CIMMYT senior manager Stephen Mugo retires after two decades of admirable service

Stephen Mugo (right) at the MLN research station in Naivasha, Kenya, in September 2018. (Photo: Joshua Masinde/CIMMYT)

KENYA – The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT has announced the retirement of its maize breeder and senior manager Stephen Mugo, marking two decades of illustrious service.

CIMMYT is a non-profit research and training institution dedicated to both the development of improved varieties of wheat and maize with the aim of contributing to food security, and the introduction of improved agricultural practices to smallholder farmers to help boost production, prevent crop disease and improve their livelihoods.

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A Principal Scientist and Maize Breeder at CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program, Mugo also served as CIMMYT’s Country Representative for Kenya and CIMMYT’s Regional Representative for Africa.

He joined CIMMYT in 1998 as a post-doctoral fellow and his last day of work was on May 31, 2020. His colleagues honored him with memorable tributes at an online meeting held on May 21, 2020.

“Mugo has always demonstrated his commitment and determination, even in the most challenging times, for the benefit of CIMMYT and its staff.”

“He has been a very productive scientist, maize breeder and project leader of several projects that have had great impact in the past. We are proud of what he has been doing and still does for CIMMYT,” said Director General Martin Kropff.

Some of his notable works include leading the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa Supplement Project (STMA-SUP) and the TELA Maize Project, both of which aimed at improving maize for drought tolerance and insect pest resistance in five countries in eastern and southern Africa.

He was also the CIMMYT leader for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project (2008-2018), Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project (1999-2004) and the Strengthening Seed Systems project in Kenya and Uganda (2001-2003).

Taking a bow from his long distinguished service Mugo stated, “I leave CIMMYT with fond memories and with my head held high. I sincerely wish to thank my colleagues for being a wonderful team that continues to work hard to ensure that we get the right seed to the farmer.”

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“I have enjoyed every bit of my time at the organization. What I would request is that for us to continue working well together, we need to respect and treat one another the way you would like to be treated. This way, the organization would move from strength to strength,” he expressed.

Mugo holds a PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Cornell University and has published extensively in peer reviewed journals, with several book chapters to his name.

B.M. Prasanna, Director of the Global Maize Program at CIMMYT and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) acknowledged the tremendous contribution that Mugo has made over the years in the projects he led.

“His work on the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project has been phenomenally important, especially some of the germplasm that we are now finding as native genetic resistant to the fall armyworm,” Prasanna remarked.

“He is a great champion and tremendous ambassador for CIMMYT’s work in Africa. I am sure he will continue to contribute to CIMMYT for years to come,” he added.

Even though he leaves the stage, Mugo will provide consultancy support to CIMMYT, particularly on the MLN Gene Editing and TELA Maize projects.

The Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) Gene Editing Project seeks to use gene editing to develop maize lines tolerant to MLN, a devastating maize disease. The disease first appeared in Kenya in 2011, and by 2013 it reduced maize yields across the country by an average of 22%, resulting in lost production worth US$180 million and forcing many farmers to abandon planting maize.

The TELA Maize Project is a public-private partnership led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) working towards the commercialization of transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties to enhance food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

Launched in 2018, the TELA Maize Project builds on progress made from a decade of excellent breeding work under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project.

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