At a Crossing Road to Future

At a Crossing Road to Future

Marita Pinili (Top) & Tibanyendela Naswiru Twahiri (L)


To Save Fellow Africans from Hunger

Tibanyendela Naswiru Twahiri, in short Tiba, is originally from Tanzania, currently studying at Tokyo University of Agriculture to gain skills and knowledge in plant pathology. What led him to come all the way from Africa to Japan? It was the staple carbohydrate that both nations heavily rely on — rice. “Africa is a region of poor, and Africa is a region of hunger. We, Africans, are facing two critical social problems.” Quietly, but firmly, he begins to explain why he came to Japan. According to 2012 United Nation The Millennium Development Goals Report, 30 % of Africans suffer from extreme hunger, and around 50% of Africans live in poverty. As substantial numbers of Africans are struggling to have enough food to survive, stabilizing rice production is crucial.  Yet there is a hurdle. Rice yellow mottle disease, only found in African continent, is a common viral disease that is known to reduce rice yield. Affected plants show spotting and yellow streaking on leaves, and results in delayed flowering or slowing down growth of panicles. Currently, local farmers are not fully equipped with enough skills and technologies to control the disease. To solve this issue, in corporation with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Tanzanian government is funding African students to gain specialized.

 knowledge and skills in agriculture. Tiba is a part of this program. In the Department of International Agricultural Development at TUA, he is presently learning advanced diagnostic skills and  knowledge in plant pathology, with a focus on virology. With his skills and knowledge, he will return to his country to educate farmers and technicians to control the outbreak of the disease. Tiba appears very
reserved at a glance, yet he is driven by strong love and deep concernfor his fellow Africans.

Wherever My Curiosity Takes Me

Since 2001 to 2009, Marita Pinili was involved in several research projects related to plant pathology. For instance, she worked on research in identifying soil-borne pathogens causing stunted growth of rice at International Rice Research Institute. After some years of working experience, she thought to uplift her expertise, and applied for a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbukagakusho:MEXT) to do a doctorate program specializing in plant virology at a Japanese University. “It is my Waterloo”, she giggles. Back in the Philippines, she worked mostly with fungi and nematodes, but decided to strengthen herexpertise in plant pathology by studying what she once felt very difficult. She wants to extend her knowledge to other forms of life by learning more about virology through molecular perspective.

At a glance, her journey thus far may appear very smooth, no bumps
along the way. Yet she had her shares. Immediately after she graduated
from the bachelor’s degree in plant pathology, she was struggling for
finding a job that could apply her knowledge. Eventually she took a
job working for an electronic company, because that was what was
available. She also tried to teach Science at an elementary school,
which also did not work out. “That was a sign that I was not an
effective teacher.”

“At least I learned.” She is surprisingly cheerful. After overcoming these challenges, she took on a research assistant job through his former advisor, which led her to more permanent research positions. After finishing her doctoral degree, she plans to stay in Japan for postdoc, continuing to experience international research, and builds up training in independent research work. “Maybe someday, I hope to be a part of international research project working together with big names in Plant Pathology.”

Taking one step at a time, Marita is accumulating her professional
experience. How far can she reach? Potential is as limitless as her

Tiba and Marita, with two different background and characters, are in the same laboratory at this moment working together. In their minds, what it takes to realize their goals and how to get there is very clear. Based on their past experience and passion, their road map is guidingthem straight to their destinations.