A Room Full of Dreams
BHEARD is a program established by "Feed the Future" to increase the number of agricultural scientists and strengthen scientific institutions in developing countries. It provides scholarships to African postgraduate students in agricultural research in African universities.
It is not often that you get 54 people- one for each country in Africa- in a room eager to pursue their dreams and ready to make a difference. It is also very empowering to identify with the zeal with which a group of young and old people can come together with one purpose; that of changing the world in which they live. That is the group we encountered at BHEARD.
We taught the scholars how to effectively communicate their research findings in a way that can help create national policy that benefits local farmers. To help them fully appreciate this concept, we addressed the basic question which is, why research findings do not reach or benefit the intended farmers. The short answer to this, we explained, is that "small-scale farmers are not scientists"
There is inadequate national framework in place for local farmers to benefit from the findings of agricultural researchers who regularly comb villages and mine local communities across Africa for research data, which they spirit away to test in controlled laboratory experiments. These research findings are finally presented at international symposia and published in world class journals leaving the farmers who generously donated the data, to continue living in poverty. To make food security a reality, we encouraged the participants to engage policy makers who work closely with the local farmers.
The AWARD team equipped the participants with leadership and communication skills that will help them in class and place them in the front row of transformational initiatives when they return to their countries. There is saying that goes "you can only bend a tree when it is young". We are glad to have aligned the careers of significant future leaders across the continent. The participants made a commitment to be the leader Africa needs. Looking back, I could not have asked for more – I saw the future.