On February 18, 2019, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Fellows and Mentors comprising the second cohort of the Pan-African AWARD Fellowship convened in Nairobi for the first activity of the Fellowship, the Mentoring Orientation Workshop (MOW). Following a highly competitive and rigorous selection process, AWARD offered the Fellowship to 24 top women scientists from nine francophone and four anglophone African countries. The MOW marked the beginning of an 18- month journey that will support leadership and scientific skills development, learning exchanges and professional networking to widen the pipeline of leadership for the women scientists.
The Fellows hail from Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sénégal, Tanzania and Togo.
Speaking at the opening of the MOW, AWARD Deputy Director of Programs, Dr. Michele Mbo’o-Tchouawou reiterated the Fellowship’s primary place as AWARD’s vehicle towards ensuring that confident, capable and influential scientists are available to help solve the agricultural problems plaguing Africa.
Kingsley Etchu, Scientific Coordinator of Animal Production and Fisheries at the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD) in Cameroun, described the MOW as a rich and rewarding experience. He singled out the coaching sessions where each Fellow-Mentor pair met with the trainers to discuss the mentoring process and expectations. He commended the criteria used for selecting mentors, where besides a fellow submitting names of their preferred mentors, AWARD also evaluates the mentor’s capacity.
Mareme Niang, a 2013 AWARD Fellow and a Mentor in the current cohort appreciated the expansion of the AWARD Fellowship into francophone Africa and the provision for language support in the delivery of the training sessions.
In her welcoming remarks, AWARD Director, Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg noted that mentoring is a powerful tool that the Mentors should invest not just on the Fellows but also their junior staff and colleagues. She added that mentors play a critical role and the skills acquired in the process will contribute to the development of the Fellows’ institutions.
The Fellows and Mentors also visited several research institutions in Kenya including the mycotoxin laboratory at the University of Nairobi, headed by professor Sheila Okoth, a 2008 AWARD Fellow; the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub and the World Agroforestry’s Soils Laboratory.
In 2017, AWARD launched the Pan-African AWARD Fellowship to extend the benefits of its flagship initiative— the AWARD Fellowship— to women agricultural scientists from francophone Africa and to maximize interactions between women scientists from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. See photos from the event here.
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