More on ILRI livestock scientists among top African women awardees: Panel remarks by Lillian Wambua

Announcement of AWARD Fellowship winners of 2011: Nairobi

Lillian Wambua (second right), a researcher in ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme and one of the 2011 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship winners, among panelists at the 2011 AWARD fellowship announcement (photo credit: ILRI/Njiru).

Following are remarks made by ILRI researcher Lillian Wambua during the announcement of the 2011 fellowships of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) winners held on Thursday 18 August at Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi

‘As a little girl, growing up in the arid Makueni District of Kenya’s Eastern Province, my family’s few goats, chicken and humped zebu cattle were the most important assets we had. The sandy and stony land although vast, was largely unproductive. Unable to count on growing food crops, our livestock were the key to our livelihood. The same holds true for rural populations across much of the African continent. Livestock are essential to their wellbeing.’

‘My work as a young scientist is particularly important when you consider the challenges we are facing with climate change and the current drought and the famine in our region. The drought has been particularly devastating for livestock keepers. At the same time, we are dealing with a mounting list of challenges. The world is getting warmer. We are seeing more sudden floods and more prolonged droughts. These changing weather patterns affect the distribution and prevalence of livestock diseases.’

‘During my studies, I realized that DNA technology held the key to future discoveries that would tackle many problems, including livestock diseases. During my first degree, I had the opportunity to work at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) here in Nairobi.’

‘It was here that I knew I was on the right path.’

‘Now every day, my work is finding lasting solutions to secure healthy herds of livestock for rural populations. We are tapping into genetic diversity so these animals can adapt to changing environments and disease pressure and live long and strong to benefit farmers.’

‘In particular, I hope to help women farmers, as they and their children are the majority of the agriculture work force. I want to empower them so they can step up their agriculture activities and improve their own livelihoods.’

‘As a post doctoral fellow, in the early stages of an independent research career, I am truly looking forward to the opportunities that he African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) will open up for me. I am looking forward to the visibility the fellowship might enable me to have and am excited about the potential to form strategic and lasting partnerships in my work. I see this as the start of a very exciting two-year period that has the potential to catapult my career.’

‘I look forward to the leadership skills I will acquire, to be a research leader and trend setter in my field.’

‘In this world you cannot accomplish great things alone. We need to collaborate. We need partnerships. I look forward to learning from my AWARD mentor and the other strong, intelligent and dedicated women scientists that I will have the opportunity to connect with through the AWARD program.

‘I have worked hard to get to this place, and know my work is just beginning. I am thankful for this opportunity offered by this program and look forward to each exciting day ahead in the process of finding solutions for our rural farmers.’

For more information on the ILRI’s 2011 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship winners and the projects they work in, visit the ILRI biotechnology theme blog: http://biolives.wordpress.com/

ILRI livestock scientists among top African Women awardees: Racheal Aye

Racheal Aye, ILRI PhD studentTogether with Lillian Wambua and Nimmo Gacheru, Racheal Aye (pictured) was one of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) scientists among 70 African women agricultural researchers selected for the 2011 fellowships of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), which were announced on Thursday 18 August at Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi. AWARD is an initiative of the Gender and Diversity program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Aye, from ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme – all of this year’s ILRI AWARD fellows work in the theme – is a PhD student with the contagious bovine pleuropneumonia project. Her interest in the economic effects and public health impacts of trans-boundary animal diseases has focused her research on the effects of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, a highly infectious livestock disease that is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and leads to reduced animal productivity causing social economic losses for many of the continents livestock farmers.

‘I hope to understand better the causes of this disease and eventually contribute solutions to help resource-poor livestock keepers who are dealing with its effects,’ said Aye, who also works as a teaching assistant at Uganda’s Gulu University. ‘As a result of my work in this project, I hope to develop an illustrated immunology book of tropical diseases for use by young scientists who are studying immunology at my university and also in the east African region.’

Aye says the AWARD fellowship will widen her network and experiences and she plans to use findings from her research in her teaching at Gulu University so those she trains can share this knowledge with rural smallholder farmers. ‘I will also organize workshops in my district with the Ugandan National Agricultural Advisory Services to empower grassroots trainers so they can pass on the knowledge on animal disease control to the rest of the community.’

Through the networks and trainings from the fellowship, Aye hopes to learn new techniques and gain more skills in genetic modifications, vaccinology, diagnostics and genetic enhancement of animal breeding and how these can be used to boost food security and to pave a way out of poverty for livestock keepers in Africa.

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For more information on the ILRI’s 2011 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship winners and the projects they work in, visit the ILRI biotechnology theme blog: http://biolives.wordpress.com/

ILRI livestock scientists among top African women awardees

Announcement of AWARD Fellowship winners of 2011: Nairobi

Lillian Wambua, a researcher in ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme, is one of the 2011 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship winners (photo credit: ILRI/Njiru).

The contribution of African women agricultural researchers and smallholder farmers to agricultural research and food production in the continent was last week highlighted and recognized during the announcement of the 2011 fellowships of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), an initiative of the Gender and Diversity program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Seventy women agricultural scientists – including food and veterinary scientists and agricultural economists – from 11 countries across Africa will benefit from this year’s fellowships.  Among the winners of this year’s fellowships, which were announced at Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi on Thursday 18 August, are two scientists affiliated with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Lillian Wambua and Nimmo Gicheru, who are researching some of the continent’s most pressing livestock disease problems.

Wambua, from the University of Nairobi, is a researcher in ILRI’s Biotechnology Theme, where she is investigating the impacts of bovine malignant catarrhal fever, a fatal livestock disease that is spread from wildebeest to cattle and harms the livelihoods of Maasai pastoralists in southern Kenya. ‘Livestock keepers need support to deal with these diseases,’ says Wambua. ‘I hope to help, particularly, women farmers to improve their productivity as they are the stronghold of the agricultural workforce in much of Africa. I believe this fellowship will raise my visibility and give me new skills to be a research leader in the process.’

Announcement of AWARD Fellowship winners of 2011: Nairobi

ILRI’s Nimmo Gicheru, in light blue shirt, also received the 2011 AWARD fellowship (photo credit: ILRI/Njiru).

Nimmo Gicheru, who is currently pursuing her PhD studies, has a background in medical research and is part of an ILRI project working to enhance control of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, a highly infectious livestock disease that occurs throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. The project, which began in May 2011, seeks to develop diagnostic tools and vaccines to better manage the disease. ‘It’s a great honour to be selected as an AWARD Fellow, says Gicheru. ‘This program is showing us how to use various tools and techniques not only to apply our research but also to negotiate and network with other scientists in the process of sharing our innovations and knowledge with farmers,’ she said. ‘AWARD is giving African women agricultural scientists a voice.’

Speaking during the event, Vicki Wilde, director of the AWARD program, noted the ‘growing recognition of the importance of investing in Africa’s women.’ The program, now in its fourth year, has awarded fellowships to 250 African women scientists ‘who are coming out with strengthened science skills, gender responsiveness in their work and an increase in confidence and willingness to lead,’ said Wilde. ‘These fellows can play an influential role in Africa’s agricultural development by supporting African farmers with knowledge and innovation to enable them to bounce back in the face of dynamic change.’

‘AWARD is a shinning example of the contribution that women can make to food security and agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa,’ said Kurt Low, office director for a Regional Economic Growth and Integration Program of United States Agency for International Development, which, together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a key sponsor of the program.

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For more information on the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development project and for a full list of the 2011 AWARD fellowship winners visit www.awardfellowships.org

ILRI genebank manager elected ‘Fellow’ of the prestigious Society of Biology

Alexandra Jorge ILRI genebank manager

Alexandra Jorge, the genebank manager at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is one of four Africa-based scientists elected, this past December, to join the Society of Biology, a leading professional body that represents individuals committed to biology from academia, industry, education and research.

With over 80,000 members, the Society of Biology promotes advances in biological science across the world and awards fellowships to individuals who make ‘contribution to the advancement of biological sciences, and who have over five years experience in positions of senior responsibility’. The society is a particular supporter of work done by scientists in developing countries.

Jorge, a plant physiologist, works under the People, Livestock and Environment theme at ILRI, where she is managing the study, documentation and conservation of forage seeds in a forage genebank located at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa. The genebank, together with Ethiopian field sites in Soddo, Ziway and Debre Zeit, contains over 20,000 types of tropical grasses, legumes and tree forages, which are routinely tested to ensure they remain healthy and viable for use in farms.

‘To be invited to become a Fellow of the Society of Biology is a great honour to any scientist and I am very proud of this achievement,’ says Jorge, ‘I thank the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) program for nominating me for this fellowship and I look forward to working with the large network of scientists in the Society.’

Other Fellows elected to the Society of Biology in December 2010 are Stella Asuming-Brempong, Waceke Wanjohi and Sheila Okoth. These four women are also fellows of AWARD, a Gender and Diversity Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

For African women scientists, such recognition is significant.

‘It can be a struggle for scientists from the developing world to network successfully and maximize the benefits of international collaboration due to geographical and financial reasons,’ said Vicki Wilde, director of the Gender and Diversity Program and AWARD, ‘These scientist’s voices—and the unheard voices of millions of farmers, particularly women, in sub-Saharan Africa—will now be heard and their work taken seriously.’

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For more information see the following article: http://www.societyofbiology.org/newsandevents/news/view/210

Read about ILRI’s work in managing forage diversity on http://www.ilri.org/ForageDiversity and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/228

For more on crop genebanks and forages visit: http://cropgenebank.sgrp.cgiar.org/ and http://www.tropicalforages.info/

African women scientists for African farmers: ‘The work is risky, it’s dirty, it’s hard and it’s invisible’—Vicki Wilde

Africa_WA_Girl_02

Investing in women in Africa is a smart investment;

investing in women scientists in Africa is a best bet.’

—Vicki Wilde


The quotes below are a distillation of some of the sentiments as well as celebratory remarks expressed at an event honouring 60 new 2010 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development Fellowships announced at the World Agroforestry Centre, in Nairobi, Kenya, on 27 July 2010.

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‘Women of Africa are first of all daughters, then wives, mothers and caregivers. They farm the fields, milk the cows and generate the incomes that put food on our tables—and ensure that our children are educated. We celebrate them today while honouring the research women that stand behind our farming women and men.’

—Stella Williams, retired Nigerian professor of agricultural economics and Chair of the Steering Committee of the CGIAR African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Program
 


 
‘We are announcing 60 AWARD Fellowships today. We chose 60 women representing 20 different disciplines in whom to invest in a two-year professional development program, a journey to empower them in their work to alleviate and hunger in Africa.

‘These are the women who are changing the face of African agriculture. Like our Fulani AWARD Fellow this year, who is bringing artificial insemination to West African villages, these women "are not interested in being smallholders".

‘Women represent less than 1 in 4 agricultural researchers in Africa and less than 1 in 7 of those in leadership. Experts estimate it will take another 20 years for women to reach parity with men in this continent’s agricultural affairs. We created AWARD to change that equation.’
 
—Vicki Wilde, Director of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and Gender and Diversity programs of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
 

 
 
‘The road out of poverty is lined with women food producers and sellers.’
 
— Ephraim Mukisira, Director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
 
 
 
 
‘We have enormous talent here in Africa. I have a wife who has several scientific degrees and is several times smarter than I am. I recognize that. My family recognizes that. We must recognize talent. When women become empowered, societies prosper.

‘Agriculture is our lifeline. Almost 80 percent of Africans depend on it. We still have 300 million people living on less than a dollar a day. Our continent’s future is tied to our continent’s agriculture.

‘Women are the face of African agriculture. We need more relevant training for the unique conditions of Africa. We need women to address issues that have not been on men’s radar screens.'
 
—Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President for Policy and Partnerships of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
 


 
‘We need women represented in our labs as well as in our fields.’

—Hilary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State (quoted by Adesina)
 
 
 
 
‘So much is at stake.’
 
—Ruth Amata, plant pathologist, senior research officer at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and 2010 AWARD Fellow
 

 
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The AWARD program is a project of the CGIAR’s Gender and Diversity Program and is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development.

 A list of 2010 AWARD Fellowship Recipients including their research topics is available at http://awardfellowships.org/~awfellow/images/stories/award/downloads/2010%20Fellows_research%20areas.pdf  

To watch the speech by Vicki Wilde, Director, CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program and AWARD, please visit http://www.blip.tv/file/3935740.

To watch the speech by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President (Policy and Partnerships) for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, please visit http://blip.tv/file/3934337.

For a related article please visit ILRI's Top Story Fruit, catfish and pigeon pea researchers among 60 African women awarded prestigious agricultural fellowships

or

http://www.genderdiversity.cgiar.org/newsletter/GD%20News96_AWARD2010_Special%20Issue_full%20story.pdf

For more information please also visit www.awardfellowships.org and www.cgiar.org

Fruit, catfish and pigeon pea researchers among 60 African women awarded prestigious agricultural fellowships

AWARD ceremony

 Sixty outstanding women agricultural scientists from 10 African countries this week received 2010 fellowships from African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), an initiative of the Gender and Diversity program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

In an award ceremony held at the CGIAR World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya, on 27 July 2010, women scientists from across the continent, including a fruit pathologist, a catfish breeder and a pigeon pea researcher, were recognized and honoured for their contribution to alleviating hunger and poverty in Africa through their agricultural research and innovation.

Over 780 women scientists from 54 institutions competed for this year’s fellowships.

Margaret Lukuyu

One of this year’s winners is Kenyan Margaret Lukuyu, who worked with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in a Kenya Smallholder Dairy Project that helped raise milk production among the country’s smallholder farmers. Lukuyu’s role in this project, conducted from 1997 to 2005, was to research and promote strategic concentrate feeding regimes that could be easily adopted by Kenya’s many smallholder livestock keepers. This project not only helped better the livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers in central Kenya but also was instrumental in bringing about national dairy policy reform and increased support for the country’s massive ‘informal milk sector’, which trades in unpasteurized (‘raw’) milk. 

‘I’m excited by the AWARD Fellowship and honoured that my work in improving the dairy sector has been recognized,’ she said. Now working with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Lukuyu is looking forward to the training and other benefits she will now receive from the AWARD program, including building her leadership qualities, learning how to write grant proposals and to access information, and opportunities to network with other scientists as she embarks on her PhD research.

Esther Kanduma

Esther Kanduma, another 2010 AWARD winner, is a researcher based at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI hub located within ILRI’s Nairobi laboratories. Kanduma is focusing her PhD studies on using the genetic diversity of the tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, which transmits the parasite that causes East Coast fever to livestock, to come up with effective anti-tick vaccines. The award recognized her contribution to ILRI’s East Coast fever vaccine project, which is currently piloting a vaccine in East Africa to protect the region’s cattle herds against this lethal infection. ‘Through the exposure that AWARD fellowships provide, I hope to improve my ability to communicate, to increase my professional visibility and to help build a network of scientists researching tick and tick-borne diseases,’ she said.

Other winners of AWARD 2010 fellowships doing agricultural research at ILRI include Bridgit Muasa and Teddy Amuge.

 Speaking during the ceremony, Vicki Wilde, director of the AWARD program, said: ‘Today we debunked the myth that qualified African women researchers “aren’t out there”—an excuse often used to justify why women aren’t hired or promoted within agricultural research institutions, universities and corporations.’ The AWARD fellowships, she added, show that ‘African women are offering smart and innovative solutions that are relevant to real issues in the continent’.

 Now in its third year, the AWARD program has received over 1600 applications by qualified women scientists from all over Africa. It has awarded over 180 fellowships, with the fellows benefiting from two years of hands-on training in mentoring, partnerships, science skills, and leadership. The fellowships are awarded for intellectual merit, leadership capacity and the potential of a scientist’s research to improve the daily lives of the continent’s millions of women and other smallholder farmers. Through its fellowship program, AWARD works directly to break down traditional barriers to the development of female scientific careers. Such roadblocks include a lack of role models and mentors for aspiring African women agricultural scientists.

 The AWARD program is a project of the CGIAR’s Gender and Diversity Program and is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development.

 A list of 2010 AWARD Fellowship Recipients including their research topics is available at http://awardfellowships.org/~awfellow/images/stories/award/downloads/2010%20Fellows_research%20areas.pdf  

To watch the speech by Vicki Wilde, Director, CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program and AWARD, please visit  http://www.blip.tv/file/3935740.

To watch the speech by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Vice President (Policy and Partnerships) for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, please visit http://blip.tv/file/3934337.

For a related article please visit http://www.genderdiversity.cgiar.org/newsletter/GD%20News96_AWARD2010_Special%20Issue_full%20story.pdf

For more information please also visit www.awardfellowships.org and www.cgiar.org