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Female scientists brainstorm on how to boost sector

By Victoria Njoku
28 July 2016   |   4:14 am
Female agricultural scientists and farmers in Nigeria under the aegis of Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD) are seeking better ways to improve the fortunes of the sector.
Participants at the Nigerian arm of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD) 4th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and National Conference/Exhibition with the theme ‘’Challenging the New Frontiers in National Agricultural Transformation: Regional Enlightenment’’ held at the Princess Alexandria Auditorium, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, between July 10 to 13, 2016

Participants at the Nigerian arm of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD) 4th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and National Conference/Exhibition with the theme ‘’Challenging the New Frontiers in National Agricultural Transformation: Regional Enlightenment’’ held at the Princess Alexandria Auditorium, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, between July 10 to 13, 2016<br />

Identify steroids used in fertility drugs in two yams grown in Nigeria

Female agricultural scientists and farmers in Nigeria under the aegis of Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD) are seeking better ways to improve the fortunes of the sector.

The experts at NiWARD 4th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and National Conference/Exhibition with the theme, ‘‘Challenging the New Frontiers in National Agricultural Transformation: Regional Enlightenment’’ said that agriculture is the new crude oil for Nigeria because of the falling prices of the commodity. They also suggested effective support of smallholder farmers as the real palliative needed at these hard times.

The meeting was held at the Princess Alexandria Auditorium, University of Nigeria, Nsukka between July 10 to 13, 2016. NiWARD is the Nigerian arm of AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development). AWARD offers a two-year training fellowship to researchers working in the Agricultural sector. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and hosted by the World Agroforestry office at Nairobi, Kenya, NiWARD is hosted by Centre for Gender issues In Science and Technology (CEGIST) Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Ondo State.

The experts encouraged everyone present to be the solution to food security in their communities. They urged the participants on need to utilize their expertise for their individual success and the success of others within the region and in Nigeria as a whole.

The experts unveiled discovery on the presence of steroids used in fertility drugs in two of the yams grown in Nigeria and a simpler optimised method of identification and extraction.

They said findings have significant impact for increased yam production and improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers. The participants observed that agriculture is very much needed and women, who constitute 50 per cent of farmers in Nigeria need to be supported to produce more, in-act to produce surplus leading to better nutrition and a positive change in the farmers’ standard of living.

Participants came from different parts of the country and the AWARD headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. They included Nigerian AWARD fellows, mentors and mentees, rural women (Umuada Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi women of Enugu State) and some invited guests. Before the opening session, five members of NiWARD participated in a radio interview on the early morning show at the University radio station, Lion FM.

The Local Organising Committee of the Conference with representatives from NiWARD and AWARD paid a courtesy call to the Vice-chancellor, UNN who was represented by Prof. Osilike, the Director of Academic Planning Unit of the University. After the courtesy call, the conference was declared open. The Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, UNN, Professor Ngozi Nnam, presented the welcome address. She is the first female Dean of a Faculty of Agriculture in Nigeria and an AWARD Mentor.

The address was followed by addresses by the AWARD Director, Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg who was represented by Marion Kihori and the address of the Vice Chancellor, UNN, Professor Benjamin C. Ozumba respectively. Ms. Bukky Williams, NiWARD Project Coordinator, presented update on NIWARD activities.

Prof. Happiness Oselebe from Ebonyi State University, an AWARD fellow and mentor delivered a rousing and inspirational keynote presentation on the theme that encouraged everyone present to be the solution to food security in their communities. They need to utilize their expertise for their individual success and the success of others within the region and in Nigeria as a whole. She spent time extolling the professional virtues of Professor Stella Williams the initiator of NiWARD who after her tenure as the steering committee chairman of AWARD decided to increase the impact of the trained Agricultural Scientists by starting a national chapter in Nigeria since 2013. Professor Williams worked tirelessly to make that dream come true and it did. Prof. Oselebe encouraged everyone present to view Agriculture as a business instead of drudgery as it is usually seen.

The opening ceremony also included goodwill messages from the Gender Policy Unit, Ahmadu Bello University from the Director; Dr. Binta Abdulkarim represented by Mr. Elisha Timothy and Nigerian Institute for Trypanomiasis Research by Mrs. Binta Iliyasu, an AWARD Fellow. The session was brought to an end by a vote of thanks by the chairman LOC, Prof. Agwu E. Agwu followed by closing prayer by one of leaders of the Umuada Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi women group of Enugu State. The opening ceremony was rounded off was a group photograph of all the participants and invited guests.

After lunch, there were presentations by AWARD Fellows on their research and work for the transformation of the agricultural sector in Nigeria. Highlights of the conference include presentations by Dr. Joy Odimegwu from the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos, Mrs. Binta Iliyasu, Principal Research Officer, Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research and Dr. Ebele Amaechina from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Odimegwu presented her findings on the discovery of “Fertility Steroids in Our Yams.” She and her colleagues discovered the presence of the steroids used in fertility drugs in two of the yams grown in Nigeria and a simpler optimized method of identification and extraction.

The findings have significant impact for increased yam production and improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers. Mrs. Binta Iliyasu presented on “Engaging Youths in Agriculture through Role Modeling.” She uses her story and her work as biochemist working on the development of a DNA vaccine for Trypanomiasis to encourage girls especially in the North where is she from to continue their education especially in agriculture.

She encouraged the girls including who were forced to marry early like her to not let marriage be a hindrance. Through role modeling, the girls are encouraged to continue their education and be like Binta.

Amaechina presented on “Promoting Community Awareness Adaptation and Action for Climate Change.” Local communities are the hardest hit by the effects of climate change, using participatory techniques, Amaechina and her colleagues discovered that the locals in the communities they were working saw the linkages between climate change and their activities. Many considered climate change to be an act of God but also realized they needed capacity building in order to be able to develop adaptation techniques.