By Duncan Mboyah
For the second year running since inception of East Africa’s women crop scientists last year, 11 scientists have been awarded the competitive Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) fellowships for career enhancement.
The program aims at increasing skills, visibility and contributions to science and development of women who work in crop science and biotechnology in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The program contributes directly to the Millennium Development Goal to promote gender equality and empower women.
According to the head of Gender and Diversity Programme at CGIR Vicki Wilde this year’s winners show great promise for the future of women involved in agricultural sciences in Africa.
“We recognize that many talented women drop out of science as they move up the ladder, and those who remain are less likely to attain leadership positions”, she says.
She however reiterated that the solutions to this human wastage in the fight against hunger can only be solved by identifying women’s talent and bring their experiences to the laboratory.
Ten of the fellowships are funded by The Rockefeller Foundation’s Africa Regional Program while one fellowship is sponsored by The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Development for a private sector winner.
For each of the women selected, the fellowship offers an attractive two-year package aimed at strengthening her scientific and leadership skills.
This includes funds to support presentation of her research at a major scientific conference each year, sponsorship to the renowned CGIAR Women’s Leadership Course and Negotiations skills training, and access to key resources via linkages to regional and global networks.
Their scientific expertise is enhanced through monthly mentoring sessions with senior scientists in their fields. In the second year of the fellowship program, the winners will in turn mentor junior women scientists in their respective countries.
By the end of this 2-year fellowship these women and their research will be well known, not only in the region but also worldwide.
This year, four senior crop researchers from East African universities and six senior CGIAR agricultural scientists have shown their dedicated support by volunteering to mentor the fellowship winners.
In an interesting exception, Dr. Usha Zehr who is Chair of CGIAR’s Private Sector Committee and Director of Research at Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company in India has offered to mentor a private sector fellowship winner Josephine Okot.
The Director of the Rockefeller Foundations Africa Regional Programme Dr. Peter Matlon says that the response from the first group of fellows launched in 2005 had been overwhelmingly positive.
The first beneficiaries have benefited substantially from improved career goal setting, enhanced confidence, new leadership skills and wider professional networking opportunities and are now sharing that learning with their junior counterparts, helping spread the benefits of this innovative program.
In this years intake Kenya’s lucky scientists are Margaret A. Mulaa – Senior Principle Research Scientist (Entomology), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute; Lusike A. Wasilwa – Programme Officer (Horticulture & Industrial Crops), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute; Florence M. Olubayo – Senior Lecturer (Plant Science & Crop Protection), University of Nairobi; Charity K. Mutegi – Research Officer (Aflatoxin & Nutrition studies), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and Linnet S. Gohole – Lecturer (Agricultural Entomology), Moi University, Eldoret.
Uganda will be represented by Josephine A. Okot – Managing Director (Seed Production), Victoria Seeds Ltd.; Jolly M. Kabirizi – Senior Research Officer (Nutrition), National Agricultural Research Organization and Jane Nabawanuka-Oputa – Research Officer (Agro-Processing), Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute.
Tanzania has Everina J. Lukonge –Agricultural Research Officer (Plant Breeding), Agricultural Research Institute-Ukiriguru; Agnes M. S. Nyomora – Lecturer (Plant Biology), University of Dare es Salaam and Kiddo J. Mtunda – Senior Agricultural Research Officer (Plant Breeding & Crop Protection), Sugarcane Research Institute, Kibaha.
11 scientists out of the 104 applicants benefited from the same kitty last year.