• Twist of fate: A fellow’s journey towards production of virus-free plants for improved yields

    Melvis Cossa selecting plants for in-vitro introduction and virus cleaning

    Born in Maputo, Mozambique, Melvis Cossa, a 2015 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Fellow, best describes her career in agricultural research as a “Twist of fate”. While studying for her bachelor’s degree at the Pedagogical University of Mozambique, Cossa was required to choose an area of specialization.  On a whim, she selected biology, and began an internship in a biotechnology laboratory where she became fascinated with the laboratory work, thus, paving a path for her in the field of agriculture. Later she earned a master’s degree in genetics and biotechnology from the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, in Juiz de Fora, Brazil. It was during this time in her career path that she learnt about AWARD through a friend, and she was then encouraged to apply in hopes of improving her science research skills.

    Today, Cossa works as a senior researcher in a biotechnology laboratory, where she propagates tuber crops such as cassava, irish and sweet potato, which are cleaned to be virus-free. The virus-free crops are then distributed to the smallholder farmers to improve their yields. " The principal aim of this work is to have virus-free plants and a large number of the plants going out to the farmers," says Cossa.

    For Cossa, finding a significant connection with the farmer is precedent. She discloses that she would like to genetically transform crops so that they are resistant to diseases. " I want to be remembered for generations as a woman who advanced the smallholder farmer to greater heights through improved cassava and banana varieties. It is what i have always wanted, to identify with and to help the smallholder farmer whichever way i can," she asserts.

    Cossa affirms that the AWARD Fellowship has been a tremendous contributor to her career success this far. She mentions that the fellowship approach gave her the push that she needed to realize this dream and she has gained networks across the globe to help her in her research career.

    She adds that having gone through the fellowship, she now feels transformed and renewed both professionally and personally. " I feel so empowered," Cossa concludes.