DANESHWAR PUCHOOA

Associate Professor

Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture

University of Mauritius

DANESHWAR PUCHOOA

It was with a great shock and sadness that we heard of the sudden demise of Kishore Mundil on Monday 30th July 2018. In fact, he left his beloved ones on Thursday 26th July 2018 at his residence in Solférino, Vacoas. It was indeed very hard to believe that Kishore, as he was fondly known to some of us at the University, was no more, as many of us have known him as our lecturer, our academic colleague, our Head of Department and our Dean, at the Faculty of Agriculture. Moreover, he was also a well-known public figure in Mauritius. In whatever role we knew him, Kishore was one of those few people with a ‘unique’ and ‘brilliant’ personality, not leaving anyone indifferent.

Kishore Mundil was born on the 30th June 1950, at St Francois Xavier, Port-Louis. He affectionately used to share with his colleagues that he was born in the middle of the year, in the middle of the 20th century, poised to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He attended the Pamplemousses Government School before he joined le Champ de Lort School in Port Louis to complete his primary schooling. He won a seat at the Royal College of Port Louis for his secondary studies, after he successfully competed for the ‘Petite Bourse.’ After completing his HSC, he gave French Lessons at the US Embassy. In 1971 Kishore Mundil left for the University of Reading, UK, for his undergraduate studies and graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Economics in 1974.

Kishore Mundil had a brilliant and successful career at the University of Mauritius, since his appointment as Assistant Lecturer in Agricultural Management and Economics on 29th October 1974. He was awarded a British Council Scholarship in 1977 to read for his Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Wye College, University of London. He was promoted Lecturer in 1976, Senior Lecturer in 1988 and Associate Professor in 1997. He became Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture in 2000 and retired in May 2002. During his tenure at the University, he took leave to assume duty as a planning officer at the newly created Tertiary Education Commission (1992-1993) and was later appointed General Manager of the Agricultural Marketing Board (1994-1996). He was an active member on the University Campus, promoting both staff and student welfare and enjoyed participating in the extracurricular activities (e.g. Volley Ball matches) organised by the students. He was the President of the Academic Staff Union and was very often crossing swords with the Senior Management at Council meetings when dealing with academic issues (e.g. fighting to maintain the rights of academic staff to stand for general elections).

Kishore was also passionate about the promotion of Teaching and Learning to support agricultural development. Indeed he has actively participated in several workshops on this issue. In the academia, many colleagues and former students remember Kishore for his ‘unorthodox’, some may even say ‘disruptive’, but ‘innovative’ approach to teaching. To ensure that students had grasped the concepts and complex principles of Agricultural Economics, he did not hesitate to vividly use the ‘creole’ language in his lectures. He promoted ‘collaborative’ group work among students. He actively supported the development of student’s critical thinking. He valued student’s inputs to discussions on emerging and priority issues facing agriculture. He was an ardent defender of the ‘auto-suffisance alimentaire’. Some 25 years ago, he forcefully proposed the ‘filière‘ approach to agricultural production (the ‘value chain’ approach), and the need for the ‘professionalisation’ of the agricultural sector. Both have now become game changers in the agri-food sector. After his retirement, Kishore was still active and was engaged in numerous committees. He became adviser to the Minister of Agriculture in 2004.

Besides playing an active role in University teaching, research and consultancy, time and again he was found to be actively interested in the affairs of society. Kishore Mundil is widely recognised as one of the active and fervent supporters for the return of the Islanders that were displaced from Diego Garcia and Chagos. He has participated in several forums and debates to militate for the resettlement of the islanders to Diego as an active founder member of the ‘Front National de Soutien aux Ilois’ (FMSI) and the ‘Komité Morisyin Losean Indyin’. In April 1981, he formed part of the Mauritian delegation along with representatives of the Government to negotiate with the British Government for a financial compensation to the displaced islanders. He was the first one to draw the attention of the delegation to negotiate that this payment does not jeopardise Mauritius sovereignty claim on Diego Garcia.

Kishore Mundil has contributed enormously to the socio-economic development of the country especially in the area of agricultural development, food security and regional cooperation, through his able membership in various national committees (e.g. Mauritius Sugar Authority, Mauritius Sugar Syndicate) and research publications. He sometimes stood firm on his opinions, in many meetings, which he considered worthwhile appearing dogmatic at times but he was also flexible to accommodate other views, at times unfriendly while remaining calm, or never losing his infectious smile. As an academic, Kishore has travelled widely (e.g. UK, France, Uganda, Cameroon, Lesotho, Indonesia, Egypt) to attend conferences, workshops and training programmes whereby his contribution was well appreciated. He was also active in research and consultancy projects related to the transformation of the small-scale agriculture and development of the agro-Industries both in Mauritius and Rodrigues (e.g. FED project, marketing of Rodriguan fruits and vegetables, Potato consumption patterns and Consumer Preferences in Mauritius). Together with his classmates (Deva Armoogum, late Dr Pierre Yin and Georges Lim Fat), he founded a gardening club before joining the ‘Young Farmers Association’ hosted by the late Clovis Vellin. He was a regular contributor to the weekly newspaper ‘Week-End’, namely ‘Place aux Jeunes’ where he wrote on the role and importance of youth to engage in agricultural production. He was a founder member of the ‘Centre for Research and Documentation in the Southeast Indian Ocean’ (CEDREFI) in 1981. CEDREFI, an NGO that promotes the development of the regional cooperation within the Indian Ocean, is still active.

Like anybody else, Kishore had his disappointments but he had sufficient resilience and strength of character and courage to move ahead. He has dedicated his whole life to social activities, been helpful to his family and relatives, the Government and his beloved country. He served them all with dedication and loyalty. But the truth is that he was a humble man and lived a simple life, with strong moral and ethical values. His absence will inevitably be deeply felt by the family and friends in Mauritius and elsewhere. Kishore Mundil leaves the memory of a visionary patriot who, in addition to his professional commitments, found the time to put his competences at the service of his country.

As we write this Tribute to our colleague Kishore Mundil, the following quote from Nelson Mandela comes to our mind: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’ We are honoured and privileged to have shared part of the professional life of Kishore. He has contributed to enhance the life of so many of us.