I met Professor Mokwunye in January 1990 when I joined the International Fertilizer Development Centre – Africa (IFDC-Africa) in Lomé, Togo as a Rockefeller Foundation Visiting Scientist under the Foundation’s Rocky-Docs Program. Professor Mokwunye was the head of the Agronomy Division at IFDC-Africa at the time. He became the Director of IFDC-Africa six months later after the departure of Professor Paul Vlek. Uzo, as he was fondly called, was therefore present when I started my professional career in international development.
At IFDC, I worked on an International Development Research Centre (IDRC) project that undertook an on-farm evaluation of indigenous phosphate rocks in Mali and Northern Nigeria. As I was freshly out from graduate school, Uzo’s mentoring and guidance helped to shape my work and professional growth. His knowledge of Northern Nigeria, since he had been associated with Amadou Bello University in Zaria, was very instrumental in the implementation of the project in Nigeria. I learnt a lot from Uzo with respect to paying attention to details. He was quite meticulous in his approach to science and to the relevance of research. During my stay at IFDC, there were numerous young scientists who benefited from Uzo’s mentorship.
Professor Mokwunye was highly interested in the research-development nexus. The work that IFDC-Africa undertook in ensuring that research translates to development could be seen in the activities that were conducted within the West African Fertilizer Management and Evaluation Network (WAFMEN). The scope and modus operandi of this network enabled researchers at national agricultural research systems (NARS) to conduct on-farm research. With modest investments, NARS researchers were able to make significant contributions to agronomic research.
Although I left IFDC-Africa in February 1992, I have stayed in touch with Uzo for all these years. When I was appointed the Director of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) in 2010, a position that Uzo had held for eight years (1996- 2004), Professor Mokwunye was again available to guide me on the philosophy of the Institute and the challenges that I had to look out for in my function as Director. This guidance, once again, was highly appreciated.
Professor Mokwunye was direct, did not mince his words and always made his point very clearly. He was quite prolific as his numerous publications and contribution to the science of the soil can testify.
It was a pleasure meeting you Uzo and thank you very much for your mentorship to me and to many others that crossed your path.
Elias T. Ayuk, PhD.
Former Director (2010 – 2018), United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), Legon,Accra, Ghana.