21 Questions with Dr. Cedric Habiyaremye


Dr. Cedric Habiyaremye, delivering a Keynote speach at the Mastercard Leadership Meeting.

A few days ago, I posted on my Facebook and Instagram pages asking my online community and friends to ask me any questions. However, the questions they asked will surprise you!!! Fascinating questions. Here is what I posted “If I had to answer any question you ask me today, what would you ask me?” Many people sent their questions inbox, and others posted their questions in the comments section. I want to thank everyone who showed their interests and asked questions. I tried to answer almost every question and below are the questions and their answers. Enjoy reading this interactive piece!




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Q: What is your biggest fear?

A: My biggest fear is growing old and have lived a life with regrets. We have one life, and people tend to forget that. You always hear old people say, "time flies, make use of it while you can." I always heard this as a kid, and I was like "okay." Growing to be an 18-year-old young man, I found that they were telling the truth, and they wanted us not to waste our gift of life on the things that do not matter. Do with your life what you want to do. If you have a dream, go out and try to accomplish that dream. Do not be afraid of failure. There is no such thing as failure. Sure, you may not have accomplished that goal, but I am sure you learned something along the way of trying to accomplish that goal. What I am saying is; live life to the fullest and enjoy it! There is nothing to fear!

Q: What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

A: I wanted to be both an expert in agriculture and a businessman. One was not enough.


Q: Where did you go to school? University or straight into work?

A: I was born and grew up in Rukira, Ngoma District Eastern Province of Rwanda; In high school, I went to a seminary school (Catholic School) Petit Séminaire St Kizito de Zaza. For undergraduate studies, I went to the University of Rwanda College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine/ formally known as ISAE-Busogo where I got my BS in Agricultural Science with Honors in Irrigation and Drainage, and an Advanced Diploma in Soil and Water Management. Then I continued for my master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Agronomy and Crop Science at Washington State University in Pullman, WA.


Q: Who was or still is your mentor of all the time?

A: My mother. She was always my biggest influence, cheerleader and still is today.


Q: In what place are you happiest?

A: Almost every time but mostly any time I am with people that I love and enjoy. And anytime I see the impact of my projects in the lives of the poor and the hungry.


Q: You always seem happy, despite your upbringing. What is your secret?

A: Life is what you make it; if you are positive, you attract positivity around you. If you are negative, you attract negativity around you. And if you are loving, you attract love around you. I have chosen to live in the space of gratitude and work hard so I could follow my dreams. Gratitude is what brings happiness.


Q: What would you like to own that you do not currently possess?

A: Enough time.


Q: What ambitions do you have?

A: Ending world hunger. This is the mission I had since I was 11 years old; giving people access to affordable, nutritious food wherever they are. Because I do not like to see people experiencing what I went through in my childhood.


Q: What are the greatest achievements of your life so far?

A: In collaboration with my research team and the Sustainable Seed Systems Lab at Washington State University we have successfully introduced quinoa in Rwanda, and now we are expanding the projects in other countries in Africa. In addition to that, I received my master’s and Ph.D. degrees in one of the best agricultural universities in the world, and I have established excellent rapport and connections with influential people. This gives me hope that everything is possible and that we can end world hunger and malnutrition in our lifetime.


Q: What was your biggest challenge during your journey, and how did you overcome them?

A: There were times in my life when I was hungry, lonely, and felt like I did not fit in, there were times I was so desperate, and life had no meaning to me. However, I did not let those circumstances define me. I have chosen to live in the space of gratitude and work hard so I could follow my dreams because I did not, and I still do not like to see people experiencing what I experienced in my childhood. My upbringing taught me to be optimistic and to find opportunities from the hardships. I knew without a doubt that if I do not work hard to follow my dreams no one else was going to do that for me, and no one was going to help or support me if I did not help myself first. Where I am today did not happen just like that. This whole journey, recovery process and my effort to fit in, have involved several individuals who have crossed my path along the way until who I am today. The people that I met, my excellent friends, teachers, and mentors; have all been great inspirations for me. I had reasons to choose bitterness and hopelessness, but I was instead inspired to choose love and pursue my goals and dreams with hard work and dedication. As I continue this journey, I am forever grateful for their continuous devotion, support, and loyalty.


Q: How does it feel to have a Ph.D.?

A: It is the best feeling ever because now I can focus on work, not school. However, something everyone should keep in mind is that no matter the level of education you have or things you have achieved in your life, the degree or that status will not make you invincible you still have that fragile human core at the center of you. Just keep your character and your pure personality.


Q: If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

A: He would not believe it was me. At 20, I was just finishing high school, hungry, and stunted thinking that all my dreams were just dreams.


Q: Which food or dish holds a happy memory for you?

A: Any type of stew made with peanut soup: Beef stew, goat stew, chicken stew, or vegetable stew. I grew up eating it and anytime I visit my mother she would cook that for me.


Q: Do you ever get nervous? A: Like most people, I get nervous only when I am out of my element or I am uncertain about the outcome of a situation. Speaking in front of people is like breathing to me. I have been nervous a couple of time and I cannot forget the day of July 25th 2019 - my Ph.D. defense (The biggest day in my life so far), I was so nervous that day because I was like,… I cannot believe this is happening…. Oh My God …I am getting a Ph.D…. I better do well!!! That date meant so much to me personally and my family.


Q: You have done a lot at your age; do you consider yourself successful and want to become famous?

A: A satisfied life is better than what society defines as a successful or famous life. Because our success is measured by others, but our satisfaction is measured by our own soul, mind & heart. The goal is not to be successful and famous; the goal is to live life and explore the talent God gave me.


Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?

A: Do not take your life too serious, be yourself, believe in yourself, and respect others no matter who they are. Do anything anytime, always… humility to the max.


Q: In your career, you may have encountered some negative comments and hold-backs, how do you deal with it? And what advice would you give on how people should deal with that situation?

A: Be empathetic to those who are unhappy or jealous of you. They are only unhappy for you because they have a lot of stuff they are dealing with in their lives. For me it is hard to be mad at someone who is hurting inside.


A: If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

Q: Brush myself off and start all over again. I have never in my life had the luxury of giving up and I do not understand people who do.


Q: What is nobility to you?

A: A true nobility is not about being better than anyone else; it is about being better than you used to be.


Q: What motivated you to move forward no matter the situation you may find yourself in and why?

A: My life is my biggest motivation. Despite the hardship, tragedy and much worse situation I went through in my life, life has taught me a lesson. What I discovered from this awakening was that my life is a dream of someone else. When things are not going well this is what I tell/speak to myself; “Your life may not be perfect. Nevertheless, be thankful for it; someone somewhere is fighting to be alive.” Maybe my family members, friends and many other people who left us for good would wish to leave longer… who am I to take this life for granted? That is when I came to realize that I should never take my life for granted. Since then I have learned to be grateful to whatever life is offering to me. I have chosen to keep the smile on my face and move on and thrive for self-reliance. Because I have realized that every day is a blessing to me; I am very grateful to every single day of my life and I always count my blessings. That gratitude is what brings happiness in my life and fuel my desire to work hard to achieve the goals of my life. Because I believe that my existence was not an accident, I exist for a reason as everyone else does. The goal is to live my life out through the ability God gave me and make use of it while I can.


Q: What would be your advice to the youth?

A: Your Potential is infinite, and it is always bigger than whatever problems you are going through. Every one of us was born with the purpose. If you are here, you matter! You only need to have one important thing in your life to become whatever you want to become or whatever you want to do with your life. That important thing is responsibility. Be responsible for all your actions and listen to your mentors and then follow your heart, never follow the cloud. Stop thinking about dream jobs but instead focus on finding your life purpose; how you want to live your life and the impact you want to make or achieve in your lifetime. The biggest question you should carry in your mind is what do I really want to do? What do I have to offer? And the answer to that is you making sure that everything you do moves to the direction and vision you set. And when you do that, the forces of life rise to meet you.


Even though it is not easy because we all have things we battle in our lives, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home or in your life – that’s not an excuse for you to take your life for granted and not to pursue your dreams. Where you are right now doesn’t determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you; you are the architect of your destiny. And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – do not ever give up on yourself. Do not let your fear write your future. Get out of your comfort zone and follow your dreams and do not give up, great things take time and keep in mind that there is no competition in destiny.

People want to succeed fast because they want to prove something to somebody else. That’s what makes them vulnerable. Slow down: stop trying to impress people, do this for yourself. When it’s for you, you have your whole life, when it’s for them, you try to do it today. Living your life for someone else it is always a mistake even when it comes from a good place. When writing a story of your life do not let anyone else hold the pen; focus less on winning the approval of others and do not wait around for someone else to give you permission to live your life. Try everything; never be afraid of making mistakes be afraid of making the same mistakes repeatedly. What you plant today you will harvest it later, So.., if you do not plant anything do not expect any harvest.


There are things that you are good at and there are things that you love. If you have to wake up and go to work rather than you have to go to work, then you are doing the right thing. If you do not have that something you love that makes you feel that way, please find it. It will give you great peace of mind.


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