Tanzanian botanist wins prestigious Japanese award

TANZANIA: TANZANIAN veteran botanist, Christopher Ruffo, has won a prestigious Japanese award known as ‘Foreign Minister’s Commendation’ for recognising his contribution to Japanese researchers in that area.

Ambassador of Japan to Tanzania, Yasushi Misawa presented the award to the 88-year-old Ruffo at an event held in Dar es Salaam, on Monday.

“Mr Ruffo’s contribution is the promotion of academic exchange through botany between Tanzania and Japan,” the ambassador said.

Established in 1984, the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation has a nearly 40-year history.

It is awarded to individuals and groups for their outstanding achievements in the international field in recognition of their contribution to promoting relations between Japan and other countries and regions.

The Commendations also aim to promote understanding and support among the Japanese public for the activities of the recipients.

“I am delighted to announce that we have two Tanzanian recipients this year: Mr Ruffo and Mr Dudley Gabriella Mawalla, the first President of the Tanzania Judo Association. They are the third and fourth Tanzanians who have received this commendation.,” he stated.

Mr Ruffo is a leading expert in plant taxonomy. He began his career as an assistant to a British plant taxonomist and is now a respected self-taught botanist, not only in Tanzania but throughout East Africa.

He was Head of Botany Herbarium at TAFORI (Tanzania Forestry Research Institute) Headquarters in Lushoto from 1967-1990 and as Head of Botany Department at TTSP (National Tree Seed Programme) Headquarters in Morogoro from 1991-1997 until his retirement.

Since his retirement, he has been working privately on plant identification and has supported the works of many Japanese researchers and other botanists in Europe, the USA and East Africa.

Despite his old age after retirement, he still works from his home laboratory in Morogoro, training those who come to him.

After receiving the award, Mr Ruffo thanked the Japanese foreign ministry, saying the honour means a lot not only to him but to the nation as a whole.

“I believe that this award will expand the work of botany between Tanzania and Japan, it will also increase the motivation for other Tanzanians to learn more about botany,” he said.

He added that the relationship built on botany issues between the two nations will expand more research to the community on the benefits of plants, especially on the use of medicinal trees, food as well as developing them for sustainable industrial use.

However, Mr Ruffo urged young people to dare to study the profession as it still requires many more professionals, adding that there is a great chance to discover trees that are not yet known and also exploring various uses of plants within Tanzania and beyond the borders.

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