Prominent plant breeder Dr Ephrame Havazvidi dies

16 May, 2022 - 12:05 0 Views
Prominent plant breeder Dr Ephrame Havazvidi dies Dr Havazvidi

The Herald

Sifelani Tsiko Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor


One of the country’s foremost plant breeders and award winning crop expert Dr Ephrame Kudzaishe Havazvidi has died.


He was 68.


Dr Havazvidi, who worked for more than four decades for Seed Co International as head of research for the global seed house, collapsed and died at his Mt Pleasant home on Saturday morning.


“It is with heavy hearts that the Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association (ZPBA) has learnt with shock of the untimely passing on of an esteemed ZPBA member and highly decorated wheat breeder Dr Ephraime Havazvidi.


“May the Lord be with the family and the plant breeding community during this difficult period,” said Dr Frank Magama, the ZPBA President.


Mr Terrence Chimanya, managing director for Seed Co Zimbabwe hailed Dr Havazvidi for playing a critical role in wheat improvement and development in Zimbabwe and the world over.


He said Dr Havazvidi had vast experience in the development and promotion of drought tolerant crop varieties.


“Dr Ephrame Havazvidi will always be remembered for the advances he made in the breeding of wheat. May his soul rest in peace,” Mr Chimanya said.


Dr Havazvidi, a noted Zimbabwean geneticist, plant breeder and agriculturist is renowned for his pioneering research in plant breeding.


Since 1982, he has released more than 28 high performing varieties of wheat that have significantly impacted wheat productivity in Zimbabwe and Sadc countries.


His pioneering wheat breeding work led to the development of high performing spring wheat varieties used under irrigated cultures in Zimbabwe and beyond.


These include the SC Scan , SC Septre , SC Scope , SC Scholar , SC Superb , SC Stallion , SC Nduna , SC Sky , SC Nonsprout , SC Serena and others that helped Zimbabwe to occupy top position in the world up to 2014.


Most of the wheat varieties that he developed are highly tolerant to pre-harvest sprouting under early summer rains and some possess strong dough properties for gristing, helping the country to cut on imports of hard red wheats from abroad.


Dr Havazvidi also developed numerous plant crop varieties and oversaw all farm activities at Rattray Arnold Research Station.


In 2020, he was named among the top 20 most influential in the field across Africa.


His name was on the Southern African Plant Breeders’ Association list which had 20 internationally renowned plant breeders.


Dr Havazvidi held a number of positions in local, regional and international bodies that included the WHEAT-Independent Steering Committee of CGIAR CIMMYT and the Zimbabwe Wheat Board (ZWB) among others.


He was a co-award winner of the Alan Piltch Shield Award for significant contribution to cereal breeding.


The veteran plant breeder was also winner of the ZWB Wheat Legend Award.


He presented a number of technical papers at International Wheat Breeding Symposia and at CIMMYT organised Wheat Workshops.


Recently, he developed heat and drought tolerant maize inbreds and hybrids.


Dr Havazvidi joined Seed Co-operative Company of Zimbabwe (now Seed Co International) as a seed production research agronomist in 1980 and later held various positions within the group most working as a principal wheat Breeder.


He was the head of research function of Seed Co Group from 2005 to 2015 and since 2019 held the position of senior group research consultant.


The noted plant breeder was also involved in capacity building activities for young and senior plant breeders in the country and abroad.


Dr Havazvidi was born in Masvingo district on 22 September 1954. He did his O’levels at Berejena Mission in Chivi and later completed his A’ level studies at Goromonzi High School.


After passing his A’levels, he enrolled for a crop science degree at the University of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe) in 1974.


He majored in plant breeding and biometrical genetics.


Dr Havazvidi received his PhD from the Faculty of Agriculture at the UZ in 2003.


He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, four children – Kennedy, Happiness, Charles and Rumbi and grandchildren.


A memorial service was held at a Catholic church in Mt Pleasant on Monday. Dr Havazvidi is expected to be buried at his rural home in Zaka tomorrow.

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