MOReDeP: Interview with a PAO who completed his study in Japan

Mr. Simbarashe Mubambwe is a Principal Agricultural Officer from the North-Western province, Zambia. He participated in a JICA’s long-term training program from 2021 to 2023 and just completed his post-graduate study “MSc in Safe and Reliable Agricultural Production” at Yamagata University.


Question 1: Could you briefly tell us about your course work?


My master’s program basically looks at sustainable agricultural production and my speciality was on the growing of paddy rice. The focus of the research was to come up with solutions to the challenges faced by small-scale rice farmers in Zambia in particular low yields due to limited fertilizer application as a result of the high cost of buying inputs. Therefore, my research looked at the effects of first-season and long-term application of rice straw/or cowdung compost on soil fertility and rice yield. The results showed that that first-season application of rice straw/or cowdung compost improved soil fertility and rice yield and more significant in long-term. With high availability of rice straw at farmer level, there is need to promote the use of it to improve soil fertility and consenquently rice yields.


Question 2: Could you tell us your experiences and challenges in your daily life in Japan?


My life in Japan was filled with interesting experiences and challenges, from the beginning to the end; As soon as the screeching of tyres in my ears signalled my landing at Narita International airport in Japan and I disembarked from the plane, I was overwhelmed with the turn of events including testing positive for Covid-19 and being quarantined for 14 days (In 2021, when my master’s program at Yamagata University started, everything in Japan was still influenced by the Covid-19). My path was intertwined with different cultures especially because I came across Japanese people who had little competences in the English language. My laboratory members were all Japanese and I am the only African student. Being the only African gave me an opportunity to learnt how to live among the Japanese people. My quick reaction to that was “Be on time”, “Be brief” and “Be a team player”. Definitely, I picked some Japanese language, which helped me get through my daily needs. I enjoyed the life in Tsuruoka-shi, where my university campus is located. It is renowned for creative gastronomy, which provided me a wide range of sea foods to sample, and also I enjoyed the country side of Japan, especially during the cherry-blossom season, with the mountain view of Mt. Chokai and Mt. Gassan.


Question 3: Is there any interesting way of study and/or event during your study?


I was surprised that every accomplishment of a given work was accompanied by a celebration activity with my laboratory members, which included having lunch or dinner together like ramen (Japanese noodle), having barbeque and going for mountain climbing. The main purpose was to celebrate a successful completion of a work including harvest, transplanting, and laboratory analysis works. This motivated us to continue working hard and promoted our team work among the students and sensei (supervisors).

“Wankapu Kids Club” was another interesting activity I experience thought my study. On a Friday morning after cleaning the laboratory as per our tradition, my supervisor, Dr. Yuka Sasaki, suggested me to attend “Wankapu Kids Club” at the Takasaka university farm. The club activity involved primary school students and mentored them throughout the whole process of growing rice from transplanting to harvesting and processing. The pupils had a feel and practise of being a rice researcher. At the end of the season, the kids were awarded a certificate of participation. My conclusion on this club activity is that it gives kids a good motivation to be a researcher thought the hands-on experiences in growing their staple food in a scientific way.  

Question 4: Please tell us how you would like to make use of what you learnt in Japan for your work and/or Zambia?
Every single day I spent in Japan had its unique lesson. However, “time management” and “being a team player” are the most valuable lessons because I learnt those concepts promoted unity. The Wankapu Kids Club was another important aspect which can be integrated into our Zambian setup and that would encourage our kids to have a hands-on experience in fostering their interests in identified crops. Furthermore, I would like to start to celebrate every achievement in life as this motivates us to work harder to achieve the set goals.