Oluyemisi Fawole

Advancing Research from Nigeria to North Carolina

Three years ago, I applied for the AWARD Fellowship, a 2-year career development program specifically for women agricultural scientists across sub-Saharan Africa. At the time, I was working as a female agricultural scientist at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. I saw this fellowship as opportunity to expand my knowledge and, ultimately, have a positive impact on research and development in Africa, and, specifically, Nigeria.

As an AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) fellow, I had the opportunity to submit a proposal for a AST (Advanced Science Training) program, which puts researchers in connection with international centers of excellence based on their research focus. AWARD sponsored a 3-month ‘research attachment’ with Catherine Feuillet’s Trait Research team at CropScience, a division of Bayer, in Research Triangle Park, NC. My work in agricultural microbiology and soil biomes has focused on addressing soil pollution and finding ways to improve soil health and fertility. This ultimately has the potential to improve crop productivity and therefore the livelihood of smallholder farmers as well as enhance food security for communities.

In Africa and other developing countries, women represent a large percent of the agricultural labor force. In many cases, women are the driving force behind agricultural production, processing and utilization – the entire food cycle. AWARD works to provide a resilient, gender-responsive agricultural system that drives prosperity and food and nutrition for Africa.

Through the AWARD Fellowship and my AST research attachment, I’ve strengthened my skillset and expanded my knowledge in this area. I’ve gained direction and confidence to find scientific solutions that address the problems these women are facing.

Oluyemisi Fawole - Advancing Research from Nigeria to North Carolina
Oluyemisi Fawole - Advancing Research from Nigeria to North Carolina
Oluyemisi Fawole
is one of 70 women who were offered the Fellowship which included a 3-month research attachment with Bayer in North Carolina.

But I’ve gotten much more than knowledge from this opportunity: I feel a new sense of responsibility to lead agricultural research back in Nigeria. This experience has shed light on the issue of limited resources we have back in my laboratory in Nigeria. I think the most surprising part of this has been the abundance of materials; the disposable nature of materials that makes work easier and safer; the strong adherence to biosafety regulations in the laboratory; and the automation of processes.

To me, this program is a reminder of how valuable my perspective is as a woman agricultural scientist. It shows how even such a specific perspective can breed innovation that contributes to the wellbeing of a community and spurs solutions for smallholder farmers.

On a broader scope, my AST experience at the Bayer Innovation Center reinforced my opinion on the importance of having diversity in ethnicity, gender, culture and discipline in science. Bringing different points of view together creates a cross pollination of ideas. We come up with new approaches to problems and find better, more sustainable solutions.

For women wanting to pursue jobs in science and agricultural research: my biggest piece of advice is to work hard. I made my way into this field with academic excellence, personal passion, independent studying and the help of mentors for guidance.

To any woman interested in scientific research, I recommend the ‘AWARD model’ for empowering women scientists. It cultivates self-knowledge, confidence, vision, direction and motivation, while also providing networking opportunities and chances for collaboration.

Think about problems in the community as fuel, and let them motivate you to find solutions with research and improve the livelihoods of the people around you.

Learn about AWARD opportunities and the fellows sponsored by the program.

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