I am a beneficiary of the Carnegie postdoctoral fellowship awarded to support my research focusing on grain legumes and dryland cereals. Training of young scientists towards masters and doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees was embedded within the fellowship. Collaborative networking to exploit research potential by leveraging on available resources across institutions was adopted, whereby a multi-institutional framework to cater for regional and or international collaboration in training and research was embraced. A total of 6 students were brought on board under the fellowship, who are envisaged to be future researchers with passion of driving Agricultural interventions for food and nutritional security forward. Additional international networking was sought, that created a strong platform for student knowledge exchange and support in their research. Through the fellowship, technologies geared on enhancing legume and sorghum production in the region were generated. The postgraduate students have been exposed to modern research methodologies and their applications so as to be future champions in modernization of agricultural research operations for impact. My skills as a leader in impact oriented research have been enhanced, thus a major milestone in support of my career advancement.
Rationale of the fellowship
I was compelled to go for the fellowship given its niche in embracing interdisciplinary in relation to my research interests, need for strategic partnerships for delivery and professional development support while generating new crop of young scientists. The rationale of the fellowship was to support and strengthen capacity for impact-oriented research via training while promoting collaborative networking to exploit research potential. This is in response to the changing development paradigms that call for ability and technical competency in quality research to cope with emerging challenges. It was further envisaged as a platform for providing research and mentoring support to postgraduate students pursuing degrees in agricultural sciences to generate young scientists who are able to address emerging societal challenges.
Partnership and collaboration act as an avenue for technology development and delivery, and the fellowship has contributed to strengthening of regional and international collaboration among universities and international research centers. The fellowship has contributed to the delivery of the RUFORUM flagship programme, CREATE (Creating Research and Teaching Excellence) under its Vision 2030 strategy, training students from different African countries, while increasing research output through publications; and increased output following leveraged resources from the different institutions working together. Thus the fellowship has proved the saying that, “the issues we face are so big and the targets are so challenging that we cannot do it alone”
Approach for delivery
In the agricultural sector at large, there are currently glaring weaknesses in generation of context specific technologies and their consolidation towards enhancing food security. This can be achieved by having well-grounded human resource as specialists to offer refined specific solutions. The fellowship focused on strengthening the research competence of the fellow and a team of graduate students by conducting impact oriented research. This provided opportunity to train graduate students while enhancing technology development to generate products that meet market demands. Working together with the mentor and academic supervisors for the graduate students, a menu of research topics to be pursued by the graduate students were identified.
The research areas were aligned to the International Crops Research institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) dryland legumes and sorghum/millet improvement program, to enable co-funding technical expertise to support the research. The key research activities aimed at building a solid base for dryland legumes and cereals breeding to address challenges such as biotic stresses, malnutrition and climate variability. Students were recruited under the Intra African Mobility programme that funds tuition, so that resources can be leveraged from the fellowship to support their research. A total of 6 students were beneficiaries of the fellowship, including 4 Msc and 2 PhD, who are envisaged to be future researchers with passion of driving Agricultural interventions for food and nutritional security to the next level. A multi-institutional interaction approach and a flexible, sustainable framework to cater for regional and or international collaboration in training and research was put in place. This included Makerere University, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics ICRISAT, National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) and the University of Georgia (UGA). Through the collaboration, the students have been exposed to international networks including interaction with the peanut innovation laboratory initiative leaders. Through the initiative, agricultural technologies geared on enhancing legume and sorghum production in the region are being generated.
Enhanced capacity of post-graduate students as crop of new scientists
The postgraduate students have been capacitated to use the available resources to generate cutting edge scientific knowledge through field research. Leveraging resources from the three institutions, the students have been exposed to the use of modern Breeding Management Systems (BMS) in designing and managing nurseries, analysing data and automated operations. The students are able to set up field experiments, collect and analyse data. Through the mentorship, the students have been groomed to become independent confident scientists through exposure to scientific forums where they have done presentations on their work. This has further contributed to my career development since It has a mile stone having mentored such a number of young scientists.
My enhanced Mentoring Capacity and research output as the fellow
The mentorship support to me has sharpened my research and leadership skills through short coaching sessions. As a result, I have been able to support graduate students to become leaders in research from concept development, field experimentation, data collection and analysis and sharing of research output. The fellowship has further led to enhancement of my networking and collaborative ability in execution of agricultural research initiatives for impact. In addition, my writing skills have been enhanced and I have been able to draft five manuscripts for publication alongside presentations at conference.
My research output has more than doubled and I have been able to develop international partnerships that would act as a vehicle for success in the future. The fellowship has led to emergence of opportunities to work with researchers in the region. This consolidates my career path towards becoming a leader in impact oriented research.
My enhanced leadership skills as a research fellow
Following participation in leadership and management; and project managed training courses, I have been equipped with skills to lead teams for quality delivery. In addition, I have been positioned as a leader to spearhead execution of donor projects for quality delivery and impact. Given the need to mobilize resources for research, I have been equipped with skills for donor engagement and development of concept notes for funding. This way, I am well positioned to offer leadership in science including fundraising to support quality research.
Dr. James Mwololo from Kenya is a beneficiary of the Carnegie postdoctoral fellowship awarded to support my research focusing on grain legumes and dryland cereals. The fellowship has contributed to the delivery of the RUFORUM flagship programme, CREATE (Creating Research and Teaching Excellence) under its Vision 2030 strategy.