25 Africans selected for prestigious American fellowship programme

Participants come from Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania

Twenty-five Africans have been selected to participate in the prestigious Cornell University Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows Programme, which begins Aug. 27 in the United States.

The Fellows are travelling from their homes in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania to attend the 12-week intensive training programme, which is held on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York.

“The Fellows are an integral part of our mission to create a global network of science champions who are dedicated to helping smallholder farmers, reducing poverty and eliminating hunger,” said Sarah Evanega, director of the Alliance for Science.

The 2018 cohort includes Ghanaian farmer Evans Okomeng, who characterises his country’s delay in adopting genetically modified crops as “an injustice to the ordinary farmer”; and Winnie Nanteza, who has conducted extensive public outreach around biotech crops as development communication officer with the National Crops Resources Research Institute-Uganda.

Many of the 2018 Fellows are also staunch proponents of environmental sustainability and social justice – including Chidi Okereke, who advocates for human rights, gender equality and youth participation in governance in Nigeria.

Others, like Louis Juma Baraka of Tanzania and Okon Odiong Unung of Nigeria, are working directly with farmers. Some, such as Veronica Zulu Mwaba of Zimbabwe and Verenardo Meeme of Kenya, are already active in promoting effective science communications.

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Yewande Kazeem, a US communications professional who works extensively in Nigeria, has been named the Sathguru Fellow in recognition of the support provided by the Alliance’s main partner in India. The four Ugandan Fellows — Victoria Mbigidde, Alfred Namaasa, Winniefred Nanteza and Jonan Twinamatsiko — are sponsored by the Winkler Family Foundation. Knowledge Chikundi of Zimbabwe is the Gazard Family Fellow.

The GLFP — now training its third cohort — is designed to build the skills of emerging international leaders who are committed to advocating for access to agricultural innovation in their home countries. The course includes training in strategic planning, grassroots organising, the science of crop biotechnology, and effective communications.

Upon completion of this certificate programme, Fellows become members of an international professional network uniquely qualified to promote evidence-based decision-making around global issues such as food security, agricultural development, environmental sustainability and climate change. The network has partners on six continents.

The programme graduated 28 Fellows in 2016 and 25 Fellows in 2015. Together, they represent 20 countries across South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the United States.

These alumni Fellows have successfully launched activities in their home countries which support science education and expand public awareness of the role that agricultural biotechnology can play in improving the lives of smallholder farmers and boosting food security. They have also worked to advance science-based policies related to agriculture in their own countries.

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The GLFP is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as donations from individuals and sponsorships by partner organisations. Tax-deductible contributions are welcomed.

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