The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) doctoral fellow, Gabriel Ddamulira was awarded the Carnegie Fund for Conference Attendance (CFCA) grant to attend the 4th International conference on Agriculture and Horticulture in Beijing, China. This competitive grant support African beneficiaries of corporation-supported postgraduate degree and postdoctoral programs to present papers to major international conferences. The conference’s theme was “Enhancing Modern and Sustainable Agricultural Practices” and in this article Gabriel reports on his experience at the conference.
The award came at a time when I most needed it because the abstract I had submitted for this conference had been accepted but I lacked support to attend the conference. Similarly, as a PhD fellow I had presented part of my research findings in national, regional and continental conferences but not at a global level, hence attending a conference in China was seen as a gateway to international exposure and a milestone in my career development as a scientist.
During the conference, I carefully listened and observed how scientists from diverse disciplines and countries presented their scientific work. From such experience I learnt several new presentation skills that one can employ to present his/her research findings a simpler and appropriate manner to end-users. In fact borrowing a leaf from presenters at the conference made me to deliver my presentation with self esteem and confidence which I never had in my life before. I later realized that this was my turning point from being a passive to active presenter.
Furthermore, in the conference plenary knowledge, new ideas, experiences were shared and research gaps which required joint action by researchers were identified. It was out of this sharing that I realized that scientists in other countries are using simple and appropriate practical technologies to address farmers’ problems. As an early career scientist I felt that from that moment my research should tailored towards developing simple technologies which can contribute to improved crop production in small holder farming systems.
In the same conference I had an opportunity to interact with four senior researchers from USA, India, Australia and China with purpose of getting collaborators that I can work with in future. Out of the interactions, researchers expressed interest in partnering with me for research. But the most fruitful interaction was with Dr. Ruizong Jia, a genetic engineering and biosafety advisor at the Institute of Tropical Biosciences and Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Tropical sciences who needed collaborators for projects aimed at building capacity of young researchers from developing countries. This was a golden opportunity for me since am at the verge of finishing my PhD, a stage that I need to get researchers to collaborate with in future.
In a nutshell the grant provided me with an opportunity to share my research findings with other scientists, interact with them, network and form collaborations for future research. Therefore, it is at this point that I wish to thank Carnegie and RUFORUM for this opportunity. But as I say this; out there, there are a number of students who might not get this chance because few donors fund conference attendance for students. Therefore, I argue other donors to emulate Carnegie’s example of supporting their students for international conferences because it contributes to student’s career development.
Gabriel Ddamulira is a PhD Fellow at Makerere University, Uganda under the Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Programme. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.