Cedric Habiyaremye, the winner of this year's Rise against Hunger's World Hunger Leadership Award, has pledged to establish an organisation that will support community agricultural development and youth empowerment in the agricultural sector in a bid to fight hunger in Rwanda and Africa in general.
The 31year-old who is currently pursuing a PhD in Agronomy/Crop Science at Washington State University, received a $1,500 (Rwf1.3m) cheque in March this year to help him advance his research and understanding of hunger and related issues.
The Rise against Hunger's World Hunger Leadership Award recognises a student who has demonstrated leadership in the fight against hunger and his or her continued commitment to show that the end of world hunger is possible.
The winner also gets opportunities to be among key players in global food security realms.
Habiyaremye said that for him, receiving this award was a great honour.
"When I received this award, I felt a great excitement and honour for such recognition. To me, it validates what my father taught me: 'Never give up on your dreams. Because when you believe in those few dreams, they become true'."
Habiyaremye holds a Master's degree in crop science from Washington State University, Bachelors in Agricultural science with honours in irrigation and drainage, and an advanced diploma in soil and water management both from University of Rwanda's College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (CAVM), formerly known as ISAE-Busogo.
He currently lives in Pullman, Washington State, USA where he is pursuing a PhD in Agronomy/Crop Science.
He said that the award gave him extra courage to work harder, inspire and show people that it is possible to start from the bottom and reach one's goals.
"We can all rise above our circumstances. We just need to not let them define us".
As a young child, Habiyaremye faced hunger; this is what fuelled his passion and commitment to agricultural development and the fight against hunger.
"Experiencing hunger at a young age was not easy, I remember in Rwanda in 1997 we were hit by famine and food became a rare commodity, life was horrific. I was only 11 years old, this is when I decided that if I survive that situation, I would study agriculture and become an expert so that I can improve agricultural systems and fight against hunger in my country and around the world when I grow up," he said.
He plans to enhance the nutrition and utilization of novel and sustainable food and farming systems through his interdisciplinary research approaches that involves: crop diversity, food science, and social anthropology.
Today, his dreams are on the verge on becoming a reality. As a PhD student in Crop Science his research projects focuses on the agronomic practices of small grains such as quinoa, millet, and food barley.
Quinoa has been singled out by the FAO as a food with high nutritive value, impressive biodiversity, and an important role to play in the achievement of food security worldwide.
His hunger fighting projects include collaboration with the Sustainable Seed Systems Lab at Washington State University and local institutions including Gardens For Health International and Rogers Family Coffee Company, with which he introduced quinoa as a complete protein and climate-resilient crop to help address issues of food and nutrition insecurity.
In 2016 the project was supported by the USAID/Feed The Future through the Borlaug LEAP fellowship which allowed him to develop strong collaborations with international and in-country partners on the quinoa research project including CIAT Rwanda, and this has led to an expansion of the project in other countries including Uganda and Kenya, where he is working in collaboration with CIAT Uganda as well as Research Scientists at KALRO (the Kenyan Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization).