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.

* * * 
 
 
‘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
 

 
* * * 

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