Young scientist breeds new wheat varieties

John Bakum
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Students often consider agriculture to be not cool. However, anyone who delves deeper into the science of agriculture will discover that it is really an exciting area to explore and enjoy.

Women have built up successful careers in agricultural science in Africa. Jemanesh Haile, from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) in Addis Ababa, is one of them, and she credits her husband for her academic success.

‘My husband is one of those model African men who encourage women to develop their own careers. During my periods of absence for my study he takes care of our kids. If it had not been for him, I would never have achieved my scientific goals.’

In 2010, with four other young female scientists, Jemanesh won the Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum (WIT) Early Career Award for women working on wheat in the early stages of their careers.

And in 2013, she was awarded the first prize in the Young Professionals in Science competition with her study to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) that confer resistance to stem rust in Ethiopian durum wheat. The results of her research have made useful information on stem rust genes and QTL available specifically to Ethiopian wheat breeders.

Jemanesh entered the Young Professionals in Science competition because she saw the event as a way to contact other young African scientists. She also thought that winning a prize in such a competition would advance her career and open up opportunities for new research projects that would improve the livelihoods of African farmers. ‘But it is not this prize, or the WIT Early Career Award, but the practical benefits farmers receive from my research on stem rust resistance that are encouraging me to continue my career in agricultural research.’

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Exceprt from "Life Stories of African Women and Young Professionals in Science" published by  the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Foundation for Science (IFS)