Professor Idah Sithole-Niang, Former AWARD Steering Committee Chair, Elected World Academy of Sciences Fellow

Earlier this year, former chairperson of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Steering Committee, Professor Idah Sithole-Niang, was elected as a Fellow at the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). The only candidate from Zimbabwe, she was one of 16 women out of a total of 55 individuals who were elected as 2018 TWAS Fellows. An outstanding agricultural scientist and a member of the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences, Professor Sithole-Niang was one of the first members of the AWARD Steering Committee, recruited by AWARD founder Vicki Wilde after they met at a CGIAR conference in 2008. She continued to serve on the AWARD Steering Committee for nine years, from 2008 to 2016, which includes five years as chairperson. Says Vicki Wilde, “Professor Niang’s good guidance and dedication to AWARD mission have been an important factor in AWARD’s success. I am so very grateful she accepted a position on the AWARD Steering Committee.”

TWAS—based in Trieste, Italy—is a merit-based global science academy that works to support sustainable prosperity through research, education, policy, and diplomacy. The main criterion for election as a TWAS member is scientific excellence. Only those scientists who have attained the highest international standards and have made significant contributions to the advancement of science can be nominated as Fellows and admitted as members.

Expressing her delight at the news, Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg had this to say: "Professor Niang was the chair of the AWARD steering committee when I joined AWARD in 2014; she chaired the panel that appointed me and I was extremely honoured to have worked with her and under her counsel. We continue to look up to her and hope we will still benefit from her immense experience".

Professor Sithole Niang has long been passionate about using agricultural advancements to improve the lives of smallholder farmers. Born in Hwange, Zimbabwe, she obtained her BSc in biochemistry from the University of London, and as a recipient of a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Fellowship, earned her PhD in biochemistry from Michigan State University. Now a professor in the biochemistry department at the University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Professor Sithole-Niang researches breeding transgenic crop improvement, including creating pest-resistant crops and increasing the nutritional value of crops, focusing specifically on cowpea. She is an ardent advocate for biosafety, acting as the Technical Advisor for sub-Saharan Africa in the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Program for Biosafety Systems.

‘Congratulations to Idah on becoming a fellow at the World Academy of Sciences. She has contributed immensely to science and to having more women in science both in Africa and globally has been enormous. I am honoured to have served with Idah on the AWARD Steering Committee.’ Dr Jemimah Njuki, the chairperson of AWARD Steering Committee.

AWARD is proud to be associated with Professor Sithole-Niang, whose achievements in agricultural research and innovation—specifically in the cowpea value chain—have tremendously influenced rural smallholders. Congratulations, Professor!