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Photo of Drinah Banda Nyirenda

Drinah Banda Nyirenda

Head of Department of Animal Science & Professor of Nutrition, University of Zambia

Zambia

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

Drinah Banda Nyirenda is a highly distinguished and versatile scientist who has applied her knowledge in practical ways that directly benefit ordinary citizens.  She has studied and taught both animal science and human nutrition.  She has published a book on edible plants and implemented the food security pack programme for vulnerable farmers while serving as Executive Director of Zambia’s Programme Against Malnutrition (PAM).  Along the way, she helped to launch a Department of Human Nutrition in UNZA’s School of Agricultural Science.  During her career, she has trained, inspired and mentored a generation of students in a range of agricultural sciences. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • When I was young, I never thought to take agriculture as career because I was born and brought up on a farm. This was part of life, and I wanted to take up a career that would take me far.  My parents wanted me to become a medical doctor.  But I was interested in becoming a prisoner warden because I admired my sister in-law who was a prisoner warden.
  • However, when I was selected to study at the University (UNZA), after being exposed to various agricultural sciences, I discovered that one can take agriculture as a career.
  • My conviction in taking up agriculture was amplified after hearing and reading about the many millions of people affected by malnutrition, hunger and poverty.  I was touched and decided to take agriculture as career and as an avenue to make a difference in society.

How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers? 

  • People have recognizes entrepreneurship as an avenue that can reduce poverty, but there are no incentives to make it happen. For example, students acquire agricultural knowledge but what they lack are the resources to take farming as a business. So it could help if developmental funds are put in place where students can tap from if they want to set up their farming enterprises.
  • Secondly, there is minimal or no interaction between students and the industry these days because some of the industries have been relocated to South Africa and what we have in Zambia are just warehouses.  This has made it quite difficult for students to appreciate the agricultural industry.  There is need to revive that interaction and make sure students get practical experiences before they finish their studies.

Career highlights

  • Executive Director, Programme Against Malnutrition (PAM).
  • Professor (prima facia) & Head of Animal Science Department , Promoter Food Science and Technology Programme (1996-2002), Promoter Human Nutrition Programme (2008-present), Professor of Nutrition (2014-present), University of Zambia.
  • Chairperson, Nutrition Association of Zambia.

Educational background

  • Primary school:
    • Mulongoti Primary School, Lusaka.              
  • Secondary school:     
    • Matero Girls School.
    • Roma Girls School.
  • University:     
    • B.Sc. Agricultural Sciences, University of Zambia.
    • M.Sc. Animal Science, University of California, Davis.
    • Ph.D. Nutrition, University of California, Davis.
    • Certificate Business Administration, University of California, Irvine.