing and Product Management. Since 2015, he has been working as part of the Syngenta Africa and Middle East team, first as Technical Director and currently as Head of the Seedcare business division.

Mandla Nkomo

Regional Managing Director, Solidaridad

Mandla Nkomo joined Solidaridad in 2017 as the Regional Managing Director for Southern Africa. In his current role, Mandla takes care of country operations in South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Running programmes within horticulture, livestock production, soy and sugarcane out-grower schemes with interventions that benefit the small holder producer from a good agricultural practice perspective which directly impact the quantity and quality of yield, infrastructure, landscape managements and policy formulation. With over 10 years experience in establishing agribusinesses and facilitating market linkages between established commercial entities and rural communities. Mandla continues to prove a strong case for the need to commercialize small holder farmers as a food security strategy. 

Previously Mandla held the position of Operations Director of TechnoServe South Africa where he managed the Agriculture Value Chain Programmes that saw the aggregation of small holder farmers to supply leading food processing companies within South Africa, a model that has proven to be successful both for the small holder and processing companies. In this same role Mandla founded the Zambian office and operations for Technoserve. 

He also consulted for Buyisa Agricultural Development Corporation and an executive at Khomanani Agribusiness, he has been a facilitator in the land reform space. In 2006 and 2007, he undertook a comprehensive agro-processing study as part of a team of consultants for the Mpumalanga Provincial Government. Between 2005 and 2006 he was lead agribusiness consultant on behalf of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, in Bulawayo Zimbabwe. He remains a trustee of the Khula Sizwe trust that operates in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique focusing on the development of market linkages between commercial agricultural entities and rural small-scale farmers. 

Medhat Youssef Murad

ex. Vice President of the plant pathology Institute

Medhat Youssef Murad is member of the Egyptian Plant Diseases Society and of the Arab Plant Protection Society. Full-time Emeritus Head of Plant Pathology Research and Scientific advisor to Rehana Magazine (a specialized agricultural scientific journal). Technical advisor to many Egyptian and Arab agricultural companies.

Raed Shaheen

Crop Protection Development Lead for Middle East, Syngenta

Raed specializes in the development of agronomic solutions to pest challenges. He has been working for Syngenta for 14 years and is responsible for the Crop Protection Development Knowledge Center in Amman in Jordan.

He has been involved in the development of active ingredients to help manage key pests on key crops in different countries in the Middle East.

Raed has a rich experience in agronomy and agronomic practices as well extensive experience in managing and developing different crops including vegetables “including seeds”, cereals, DFC “including seeds” and specialty crops. He graduated from Jordan University in 1998 and holds a master degree in Business Administration from Leicester University in the UK.

Redi Tlhabi

Redi Tlhabi is a member of the esteemed UN Global Journalists Corps, an author, and award winning broadcaster. She has traveled extensively in her work as a television presenter for Al Jazeera, SABC AFRICA and Enews Channel Africa. Redi is passionate about social justice and gender equality and has degrees in journalism and English Literature. A veteran interviewer she brings intelligence and wit to every conversation she moderates. Redi Tlhabi is a founding member of the global speakers’ agency Moderate The Panel (MTP), established to transform the world of events and conferences with powerful diverse voices. Her most recent moderating assignment for MTP was virtually moderating for UNV “Reimagining Volunteering for the 2030 Agenda”.

Step Aston

Director of Research, One Acre Fund

Step is Director of Research at One Acre Fund, a not-for-profit serving over 1 million smallholder farm families, delivering high-quality agricultural inputs and training on credit. Step leads a team integrating agronomy, behavioral research and data science to develop high impact products and services for smallholder farmers.

Dr. Steve Maund

Syngenta Senior Science & Technology Fellow

Dr. Steve Maund holds a PhD in Ecotoxicology from the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, MSc in Biology (Wales – UK) and  BSc in Biology (York – UK). He has a 32 years career experience that includes product safety, regulatory, stewardship and sustainability he has published more than one hundred scientific publications. He is a board member of the Centre for Chemical Safety Assessment (ECETOC).

Dr. Michael Misiko

Agriculture Director, Africa at The Nature Conservancy

Michael Misiko is based in Nairobi Kenya. His work concentrates on Regenerative Agriculture, with primary focus on partnerships, climate, soils, livelihoods, equity, scaling among others.

His main experience includes research and programmatic leadership around Agricultural Innovation Systems; partnerships, including partner development and backstopping; scaling and Sustainable (systems) Intensification; pro-poor climate change mitigation research leadership; social, cultural and institutional dimensions of agricultural development; participatory soil fertility management and ecological conservation and folk ecology. He has extensive experience in program/ project development and leadership.

He has published extensively in international journals, participated in numerous TV and other media features, contributed to high level (national and regional) policy processes.

His recent appointment was Innovation Scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) – based in Addis Ababa and Nairobi. Previous appointments were Research Coordinator at the CG Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Social Scientist at Africa Rice Centre (based in the Republic of BENIN), Social Scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and at TSBF Institute of UNESCO (Nairobi).

Michael Misiko has a Ph.D. (Agricultural Anthropology) of Wageningen University, The Netherlands. His Ph.D. focused on soils and the African smallholder

Mohsen El-sayed Ali Abo-rehab

Chief Researcher and deputy director of Plant Pathology Research Institute

Member of the Egyptian Phytopathological Society, member of committee planting of trees in Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) – Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs.

Member of the Committee to follow up the implementation of pesticide assessment projects on the most important diseases affecting economic crops in Egypt – Pesticides Committee.

Neva Sadikoglu-Novaky

Business Sustainability AME & Turkey

Neva Sadikoglu-Novaky is working on business sustainability in Syngenta focusing on Africa and the Middle East. She is a public affairs and communications professional with over a decade of experience in policy-making. She has worked in the European Union as a Secretary General and was an AILA International Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.. She holds a Masters degree in politics and government in the European Union from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) and has studied at SciencesPo in Paris and the University of Kent in Canterbury. She has worked in the United Nations and has done work for Think-Tanks in Turkey, UK, Belgium and the USA. She has provided commentary to international media outlets such as the BBC and Bloomberg HT. 

Dr. Sebastian Brahene

Sebastian Brahene is a young Ghanaian soil scientist working as sustainable soil management specialist at the FAO regional office for Africa, Accra with keen interest in soil organic matter dynamics, soil fertility and climate change. He holds a BSc in Agriculture (Soil Science) and MPhil Soil Science (Soil Chemistry and Fertility) from the University of Ghana and a post graduate certificate in Agri-Green Management under environmental considerations from the Faculty of Agriculture, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since joining the FAO in 2015 he has provided technical support in project development, implementation and management at country and regional level giving him an experience of working with divers actors and stakeholders. He has been the secretary of the African Soil Partnership (AfSP) secretariat under the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) since 2015 coordinating the implementation of various initiatives and programmes within Africa in collaboration with the GSP secretariat and its partners and institutions.

Salah Lamouch 

Mediterranean Network of Cereals Growers

Grower based in Mateur Tunisia, president of APAD ( Association for Sustainable Agriculture), president of RCM ( Mediterranean Network of cereals grower). Highly motivated grower to a sustainable yields increasing and involved in associative work to leverage new technique and technology from research institutes and grower experiences for Tunisian and south Mediterranean growers.

Dr. Samira Amellal

Director General CropLife Africa Middle East

Samira Amellal is the DG of CropLife Africa Middle East; the voice and advocate for the Plant Science Industry and serves on its board of directors. CropLife Africa Middle East is the regional association representing the leading global manufacturers of crop protection products (pesticides), seed and plant biotechnology in more than 22 national associations spread throughout Africa and the Middle East.

She leads the programmatic priorities of stewardship, regulatory harmonization and fighting illegal and counterfeit pesticides.

An accomplished leader with passion in science and innovation in the agriculture having worked in the sector for the past 20 years, she also has enormous experience in research, product development, regulatory, advocacy and project management in agriculture technology, having worked 9 years for the industry of plant science in charge of regulatory and development product in Africa. She had also experience in soil science through her research work at Agronomic Research Institute in France. She holds a PhD in Agronomy from the Ecole National Polytechnique de Lorraine France.

Dr. Samia Gargouri

Associate Professor, National Institute of Agricultural Research of Tunisia

Samia Gargouri received her PhD degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology from the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis in 2003 for her Dissertation on “Genetic diversity and population structure of Fusarium species associated with Foot and root rot of wheat”. She joined the Plant Protection Laboratory of INRAT in 2004 and her main research program focuses on ecology, epidemiology, and management of root diseases in cereal-based cropping systems. The overall focus has been to monitor soil-borne diseases of cereal crops and to develop integrated disease management strategies including cultural practices, chemical and biological control. Besides research, she is the National Contact Point for the European Research and Innovation program « Horizon 2020 » for the cluster « Food, Bioeconomy, Natural resources, Agriculture and Environment » to increase the participation of the Tunisian community to the program.

Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo

Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)

Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo is an agriculture expert with a track record of leadership in Food/Nutrition Security, Rural Development, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Prior to his appointment as the Executive Director of FARA in 2013, Yemi was the Head of Agriculture and Food Security Division at the African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His core concern was the implementation of continent-wide initiatives of the African Union Commission on Food Security and Agriculture. He has been in the frontline of the implementation of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), now operating in 40 African Union Member States.

A thought and process leader on the continent, Dr. Akinbamijo is an agricultural research and development specialist with considerable expertise in natural resource management including crop-livestock integrated systems, market-oriented production systems, regional value chains, sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation strategies. He is an experienced research manager with proven strength in project development; monitoring and results-based evaluation.

Yemi Akinbamijo is a strong analytical and strategic thinker who is fully engaged in the current global discourse on agricultural/ecological transformations and investments in Africa, especially with regard to food security, land use, biodiversity, climate change/climate smart approaches, ecological and organic agriculture and their inter-linkages.

With more than 30 years in the practice of agriculture and rural development, he has served with increasing responsibilities and leadership roles in institutions with national, regional and continental mandates, including as a Diplomat/Head of Mission.

Dr. Akinbamijo is widely published in various agricultural disciplines – Animal Production, Crop Production, Ecological and Organic Farming, Climate-Smart Initiatives, etc. He is a former editor of the Bulletin of Animal Health and Production in Africa (Peer-review Journal) and lead author of the book, Crop-livestock Integration in West African Cities. In addition, he has contributed to knowledge through peer-review journals, conference proceedings, special publications, etc. in more than 80 scientific publications.

Yemi sits on numerous Boards. He is a former university lecturer and obtained his PhD in Agriculture and Environmental Sciences from the Wageningen Agricultural University, The Netherlands.

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