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Nalishebo Meebelo

Regional CAADP Coordinator, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Zambia

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

Nalishebo Meebelo is a high achiever and a resilient professional African woman who has worked to implement a continent-wide CAADP agriculture policy and investment framework since 2006.   She has served as an effective advocate of the CAADP agenda and provided strong leadership and guidance to various African governments and key stakeholder groups, throughout the COMESA region. In the process, she has contributed to the design of the COMESA regional CAADP compact, the continent-wide CAADP Pillar III Framework for African Food Security (FAFS) and participated in the design of what is today referred to as, ‘The CAADP Implementation Guide’.  In addition to her work with COMESA, she operates a small farm producing livestock and horticulture products.  

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • Throughout my primary school education and during the initial stages of high school, my ambition was to become a medical doctor or a lawyer.
  • Although I was admitted initially into the School of Natural Sciences to study Medicine at the University of Zambia, I later found my interests drew me to the School of Social Sciences pursuing a degree in Economics with a minor in Public Administration. 
  • As an intern (undergraduate from the University of Zambia) engaged by the Development Bank of Zambia (DBZ) in the 1980s, I had the opportunity to engage with the area of financing agriculture. I worked with issues such as agriculture project appraisal and project supervision.
  • It gradually became clear to me that agriculture is not simply about production and productivity.  It is, rather, linked to economics, trade and markets; public administration; water and energy; issues of health, education and bio-diversity; climate change, resilience and  infrastructure; natural resources management, investment and the private sector; the environment; and ultimately, food, nutrition and income for vulnerable populations. As a social scientist, it is therefore possibly to contribute effectively to this sector. Importantly, the agriculture sector was not destined to be static. This has helped me tremendously because I am a firm believer in allowing space for innovation and transformation – this is essential in matters of sustainability in this rapidly changing environment.  
  •  My grandfather was a farmer in his later years. His farm was our holiday home as children and we learnt much about farming in our early years. I remember that at an early age I was taught to drop 3 grains of maize into a hole, water my crops regularly, wait for my seeds to germinate and weed the plots as required. 

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

  • Curricula should be forward-looking, covering trends in agribusiness at the national, regional and international level as well as key emerging issues such as climate change, gender, land policy and financial crises. 
  • The CAADP Framework and its processes should immediately be included in the current curricula of AET institutions.  The sooner our students familiarize and engage with the overall CAADP agenda and its processes the better for our future overall policy making, planning and implementation within the context of agribusiness development.
  •  In supporting agribusiness development it would be useful if students were from the onset, made aware of the various stakeholder groups that participate in sector and their role in a 21st century development agenda. 

Career highlights

  • Regional CAADP Coordinator, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) 
  • Coordinator, COMESA Business Council
  • Board Member, Board of Management of ASETTS (Australia) and the Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative (Zambia)
  • Commodity brokering and freight forwarding at various agribusinesses, including Mitchell Cotts Freights (Z) Ltd and Alfa Investment Limited
  • Amanita Zambiana dealing in agro processing.

Educational background

  • Primary school:                     
    • Woodlands ‘A’ Primary School, Lusaka
  • Secondary school:     
    • Roma Girls’ Secondary School, Lusaka       
  • University:     
    • BA, Economics and Public Administration, University of Zambia 
    • PhD, Business Studies, Edith Cowan University from Australia