Welcome, Dr Zenebe Uraguchi

02.05.2023 The new Head of the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute sets out his hopes and plans for the future. 

Zenebe Guenat Enlarge image

After working for 13 years with Helvetas, Dr Zenebe Uraguchi now joins BFH-HAFL as a Professor of Economics as well as taking over as Head of the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute. Prof Dominique Guenat, who has led the Institute since its inception in 2020, retires at the end of May, and is happy the Institute is in safe hands. 

“In its first three years of existence, the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute has shown its potential to establish itself as a significant player in the landscape of institutions active in international cooperation,” Dr Guenat said. “It is now time for me to hand over this valuable instrument to my successor. I wish Zenebe and the entire team every success.” 

“I am thrilled to be joining the School of Agricultural, Forest, and Food Sciences (HAFL) at Bern University of Applied Sciences” Dr Uraguchi said. “I bring many years of development economics experience from various countries. Nonetheless, I am convinced that the challenges we face in achieving inclusive, sustainable, and scalable outcomes are formidable. 

“At Bern University of Applied Sciences, academic research and teaching aim to produce technologically, environmentally, economically, and socially relevant innovations. Such evidence-based innovations have an impact on practice and, in particular, challenges in development cooperation when combined with three underlying factors: improved skills for navigating complexity, successful multi-stakeholder initiatives, and a genuine culture of learning and information management.”

Three important factors 

“First, the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute has been active in complex, interconnected, and dynamic contexts across different countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America,” Dr Uraguchi said. “While achieving the immediate objectives of the projects that the Institute conducts, it is also imperative that such projects need to identify patterns, understand power, and influence, and learn and change course when things do not work. 

“A good example of navigating complexity is food systems which are not just about the linear processes of “from farm to fork”. Increasingly, food systems also embody understanding and acting upon the governance and economics of food production, how this affects natural resource use, as well as how food impacts individual/community health. 

“Coming to my second point, development cooperation is a multi-stakeholder initiative. There is growing evidence that working in partnerships matters a lot. It involves not only the private sector but also public-sector actors, civil society organisations, and academic institutions like the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute. 

“To be practical, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for effective global partnership. This, in turn, needs the recognition that solutions mainly (if not all) come from people within the countries that aspire to have better lives. Seeking durable development solutions by just sending experts to help others in the “South” is no longer a workable option. This is a core of the localisation agenda (also known as “decolonisation”) that seeks to put local actors in the lead, strengthens local systems, and be responsive to local communities.  

“Thirdly, as an academic institute, knowledge management and learning are at the heart of the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute. Knowledge and learning are realised when there are shared roles and responsibilities. This may create “everybody’s job is nobody’s job”. Additionally, while defined processes and structures are critical, they can also get knowledge and learning stuck in a mechanistic approach.”

The role of the Institute 

“The HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute has made significant investments in proactively stimulating and facilitating knowledge management and learning as part of its work,” Dr Uraguchi said. “The Institute has laid the groundwork for identifying key players and bringing them together within the knowledge ecosystem, documenting, synthesising, and sharing experiences and lessons. Moving forward, it is important that the Institute continues to reflect on its role in order to better understand what works, what doesn't, and why.  

“Professor Dominique Guenat was instrumental in establishing the Institute. Using the Institute, he also walked the walk on the three points I mentioned earlier. It is critical that we build on what has already been accomplished and look for new ways to achieve higher-quality results. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Dominique the best of luck in his future endeavours.” 

More info about Dr Uraguchi

Read the goodbye article Dr Uraguchi wrote for the Helvetas blog

Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Subject area: International agriculture and rural development
Category: Research