Nov 15, 2021
An AWARD Fellow’s Commitment to Improving Nutrition in Rwanda

When Dr. Marguerite Niyibituronsa was selected for the prestigious AWARD Fellowship in 2015, she was on a mission to strengthen her ability to help the Rwandese population improve their nutrition. She aspired to obtain a doctoral degree to advance her career and enhance her research and leadership skills. Six years later, she realized her dream, graduating with a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenya. Her research placement at Ghent University in Belgium, where she had earlier completed her Advanced Science Training (AST) as part of her AWARD Fellowship, catalyzed her pursuit of higher educational qualifications.

She describes her nine-month research placement at Ghent University as a phenomenal success and a door-opener! The experience enabled her to pursue her passion, researching the potential of fermented soybean milk using state-of-the-art technologies while charting a path toward her doctoral studies.

Global food insecurity has been compounded by a series of shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence shows that global hunger and malnutrition persists, with the world remaining off track toward its 2030 goals of ending hunger and malnutrition. Studies further show that 20 percent of Africa’s population is experiencing hunger, with millions of children at risk of acute malnutrition. In Rwanda, the gap widens further, with 38 percent of children under five suffering from acute malnutrition.

Niyibituronsa’s research addresses these issues by educating smallholder farmers on postharvest nutrition and enabling rural women in sub-Saharan Africa to access more safe food. As part of her research, she trains and sensitizes farmers on the harmful effects of mycotoxin on human health, good postharvest handling practices, and cooking demonstrations in target districts where malnutrition is high.

Milking Soya

Since 2014, Niyibituronsa has extensively researched the potential of soybeans to improve nutrition and livelihoods. She knows that soybeans can transform smallholders’ livelihoods and is committed to ensuring they have the knowledge and skills to optimize the crop. Niyibituronsa is documenting the potential of different soybean varieties, identifying those that farmers can easily adopt and carry out unassuming value addition.

Niyibituronsa’s research has revealed that farmers can use simple processing techniques such as soaking the soybeans to obtain better quality soymilk which they can ferment to enhance the nutritional value.

A timely career accelerator

Niyibituronsa attributes her success and career growth to the AWARD Fellowship. The flagship AWARD Fellowship has, since 2008, equipped top women agricultural scientists across SSA to accelerate agricultural gains by strengthening their science and leadership skills. She explains that she has gained more knowledge on gender-responsive research, strengthened her scientific writing skills, and expanded her visibility and drive to succeed. She has won grants and participated in different speaking engagements, including the 2020 Nutrition Society’s Winter Conference in London, UK. “I have gained so much confidence, and my leadership skills have also accelerated. I want to attend more conferences to liaise with other specialists in my field and write more successful proposals. Now, I also have more influence on my peers, and I intend to establish more collaborative research with them,” she states.

The Advanced Science Training is a crucial component of the AWARD Fellowship’s objective of strengthening AWARD Fellows’ scientific research skills. ASTs give women scientists like Niyibituronsa a chance to gain access to cutting-edge technologies, learn new skills, and enhance their ability to solve the pressing needs of farmers in their home countries.


African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). Hosted by World Agroforestry Centre, United Nations Avenue, Gigiri. P.O Box 30677-00100 Nairobi, Kenya.

Email: awardqueries@cifor-icraf.org | Tel: +254 (0) 20 722 4242