This Ivorian scientist wants to become a “model for girls”

SCIENCE – As a child, Adjata Kamara wondered why her father’s mango plantation in Cote d’Ivoire produced less than before, so to understand, she undertook extensive studies on plant health, especially yam.

As you can see in the video at the top of the article, At 25, Adjata Kamara is now a PhD student in sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and climate change. He has just been awarded by the L’Oréal Foundation and Unesco, which launched the initiative in 1998 For women in science (For women and science, in French), intended for “Give visibility” to researchers around the world.

The young researcher is one of the twenty winners of the Young Talents Award from Sub-Saharan Africa – South Africa excluded – from For women in science who will receive between 10,000 and 15,000 euros to help them in their work.

Biopesticides based on plant extracts

His research focuses on post-harvest biopesticides in yam, a plant grown specifically in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. “This is an important crop in the Ivory Coast, the third largest producing country after Nigeria and Benin in West Africa. We have noticed that the storage time of the yam has decreased dramatically: ten years ago we saw the rot two or three months after harvesting, now it is after one or two weeks ”.Adjata explains to AFP about the problems related to the cultivation of the tuber devastated by fungi that cause premature rot. Her goal now is to develop “Biopesticides based on plant extracts, fungi and beneficial bacteria”to treat without chemicals this anomaly that disturbs the production of this plant at the basis of food in various regions of the African continent.

“I was trying to understand”

His research determined that chemical pesticides “That impoverish the soil” and farmers’ harvesting methods that “make wounds on the yam”, has favored the rapid appearance of fungi that rot the plant and, finally, make it unsuitable for consumption. Hence the urgency to develop natural pesticides. Adjata says he has already obtained “satisfying results” in the laboratory and on small plots where they have begun to be tested.

Born in Bondoukou, in the north-east of the Ivory Coast, a region renowned for its yam tubers, the young researcher is the youngest of a family of sixteen children. “There, my father had a mango plantation where we noticed that the yield had decreased”he says, before adding “I was little and I was trying to understand why, it is since then that I have loved science and I have dedicated myself to it”. She then chose to study at a college where they taught “Earth and life sciences”, to find solutions. She is continuing her university studies in plant biology and physiology.

“Being awarded is an honor, it allows me to show my research to other women, to other countries” she says. However, she does not hide the fact that this price puts her under pressure. “I have to be a role model for girls who have to do science”she says.

The 10,000 euros that she will receive at the award ceremony scheduled for 1 December in Abidjan will allow her to extend her field research to “see if my pesticides are effective and continue until they are registered”.

For Alexandra Palt, CEO of the L’Oréal Foundation, this award is important. “Only 2% of the planet’s researchers come from sub-Saharan Africa, a third of which are women. This is a big problem because it is essential to have African research for Africans “he told AFP.

Bingerville’s Innovation and Scientific Pole, in which Adjata Kamara carries out her research, works in collaboration with other African universities, particularly in Kenya, with the aim of training and financially assisting 10,000 African researchers each year.

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