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Investing in the next generation of African scientists addressing climate change

On September 16, 2019, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) in collaboration with France’s Agropolis Fondation inaugurated the first cohort of the One Planet Fellowship consisting of 45 outstanding scientists working on a wide range of agricultural research topics. The scientists, referred to as Laureate Candidates, were selected from a pool of 1,523 applicants from 12 countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia.

The One Planet Fellowship is a US$19.2 million initiative investing in 630 African and European agricultural scientists by building a vibrant, highly connected, and intergenerational network of African and European scientists leading climate change research. In a departure from convention, the One Planet Fellowship will offer an opportunity for African scientists to mentor emerging European scientists who will gain insights on African research priorities and valuable exposure to the context and conditions within which scientific research is conducted in Africa. The three-year non-residential career development program will equip young African and European scientists with leadership and scientific skills to help smallholder farmers cope with the changing climate.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report records that local communities dependent on agricultural livelihoods are at disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences of climate change. Acknowledging that ‘climate change impacts everyone but not equally’ members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), at the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties (CoP) established a gender action plan to support the implementation of gender-responsive decisions in managing climate change. The One Planet Fellowship will pay particular attention to building scientists’ gender analysis skills to enable them to develop interventions that respond to the needs of the diverse local communities including women and the youth.

“We anticipate that gender-responsive climate adaptation solutions developed by One Planet Laureates will have the added impact of helping bridge the gender gap that currently exists in Africa’s agricultural sector,” noted Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, AWARD Director, speaking at the launch.

Speaking at the launch, Dr. Oscar Mugenyi, Director of Research and Innovation at the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya noted that, “Climate change continues to devastate crop production and supply chains undermining poverty eradication and food security efforts across Africa.” He reiterated that scientific research is critical to helping communities adapt, and Kenya is proud to be the home of AWARD hosted at the World Agroforestry.”

Mr. Oliver Oliveros Deputy Director, Partnerships and International Relations at Agropolis Fondation reaffirmed their commitment to support the creation of a network of European laboratories and research institutions that will serve as hosts for advanced science training for the Laureate Candidates.

Mr. Jean-Jacques Goron, the Managing Director of the BNP Paribas Foundation, highlighted the Bank’s commitment to supporting initiatives that are sustainable and socially inclusive, such as the One Planet Fellowship.

With the One Planet Fellowship seeking to curate a series of conversations on advancing the capacity of Africa to cope with change, the launch included the first stakeholder dialogue on the status and progress in coping with climate change in Africa. The discussion moderated by Dr. Kamau-Rutenberg featured Dr. Arona Diedhiou, Research Director for the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD), Dr. Marie-Christine Cormier-Salem, Director, Agropolis Fondation, Professor Shem Wandiga, Ag. Director, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation (ICCA), University of Nairobi, Professor Hortense Atta Diallo, Vice President Planning, Programming and External Relations, Nangui Abrogoua University, Côte d’Ivoire and Dr. Pierre Grard, Regional Representative, The French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). Some key recommendations from the dialogue included the need for intra-continental collaborations and development of contextualized solutions.

The launch of the inaugural cohort also marked the commencement of the Fellowship activities with a week-long Fellowship and Mentoring Orientation Workshop (MOW) for the 45 Laureate Candidates and their Mentors (45 senior scientists carefully chosen to match the Candidates’ area of expertise).

In a bid to get more exposure on emerging technologies and latest advances in climate change research, the workshop participants visited the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) headquarters, the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and The Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC).

See launch photos here: https://bit.ly/2lBi4FC

See MOW photos here: https://bit.ly/2n7ndpd

See profiles of the 45 Laureate Candidates here: https://bit.ly/2lXJogZ