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New US $15M fellowship program to support Africa’s adaptation to climate change launched

December 12, 2017, at the One Planet Summit in Paris, France: The Government of France, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the BNP Paribas Fondation and African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) announced the One Planet Fellowship.  AWARD will manage this 15 million dollar, five-year initiative aimed at building a vibrant, highly connected, and intergenerational network of African and European scientist leaders who are equipped to lead next generation research in climate adaptation.

Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The continent is likely to suffer serious consequences, such as prolonged periods of drought and lower crop yields. Given the urgency of the situation and the anticipated long-term impacts on the environment, it is vital to build up a network of scientists whose innovations can help Africa’s smallholder farmers not just survive climate change but actually thrive.

Recognizing the critical role of agriculture in climate adaptation, The One Planet Fellowship will build a network of outstanding climate adaptation researchers in Africa and Europe, connecting fellows with junior and senior colleagues. These scientists will address climate adaptation through research into critical intervention points such as crop improvement, crop protection, heat- and drought-tolerance, soil science, carbon sequestration, nitrogen use efficiency, improved photosynthesis, and extending to research into disruptive models for reaching small farmers at risk from harvest losses due to climate change.  The One Planet Fellowship team will also manage opportunities for participants to join yearly meetings at one of the key conventions in the field (e.g. the United Nations Climate Change Conferences- COP).

While the entire design of fellowship program represents an innovative approach to building leadership capacity and strong and intergenerational professional networks within the climate change scientific community, three key elements stand out:

  1. While interventions or innovations designed with men in mind are often adjusted to meet the needs of women, the One Planet Fellowship will be the first time that an intervention that was originally designed to empower African women scientists is piloted for cohorts of both male and female scientists from both Africa and Europe.
  2. While conventional wisdom assumes that knowledge always flows from Europe to Africa, the One Planet fellowship provides an uncommon opportunity for African scientists to train and mentor emerging scientists from Europe. African scientists have a unique understanding of the challenges that climate change poses to African smallholder farmers and, by supervising internships for emerging European scientists at African host research institutions, African scientists will have the opportunity to share their context-specific knowledge with young European scientists.
  3. Climate change solutions must hold inclusivity, and especially gender responsiveness at their core if they are to truly change people’s lives. Gender responsiveness in agricultural research is at the core of AWARD’s work and the fellowship will build scientists’ skill in deploying a gender lens to analyze the potential of their research to bridge the gender gap especially when it comes to access to new technology.

The first round of One Planet Fellowship commences next year (2018) and will be open to African scientists based in sub-Saharan Africa.

About AWARD

Since 2008, AWARD has worked to strengthen the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science. Building individually tailored two-year fellowships, it has aimed to empower them to contribute more effectively to alleviating poverty and increasing food security in sub-Saharan Africa. The AWARD Fellowships are career-development opportunities which invest in the continent’s high potential female agricultural scientists to ensure that a growing cohort of capable, confident, and influential African women scientists is available to lead critical advances and innovations for the agricultural sector.

The AWARD Fellowship has a well-recognized track record of success. So far, 1,158 agricultural scientists (84 percent of them women) from over 300 institutions have benefited directly from our investments. Specifically, 465 female agricultural scientists from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, have earned an AWARD Fellowship. In addition, five women from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal participated in a pilot project aimed at francophone Africa. So far, 397 scientists have benefited as mentors to AWARD Fellows and 366, in turn, have benefited as mentees of AWARD Fellows.

Demand for AWARD Fellowships remains high. By 2016 we had received 4,261 applications from agricultural scientists representing some 500 institutions across Africa, all vying for the 465 fellowships.  The 2017 call for applications focusing on female scientists from Francophone Africa attracted 633 applications for 11 available openings.

In addition to high numbers of applications, AWARD has also continued to face pressure to open up our interventions for male scientists. The creation of One Planet Summit paves a way towards meeting this undeniably huge demand.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About the BNP Paribas Foundation
Under the oversight of the Foundation of France, the BNP Paribas Foundation has been a major player in corporate philanthropy for 30 years. It is also encouraging and contributing to the BNP Paribas’ philanthropic policy growth in all parts of the world wherever the Bank operates. The BNP Paribas Foundation’s activities are aimed at multidisciplinary philanthropy, supporting innovative projects dedicated to culture, social inclusion and the environment. It pays close attention to the quality of its commitment to its partners through a long-term commitment. Since 1984, over 300 cultural projects, 40 research programs and a thousand social and educational initiatives have earned its support in France and around the world.