Fellowship targets African female scientists on climate change, agriculture solutions

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The third cohort of the One Planet Fellowship has been announced. The fellowship under investing in the next generation of African scientists, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) targets high potential scientists in a career acceleration process.

According to a statement from the firm, the US$19.2 million One Planet Fellowship seeks to invest in over 630 agricultural scientists, fostering their leadership expertise, strengthening their research skills, including integrating gender into their work, and catalyzing partnerships in Africa and between Africa and Europe. Since launching the inaugural call in 2019, AWARD has received over 2400 applications and, to date, 89 outstanding scientists from 14 African countries have been offered the One Planet Fellowship.

Selected candidates participate in an intensive, three-year non-residential, career acceleration process and those who complete it will become One Planet Laureates. “The One Planet Fellowship has made me appreciate the critical role of women in science to transform Africa,” says Austin Phiri, Chief Agricultural Research Scientist, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Malawi 2019 One Planet Laureate Candidate.

Mevoyon Pamela Karrel Afokpe Research Station Manager, East-West Seed, Benin 2019 One Planet Laureate Candidate adds, “The One Planet Fellowship is a lifeline that supports sustainable development and addresses climate change.”

The call seeks applicants from Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia. Deadline for applications is February 15, 2021.

Also read: L’ORÉAL-UNESCO ANNOUNCE WINNERS OF WOMEN’S SCIENCE AWARDS 202

Why the One Planet Fellowship?

As global temperatures continue to rise, the more costly and dangerous the impacts – from flooded homes and deadly heat waves to devastated supply chains and crop failure. These changes are already undermining global efforts to reduce poverty and for Africa to transform its agriculture and feed its growing population.

We urgently need to ramp up efforts to both reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate. Research and innovation are key tools that will enable the creation of suitable sustainable solutions. However, it is paramount that these address the needs and priorities of the diverse agricultural-dependent communities in Africa, recorded to be more than 70%.

More fundamentally, Africa must look to the next generation of young researchers to provide home-grown solutions. Africa therefore needs to develop its own scientific capacity to address the increasingly complex challenges we face in a changing climate. That is why the One Planet Fellowship has been created to build a robust pipeline of highly connected, inter-generational scientists leading climate change research across the continent.

“The world needs the next generation of climate scientists to be well equipped for the next generation and the next one! Adapting to climate change requires an investment in context-specific knowledge. That’s what One Planet Fellowship is all about,” states Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Director of AWARD.

Making a difference

The first and second cohort of One Planet Laureate candidates, all under the age of 40 years, are working to develop climate adaptation solutions for Africa’s smallholder farmers. Their research focuses on a variety of agricultural disciplines including livestock systems and greenhouse gas emissions; plant breeding; post-harvest management; natural resource management; food science, and research commercialization among others.

Miriam Karwitha, a 2019 laureate candidate from Kenya, is a crop protection scientist and a university lecturer who equips young professionals and the farming community in Kenya to promote reforestation and train them on better crop protection approaches.

Miriam Karwitha, Crop Protection Scientist and Lecturer at Kenya’s Egerton University is a 2019 One Planet Laureate Candidate.

Moussa Kante a Mali scientist and a 2020 laureate candidate specializes in agronomic research on phytosanitary issues, the protection of plants and the environment in general, and, more specifically, on Cassava Bacterial Blight.  He is working to understand the status of this disease (CBB) in new geographical areas. Ultimately, his research aims to provide a better understanding of the spread of this pathogen in production areas to help breeders select varieties with long-term resistance to CBB.

Selection of Participants

Through a competitive process, high potential African agricultural researchers whose research focuses on climate change are selected. Referred to as the One Planet Laureate Candidates, these researchers are paired with more established African researchers who are carefully chosen to match their area of expertise and career goals. These are the One Planet Fellowship Mentors. These Laureate Mentor-Mentee pairs commence a year-long mentorship relationship and are supported to build a successful partnership geared toward enhancing the fellows’ career growth. The pairs are also supported to attend a variety of leadership and science research skills courses.

In the second year of the Fellowship, the Laureate Candidates select emerging African scientists and emerging European scientists to whom they serve as mentors, creating a mentorship chain of three generations of scientists.

In the third and final year of the Fellowship, the top performing One Planet Laureate Candidates are supported to enhance their research skills by participating in a research placement at a leading European research institution that has a strong emphasis and reputation for climate change science. Here, the Candidates are also carefully paired with outstanding European researchers who serve as supervisors to mutually agreed research projects aimed at strengthening a specific skill for the One Planet Fellow.

Young, female researchers are particularly encouraged to apply.

Also read: African Development Bank fund Niger’s climate change

Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

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