Safeguarding Progress in Biotechnology: Profiling Ms Annah Runesu Takombwa

Annah Takombwa

Biotechnology is a field rife with opportunities and potential to improve the lives of communities across the globe. Nevertheless, some potential risks cannot be discounted. Today we are profiling a smart professional from the National Biotechnology Authority (NBA) in Zimbabwe, working on biosafety. NBA is a a statutory body with a mandate to manage and support biotech, research and application in Zimbabwe.

Ms Annah Runesu Takombwa, Acting Technical Affairs Manager at the National Biotechnology Authority in Zimbabwe, holds a BSc Honours in Agriculture (Crop Science) from the University of Zimbabwe and an MSc in Managing the Environment (Risk Assessment of GM Crops) from Aberystwyth University in Wales, United Kingdom. The projects she focused on during her studies were largely GMO-oriented – with an emphasis on potential and risks. This led her to the path she is currently on; making sure progress is tempered by informed caution.

She is most interested in biosafety research although she has also done research in other fields such as entomology and biotechnology. Currently, as part of her day to day activities at work, she is involved in a tissue culture project which entails eliminating viruses from root and tuber crops for distribution to small holder farmers. On the impact her research has, she notes: “I would say the research projects that I have been involved in to date seek to address societal challenges by generating knowledge for policy makers to make decisions and provide solutions to problems. As a regulator, my role also involves protecting people from potential effects of new and emerging technologies. I really enjoy doing risk assessments and making sure that people are not exposed to potential harmful effects of new and emerging technologies.” Nevertheless, she firmly believes that science and biotechnology is an important tool with huge potential for improving livelihoods.

She also remarks that the role of women in building our societies can never be overemphasized. “I admire female scientists; these women have defied the odds by venturing into male dominated fields. I believe they are in this field because they have what it takes and can make a difference in our societies. With science we can contribute much more to ending our number one enemy that is poverty. Therefore, I urge all aspiring female scientists to be strong and determined and keep on pressing until they achieve their goals. The future is waiting for you!” she enthuses.

And what do most people not know about her? “Well, what can I say, I am really a disaster when it comes to singing. I did not even make it through to the primary school choir team. I was just told that I was not meant to sing during the first round of auditions,” she laughs.

When asked what plant or animal would describe her best, she takes only a moment to think. She would be Myrothamnus flabellifolius, otherwise known as the resurrection plant: “The plant dries during harsh conditions but once conditions become favourable it rejuvenates. No matter how strong the tide is I will never give up in life. Like the plant, I may fall but I will rise and shine again.”

A latin phrase comes to mind: Per ardua surgo – Through adversity I rise.

Happy Women’s Month to our South African network members!