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NZ draws Ackim back from Africa

A love affair with New Zealand has drawn the NZAGRC’s new Post-Doctoral Fellow, Ackim Mwape, back to Palmerston North.

Ackim was living in his home city of Lusaka, Zambia, when he was offered an NZAID scholarship to study environmental management in New Zealand at Massey University. Part of this scholarship was the opportunity to come with his wife and son, and when he accepted the offer his family immediately adapted to the Kiwi lifestyle.

“My wife and I were overwhelmed with the beautiful landscapes, countryside, people, and the child-friendly lifestyle in New Zealand. We just knew that this was the right place to stay permanently. 

“We returned to Zambia after two years but our love and passion for New Zealand remained alive and kept growing. After five years, we packed our bags, came back to New Zealand, and started a new life in ‘Palmy’,” he says.

In his post-doctoral role Ackim will nonetheless retain very strong links with Africa, contributing to the implementation of New Zealand’s engagement strategy with the GRA and potential GRA member countries in Africa.

This strategy aims to encourage more countries to become members of the GRA and assist African countries to better account for and mitigate agricultural GHG emissions.

Ackim is excited by his new role – “I will work with scientists and policy-makers in different countries and contribute towards addressing the gap between science and policy. Science–policy interfaces are complex; understanding what they are and how they work, and how to improve them, is a significant challenge for many organisations.

“In this role, I will contribute to a number of processes designed to improve researchers’ abilities to collect, exchange and disseminate knowledge and information, and promote actions in favour of better livestock GHG emission quantification in several African countries. 

“It will also involve travelling to different countries to engage with policy-makers and leverage political commitment from governments.”

Having previously worked in the agriculture and environment sectors in a developing country context, and with extensive knowledge of the general African policy environment and the implementation of international treaties in Africa, Ackim brings a highly-unique perspective that will support the implementation of the New Zealand African livestock engagement strategy.

His interest in agriculture, food production and emissions has been life-long.

“I used to visit my grandma’s farm at least once every year. Being around farm animals and going to the field to bring in the harvest was always so interesting to me. Although I grew up in the city, I always knew that agriculture was the career path that I wanted to pursue.

“When I started applying for colleges, I applied exclusively for agriculture-related courses and was delighted to be offered an opportunity to study agricultural engineering.”

Ackim first studied agricultural engineering at the Natural Resources Development College in Zambia but his interest in agriculture and the environment led him to travel extensively to learn different practices.

He achieved academic success in several countries – Zambia, Portugal, Germany, China and then NZ.

Studying abroad provided an incredible opportunity to meet other like-minded people in my field, develop networks and appreciate diversity. It helped me to look at myself, my world, and my studies and my academic and professional careers from a different perspective.

“Studying in different countries also broadened my knowledge and experience in an incredible, immersive way, which would not have been possible had I confined myself to my home country.”

The years spent pursuing a PhD in Environmental Management at Massey University helped sharpen his research skills as a policy analyst and develop a comprehensive understanding of New Zealand’s approach to addressing its domestic and international environmental commitments.

Ackim feels that his greatest strength is connecting science and policy.

“I believe that science and policy are intersecting domains of human activities which are in co-evolution. Effective decision-making in the implementation of international best practices depends, in part, on social processes which allow for exchanges and joint construction of knowledge between scientists and other actors in the policy process.”

Now settled with his family in Palmerston North – “part of a very supportive and multi-cultural community” – Ackim enjoys long walks and jogging in his spare time, as well as listening to music and watching Country Calendar and political discussions such as Q & A and Newshub Nation.


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