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Life stories of African women and young professionals in science

African agricultural scientists are making a difference on the continent and internationally

January 29, 2015

This booklet takes a look at the life stories of 12 remarkable African agricultural scientists who are making a difference on the continent and internationally. Ten of them are the women and young researchers who were winners of the 3rd Africa wide science competitions. They are motivated to be part of the solution, and not the problem. Indeed, as researchers they are helping to transform agriculture by developing science-based solutions to some of the complex issues facing African farmers. Their journeys to becoming agricultural scientists are strikingly similar: most of them come from smallholder farms, and their flair for science was spotted and nurtured by their secondary school teachers.

cover-women-and-young-professionals300Africa needs more agricultural scientists, and in particular more women scientists.

Since 2009, CTA, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), IFS and other partners have jointly organised Africa-wide science competitions targeting women and young professionals in science to showcase their research and celebrate their successes. The 3rd Africa-wide Science Competitions held in 2012/13 brought to light 10 extraordinary African scientists – seven women and three men, seven of whom were under 40 years old. They are inspiring individuals with a clear vision of how they will contribute to agricultural development and economic transformation in Africa.

Becoming an agricultural scientist in Africa today.

The winners have travelled far and worked hard to achieve their early-career goals – some have come from small farms, through primary and secondary schools, to universities – and now have begun to reap the rewards of their efforts. For the women scientists, in particular, the journey has at times been arduous, breaking stereotypes of women’s capacity to engage in science and balancing their career aspirations with their family commitments. Many of the scientists started their journey with aspirations to become a doctor, lawyer or mathematician. But for various reasons, they changed course to pursue careers as agricultural scientists. They all enjoy their research and teaching assignments and they are thrilled every time they see farmers using the results of their research. They value their collaboration with colleagues and enjoy participating in international agricultural research networks, as well as the prestige gained in winning awards and gaining recognition for their research.

"If you want to transform your community and ensure people have enough to eat, agricultural science is the career of choice."

The 10 winners of the Africa-wide Science Competitions have benefitted from having role models who were a source of inspiration and strength in their science journeys. Now, they themselves are role models in their own right. In this booklet, we profile their life stories and those of two other leading African scientists to provide a source of inspiration for aspiring young scientists in Africa and beyond who might be considering a career in agriculture. As one of the winners featured in this booklet said, ‘If you want to transform your community and ensure people have enough to eat, agricultural science is the career of choice.’ We strongly concur with that view of the power of science and innovation in transforming the lives of rural communities. The combined Africa-wide Science Competitions targeting women and young professionals is a small but strategic effort to shine a light on those promising African individuals who are using science and innovation to improve the lives of smallholder farmers.

We hope you will enjoy reading the stories of these 12 remarkable African agricultural scientists who are making a difference on the continent and internationally.

Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)

Graham Haylor, Director of the International Foundation for Science (IFS)


Download your copy of Life stories of African women and young professionals in science (1.38 MB)