SMIL invests in the four target countries of Ethiopia, Haiti, Niger, and Senegal while leveraging regional and global spillovers.
The SMIL country coordinators provide representation and linkage in each country. Our country coordinators are embedded in the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and work in close cooperation with their local, regional, and national governments; research institutions; universities; farmers, cooperatives, and private sector.
Dr. Alemu Tirfessa
Ethiopia Country Coordinator
Dr. Alemu Tirfessa received his M.S (2009) in plant science from Hawassa University, Ethiopia and Ph.D. (2018) in plant science from The University of Queensland, Australia. His Ph.D. thesis title was "Identifying sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] plant types adapted to moisture stress areas of Ethiopia."
As the Ethiopian Country Coordinator for the SMIL program, Dr. Tirfessa coordinates and manages SMIL in Ethiopia, enhancing cutting-edge research aimed at improving the adaptation and resilience of sorghum in Ethiopia with cross-continent and global collaborations in the area of sorghum genomics.
Dr. Tirfessa also coordinates the application of improved seed technology for official registration, release, multiplication and scaling through multiple seed system pathways.
Dr. Tirfessa is the research leader at the Ethiopian National Sorghum Improvement Program for the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). He leads the modernization of EIAR-Sorghum breeding program through development and implementation of product profile-based breeding, optimization of new breeding pipeline, and use of modern tools and technologies. He coordinates and manages more than ten international collaborative research projects with partners that include UQ, ICRISAT, SMIL, AGRA, BMGF, etc. He has proven expertise in facilitating collaborative research and development work with diverse international and national partners engaged in various projects, and demonstrated ability to communicate effectively with these partners and colleagues and build strong professional relationships and networks.
Dr. Tirfessa has published the following articles:
- Tirfessa, A., McLean, G., Mace, E., van Oosterom, E., Jordan, D., Hammer, G. (2020). Differences in temperature response of phenological development among diverse Ethiopian sorghum genotypes are linked to racial grouping and agro-ecological adaptation. Crop Science. 2020; 1–14.
- Tirfessa, A., Tesso, T. Adugna, A., Mohammed, H. and Kimabi, D. (2020). Genetic diversity among Ethiopian sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] gene bank accessions as revealed by SSR markers. African Journal of Biotechnology. 19(2). pp. 84-91.
- Habte Nida, Gezahegn Girma, Moges Mekonen, Alemu Tirfessa, Amare Seyoum, Chemeda Birhanu, Kebede Dessalegn, Tsegau Senbetay, Alemnesh Bekele, Adane Gebreyohannes, Getachew Ayana, Tesfaye Tesso, Gebisa Ejeta and Tesfaye Mengist. (2021). Genome-wide association analysis reveals seed protein loci as determinants of variations in grain mold resistance.2021. Theory and Applied Genetics.
- Girma, G., Nida, H., Seyoum, A., Mekonen, M., Nega, A., Lule, D., Dessalegn, K., Bekele, A., Gebreyohannes, A., Adeyanju, A., Tirfessa, A., Ayana, G., Taddese, T., Mekbib, F., Belete, K., Tesso, T., Ejeta, G., and Mengiste, T. (2019). A Large-Scale Genome-Wide Association Analyses of Ethiopian Sorghum Landrace Collection Reveal Loci Associated With Important Traits. Front. Plant Sci. 10:691.
- Girma, G., Nida, H., Tirfessa, A., Lule, D., Bejiga, T., Seyoum, A., Mekonen, M., Nega, A., Dessalegn, K., Chemeda, B., Bekele, A., Gebreyohannes, A., Ayana, G., Tesso, T., Ejeta, G., and Mengiste, T. (2020). A Comprehensive Phenotypic and Genomic Characterization of Ethiopian Sorghum Germplasm Defines Core Collection and Reveals Rich Genetic Potential in Adaptive Traits. The Plant Genome.
- Liben, F.M., Wortman, C.S., and Tirfessa, A.(2020). Geospatial modeling of conservation tillage and nitrogen timing effects on yield and soil properties. Agricultural Systems 177 (2020) 102720.
- Chenu, K., E.J. van Oosterom, G. McLean, K.S. Deifel, A. Fletcher, G. Geetika, A. Tirfessa, E.S. Mace, D.R. Jordan, R. Sulman, G.L. Hammer. (2018). Integrating modelling and phenotyping approaches to identify and screen complex traits – Illustration for transpiration efficiency in cereals. Journal of Experimental Botany. 69, 3181- 3194.
- Sintayehu, S., Adugna, A., Fetene, M., Tirfessa, A., and Ayalew, K. (2018). Study of Growth and Physiological Characters in Stay-green QTL Introgression Sorghum bicolor (L.) Lines under Post-flowering Drought Stress. Cereal Research Communications. 46: 1.
- Weerasooriya, D.K., Maulana, F.R., Bandara, A.Y., Tirfessa, A., Ayana, A., Mengistu, G., Nouh, K., and Tesfaye T. Tesso. (2016). Genetic diversity and population structure among sorghum (Sorghum bicolor, L.) germplasm collections from Western Ethiopia. African Journal of Biotechnology. 15(23), pp. 1147-1158.
- Tesso, T., Tirfessa, A., and Mohammed, H. (2011). Association between morphological traits and yield components in the durra sorghums of Ethiopia. Hereditas 148: 98–109.
Dr. Moustapha Moussa
Niger Country Coordinator
Dr. Moustapha Moussa received his M.S. (2007) and Ph.D. (2019) degrees in Food Science and Technology from Purdue University. His Ph.D. thesis title was "Innovative Millet Foods to Improve Nutrition and Expand Markets in West Africa," under supervision and mentoring of Dr. Bruce Hamaker. Dr. Moussa's research areas focus on grain chemistry and processing with the objective to locally co-create and generate innovative food processing and nutrition-related technologies to better utilize sorghum and millet grains, and contributing to improve foods and nutrition. Other specific objectives of his work include backstopping and empowering women and youth smallholder farmers and grain processing entrepreneurs in both rural and urban areas to expand market access for sorghum and millet grain-based foods for better resilience of local communities in West Africa.
Along with Dr. Hamaker, Moussa successfully helped to implement the Food Processing Incubation System serving as a model for facilitating adoption and scaling up of grain-based food technology with emphasis on diversification of grain uses for foods, and nutrition and market access in urban and rural areas in Niger and West Africa.
As the Niger Country Coordinator for the SMIL program, Dr. Moussa coordinates the Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab program. A network of key public and private partners has been developed under his leadership as well as technology development and delivery pathways with women food processing entrepreneurs and farmer cooperatives.
From 2009 to date, Dr. Moussa participated in several consulting works in West and East African regions. He served as consultant-expert in Food Manufacturing/Processing, Nutrition, Food Safety, and International Projects Logistics coordinator, and Team Member of Projects Evaluation and Monitoring. Projects in which he was involved as consultant include:
- Rockefeller Hub-Spoke Processing Project on Maize and Mango crops in Tanzania and Kenya, (August 2018-)
- CARANA/SANA/GRM Consulting group, Arlington, Virginia, USA. Project: West African Food Market Diagnosis and Surveys UKAID / Agribusiness Investment Potential Diagnosis in Niger, (June 2015)
- UNIDO/UEMOA Food Quality Program for auditing/upgrading Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), (Niger,2013)
- Fintract, Food Analytics, Fintrac,1400 16th Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC, 20036. US Department State-Funded Project for Niger: Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)-Food & Agribusiness environment diagnosis in Niger, (April 2015)
- QED group, LLC, 1250 Eye Street, NW Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005. USA. (MCC) US Department State-Funded Project Diagnostic Analyses and Design of Niger Threshold Program( January 2012)
- AMEX international, Inc., Washington, DC, USA, US Department State USAID-Funded Project: Pace Through Development Program in Africa/Niger project Mid-Term Evaluation, (September, 2010)
- Euro Consultants S.A. Avenue Pasteur, 21 1300 Wavre, Belgium. Project: EU/UEMOA/UNIDO, (January 2011)
- PRMN/Niger/ICDE/Burkina Faso/: Project: UEMOA/. ONUDI program for realizing a strategic, Niger, (October2010)
- DGSANCO: the European Directorate General for Health and Consumers: Project: program for Niger to help apply the EU's health and consumer protection laws, (May 2009)
Dr. Moussa has specific experience on sorghum and millet crops in the African countries (Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia). Since 2009, Dr. Moussa participated in several conferences, conveying workshops, high-level dialogue, and symposium on sorghum and millet crop value chains with focus on seed systems, grain production, post-harvest loss reduction and agro-processing, nutrition, market development and cross-borders trade for grain-based foods and related agricultural products.
Dr. Moussa took part in administration of several short- and long-term academic training modules to women and youth grain processor entrepreneurs, students, and professionals at local universities, and professional institutions in Niger and the African regions. Dr. Moussa is also affiliated with several associations and professional bodies working toward improving foods and nutrition in African regions.
Dr. Ndjido Ardo Kane
Senegal Country Coordinator
Dr. Kane received his M.S. (2003) degree in biology/molecular biology and biotechnology and Ph.D. (2007) degree in biology/genetics.
Dr. Kane is a geneticist and plant molecular biologist. He uses the latest biotechnology tools to identify genetic traits governing crop performance in dryland environments as well as to exploit crop genetic diversity in prevision to climate change and for growing population’s needs.
He is Director of CERAAS, a Regional Center of Excellence specialized in research and training on drylands cereals and associated crops, co-director of an international joint lab (LAPSE) and coordinator of IAVAO Network of West Africa breeders.
Previously, he coordinated the Agrobiodiversity Management and Biotechnology national program. He authors numerous publications (articles, book chapters, patents, briefs, and technical sheets).
Dr. Kane is currently acting as Senegal Country Coordinator for SMIL and he also is the principal investigator of the Project GenMIL funded by the Lab.
Dr. Ndjido A. Kane has published the following peer-reviewed articles:
- Pandey, M. K., Gangurde, S. S., Sharma, V., Pattanashetti, S. K., Naidu, G. K., Faye, I., … Varshney, R. K. (2021). Improved Genetic Map Identified Major QTLs for Drought Tolerance and Iron Deficiency Tolerance-Related Traits in Groundnut. Genes. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12010037
- Rhoné, B., Defrance, D., Berthouly-Salazar, C., Mariac, C., Cubry, P., Couderc, M., … Vigouroux, Y. (2020). Pearl millet genomic vulnerability to climate change in West Africa highlights the need for regional collaboration. Nature Communications, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19066-4
- Abrouk, M., Ahmed, H. I., Cubry, P., ?imoníková, D., Cauet, S., Pailles, Y., … Krattinger, S. G. (2020). Fonio millet genome unlocks African orphan crop diversity for agriculture in a changing climate. Nature Communications, 11(1).
- Gaffney, J., Tibebu, R., Bart, R., Beyene, G., Girma, D., Kane, N. A., … Zastrow-Hayes, G. (2020). Open access to genetic sequence data maximizes value to scientists, farmers, and society. Global Food Security. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2020.100411
- Jankowski, F., Louafi, S., Kane, N. A., Diol, M., Camara, A. D., Pham, J.-L., … Barnaud, A. (2020). From texts to enacting practices: defining fair and equitable research principles for plant genetic resources in West Africa. Agriculture and Human Values. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-020-10039-3
- Kanfany, G., Diack, O., Kane, N. A., Gangashetty, P. I., Sy, O., Fofana, A., & Cisse, N. (2020). Implications of fa-rmerperceived production constraints and varietal preferences to pearl millet breeding in Senegal. African Crop Science Journal, 28(3), 411–420. https://doi.org/10.4314/acsj.v28i3.6
- Kanfany, G., Ghislain, Serba, D. D., Rhodes, D., St. Amand, P., Bernardo, A., Gangashetty, P. I., … Bai, G. (2020). Genomic diversity in pearl millet inbred lines derived from landraces and improved varieties. BMC Genomics. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-020-06796-4
- KF, O., A, B., NA, K., C, M., A, F., M, C., … C, B.-S. (2020). Abandonment of pearl millet cropping and homogenization of its diversity over a 40-year period in Senegal. PloS One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239123
- Diack, O., Kanfany, G., Gueye, M. C., Sy, O., Fofana, A., Tall, H., … Kane, N. A. (2020). GWAS unveils features between early- and late-flowering pearl millets. BMC Genomics, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-25381/v1
- Concetta Burgarella, Adeline Barnaud, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Adaptive Introgression: An Untapped Evolutionary Mechanism for Crop Adaptation. Frontiers in Plant Science 02/2019; 10:4., DOI:10.3389/fpls.2019.00004
- Ablaye Ngom, Mame Codou Gueye, Mathieu Gueye, Claire Billot, Caroline Calatayud, Baye Magatte Diop, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Cross-species amplification of microsatellite loci developed Digitaria exilis Stapf in related Digitaria species. 01/2019; 129(1):12982., DOI:10.4314/jab.v129i1.2
- Katina F. Olodo, Mame C. Gueye, Caroline Calatayud, Baye M. Diop, Ndjido A. Kane, et al. EST-SSR development for Digitaria exilis and its relatives D. iburua and D. longiflora from transcriptome sequences. Plant Genetic Resources 11/2018;, DOI:10.1017/S1479262118000400
- Marilyne Debieu, Bassirou Sine, Sixtine Passot, Alexandre Grondin, Eyanawa Akata, Prakash Gangashetty, Vincent Vadez, Pascal Gantet, Daniel Foncéka, Laurent Cournac, Charles Tom Hash, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Response to early drought stress and identification of QTLs controlling biomass production under drought in pearl millet. PLoS ONE 10/2018; 13(10):e0201635., DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0201635
- Concetta Burgarella, Philippe Cubry, Ndjido A. Kane, et al. A western Sahara centre of domestication inferred from pearl millet genomes. Nature Ecology & Evolution 09/2018; 2(9)., DOI:10.1038/s41559-018-0643-y
- Baye Magatte Diop, Mame Codou Gueye, Codjo Emile Agbangba, Ndiaga Cisse, Monique Deu, Omar Diack, Amadou Fofana, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Fonio (Digitaria exilis (Kippist) Stapf): A Socially Embedded Cereal for Food and Nutrition Security in Senegal. Ethnobiology Letters 08/2018; 9(2):150., DOI:10.14237/ebl.9.2.2018.1072
- Arona Diedhiou, Adeline Bichet, Richard Wartenburger, Sonia Isabelle Seneviratne, David P Rowell, Mouhamadou Bamba Sylla, Ismaila Diallo, Stella Todzo, Evelyne Touré Ndatchoh, Moctar Camara, Benjamin Ngounou Ngatcha, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Changes in climate extremes over West and Central Africa at 1.5°C and 2°C global warming. Environmental Research Letters 05/2018; 13(6)., DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/aac3e5
- Rajeev K Varshney, Chengcheng Shi, Mahendar Thudi, Cedric Mariac, Jason Wallace, Peng Qi, He Zhang, Yusheng Zhao, Xiyin Wang, Abhishek Rathore, Rakesh K Srivastava, Annapurna Chitikineni, Guangyi Fan, Prasad Bajaj, Somashekhar Punnuri, S K Gupta, Hao Wang, Yong Jiang, Marie Couderc, Mohan A V S K Katta, Dev R Paudel, K D Mungra, Wenbin Chen, Karen R Harris-Shultz, Vanika Garg, Neetin Desai, Dadakhalandar Doddamani, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Pearl millet genome sequence provides a resource to improve agronomic traits in arid environments. Nature Biotechnology 04/2018; 36(4):368-368., DOI:10.1038/nbt0418-368d
- Baba Ngom, Edward Mamati, Mame Fatoumata Goudiaby, Josphert Kimatu, Ibrahima Sarr, Diaga Diouf, Ndjido Ardo Kane: Methylation analysis revealed salicylic acid affects pearl millet defense through external cytosine DNA demethylation. Journal of Plant Interactions 01/2018; 13(1)., DOI:10.1080/17429145.2018.1473515
- Baba Ngom, Ibrahima Sarr, Josphert Kimatu, Edward Mamati, Ndjido Ardo Kane: Genome-wide analysis of cytosine DNA Methylation revealed salicylic acid promotes defense pathways over seedling development in pearl millet. Plant signaling & behavior 07/2017; 12(3):00-00., DOI:10.1080/15592324.2017.1356967
- Papa M. S. Ndour, Mariama Gueye, Mohamed Barakat, Philippe Ortet, Marie Bertrand-Huleux, Anne-Laure Pablo, Damien Dezette, Lydie Chapuis-Lardy, Komi Assigbetsé, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Pearl Millet Genetic Traits Shape Rhizobacterial Diversity and Modulate Rhizosphere Aggregation. Frontiers in Plant Science 07/2017; 8., DOI:10.3389/fpls.2017.01288
- Adeline Barnaud, Yves Vigouroux, Mamadou Tely Diallo, Sani Idi Saidou, Marie Piquet, Mamadou Billo Barry, Yacoubou Bakasso, Leila Zekraoui, Ronan Rivallan, Ndjido A. Kane, Claire Billot: High selfing rate inferred for white fonio [Digitaria exilis (Kippist.) Stapf] reproductive system opens up opportunities for breeding programs. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 06/2017;, DOI:10.1007/s10722-017-0515-3
- Kodjo Glato, Atsou Aidam, Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. Structure of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) diversity in West Africa covaries with a climatic gradient. PLoS ONE 05/2017; 12(5)., DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0177697
- Oumar Diack, Ndjido A Kane, et al. New Genetic Insights into Pearl Millet Diversity As Revealed by Characterization of Early-and Late-Flowering Landraces from Senegal. Frontiers in Plant Science 03/2017; 8., DOI:10.3389/fpls.2017.00818
- I S Ousseini, Y Bakasso, N A Kane, et al. Myosin XI is associated with fitness and adaptation to aridity in wild pearl millet. Heredity 03/2017; 119(2)., DOI:10.1038/hdy.2017.13 S.Y. Ousmane, A. Fofana, N. Cisse, K. Noba, D. Diouf, I. Ndoye, D. Sane, A. Kane, N.A. Kane, et al. Étude de la variabilité agromorphologique de la collection nationale de mils locaux du Sénégal. 05/2015; 87(1):8030., DOI:10.4314/jab.v87i1.1
- Kountche, A.B., Kane, N., et al.: Crop Adaptation to Biotic and Abiotic Conditions: Going Wild with Next Generation Sequencing Technologies. DOI:10.4172/2168-9881.1000e103
- Amadou Diallo, Ndjido Kane, et al. Heterologous expression of wheat VERNALIZATION 2 (TaVRN2) gene in Arabidopsis delays flowering and enhances freezing tolerance. PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(1):e8690., DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0008690
- N.A. Kane, et al. TaVRT2 represses transcription of the wheat vernalization gene TaVRN1 (Plant Journal (2007) 51, (670-680)). The Plant Journal 01/2008; 53(2-2):400., DOI:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2007.03386.x
- Ndjido Ardo Kane, et al. TaVRT2 represses transcription of the wheat vernlization gene TaVRT1. The Plant Journal 09/2007; 51(4):670-80., DOI:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2007.03172.x
- Hélène Adam, François Ouellet, Ndjido A Kane, et al. Overexpression of TaVRN1 in Arabidopsis Promotes Early Flowering and Alters Development. Plant and Cell Physiology 09/2007; 48(8):1192-206., DOI:10.1093/pcp/pcm089
- Guylaine Tardif, Ndjido A Kane, et al. Interaction network of proteins associated with abiotic stress response and development in wheat. Plant Molecular Biology 04/2007; 63(5):703-18., DOI:10.1007/s11103-006-9119-6
- Ndjido A. Kane, et al. TaVRT-2, a Member of the StMADS-11 Clade of Flowering Repressors, Is Regulated by Vernalization and Photoperiod in Wheat. Plant physiology 09/2005; 138(4):2354-63., DOI:10.1104/pp.105.061762
- Jean Danyluk, Ndjido A. Kane, et al. TaVRT-1, a putative transcription factor associated with vegetative to reproductive transition in cereals. Plant physiology 09/2003; 132(4):1849-60.
- Ndjido Ardo Kane: Régulation et études de fonction de facteurs de transcription MADS-box associés à la vernalisation chez le blé (Triticum aestivum L.).
One problem we are trying to solve through our partnership with SMIL is a lack of milling technology for sorghum. If we maximize milling technology, we can increase the good functional food products at the market.
In Ethiopia, we are creating innovative ideas to use sorghum and millet. Cookies have been developed with sorghum, wheat, and sweet potato. These are the types of innovations our younger scientists need to be working on.
Niger has a serious hunger problem. Farmers are saying even if crops grow, we don't have enough food. The best way for me to help the people of Niger was to learn and focus on biotechnology, and the Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab helped me do that.
The seed ball is a solution for a farmer's problem. Seed balls are very important to farmers. In the Sahel, we are facing climate change. We have a soil fertility problem and financial problems with our farmers. Farmers lack food and they don't have enough resources to buy inputs, like fertilizer. Seed balls and the materials they are using are low cost. They don't need to go far to get them. The seed balls are made from sand or clay, wood ash, and just a small seed with fertilizer. They solve the financial problem and help soil fertility since farmers don't have money to afford all the types of fertilizer.
I am excited to work with farmers, and especially subsistence farmers, who look for a solution to solve their most urgent problems like soil fertility. I especially love to help women farmers. I want the technology to be viewed favorably. We started with pearl millet. When that worked, farmers requested sorghum. I love that farmers are asking for other innovations with technology. So I want the technology to continue to search for solutions for soil fertility, and to give my best to the subsistence farmers.
Our first goal is to support smallholder farmers to get a better yield and support their families. If we are able to support our smallholder farmers, public and private partners, we are succeeding and that is what SMIL does. SMIL helps us be capable to support our different partners and keep us strong and competent in Ethiopia and the region as well. The other thing we have seen is that the SMIL project has published good science in peer-reviewed journals. The output is not only for us, it is for all the sorghum and millet community.
Working with SMIL is an excellent opportunity. Since the start of the project, I have been a partner from my country when SMIL came to initiate the project. I'm excited to see progress and I'm learning so much and communicating with other scientists across the world. The networking from different parts of African countries is beneficial and a pleasure to work with them. It's very interesting for me to be part of this, and I'm very much pleased with that.
The network I built while in the U.S. with SMIL will directly contribute to the role I play in Ethiopia. The research collaboration will continue and also training others and sharing experiences.
We can generate technologies, innovation, and knowledge with the Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab and share it with other communities who are not directly funded by USAID. So it's a good opportunity for us. For me, as a molecular breeder in pearl millet, the support helped me to push deeper on how we can address our breeding pipeline by using modern tools. How can we accelerate the generation of new crops that correspond with the demand of the value chain stakeholders? It's really a good opportunity for us to have a community working around the Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab, but also have the funds to go faster and more precisely to address the demand.
Pyramiding the greenbug resistance in Haiti, we were able to identify genes that are responsible for sugarcane aphid tolerance. So we did it, and that is extremely rewarding that we're able to harvest the state-of-the-art techniques that we use routinely in high-income countries and within agribusiness, and apply them to these conditions, which are not optimal for everybody. By creating this network and these partnerships, everybody is engaged and everybody holds each other accountable.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are countries in West and Central Africa that give us the vision to lead at a regional level and be innovative with others throughout Africa; not only for the country of Senegal. Part of that is we bring all the players together to make sure we consider everyone's demands into our innovations. We cannot do it on our own. We have to consult these people for whom we generate the innovation. I think this is really important. The second thing is the importance of sorghum and pearl millet is so deep in our tradition, a staple food in our country and in our ecosystems, that we really need to work in a community. When I studied in Canada, we used to say 'alone you can go faster, but together you can go further.' Alone, we don't have the human resources to address all these challenges in a drought-prone environment for the development of innovation. But in a community like what we have in SMIL, we can address this diversity of demands, the diversity of challenge, the diversity of needs.
We appreciate the opportunities for young scientists to receive training in the U.S. A primary challenge was how we can build a community of young scientists who can take over the research with new priorities and with new tools to advance it. And in the first phase of the SMIL, I think people did great at training young scientists, and those young scientists also are hired in our national agriculture research systems. So, they can take over the research. And I think this was the best investment we have made.
A project in Ethiopia with a large collection of sorghum was an efficient means to adapt sorghum to stressful environments. It's a genetic resource that we were able to make available to other breeding programs.
SMIL is out-performing the promises we were given in the beginning, as far as training local students and young researchers from local regions. We are giving those young researchers a perspective that should be communicated.
What is really exciting to see is the students that have come through the program and their excitement and the passion they bring to the research projects. These students feel a sense of accomplishment as they contribute to scientific discoveries. They reach their full potential and carry that passion forward, wanting to mentor students in the future.
We have to take the needs of women into account with our breeding programs and training. In rural areas of Senegal, women are a large portion of farmers, but they are also scientists. We integrate gender and youth issues into SMIL projects.
Women really took ownership in learning from incubation centers. The women were very generous to later share their knowledge with other women and spread the word and impact of the project. It shows if we follow approaches that develop ownership, they are empowered to take things to a different level.
Women very often do not have access to resources or the right to own land. As a result, women normally get the sites that are most remote. Women have to walk long distances in order to come to the fields. At the beginning of the seasons, they first have to work in the fields of the man, because the man is the one who is responsible for feeding the family. Therefore this technology developed through SMIL is very important as the remote sites get delayed and are difficult to get to. Seed ball technology is a fit for local resources because it is affordable, everybody can do it, and there's not a lot of teaching behind it, except for the depths of sowing.
I want to be able to accept new students with open arms, to have the roadmap already written down with clear objectives so they can come in behind me and continue to push the work forward. As much work as I can do now to help those coming in on the SMIL project behind me is what I'm looking to do.
When I joined the institute, I was one of the few women out of over 100 scientists, so I was always look for other women and learn from their strengths. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to come and study in the U.S. under SMIL.
When you go to various institutions you don't see a lot of female scientists. There is a major gap. I think the problem starts earlier on, at the college level. Addressing that problem would be giving women opportunities and would be exciting and wonderful. I'm excited to see a lot of young people who embrace the opportunities through SMIL.
I commend SMIL for the attention that is paid to capturing lessons learned and packaging them and sharing them with diverse audiences. Without that, all of the research work would not necessarily be applied to improve the human condition. So, it's really important that those efforts are sustained.
Our network of global teams is one of SMIL's strengths. The team is working on research, but is also linked to real developmental outcomes in these countries. Supporting these teams is one of the highlights of working with SMIL.
Working with youth means a great deal to me personally because it allows me to use my skills in research to train people. There is nothing more exciting than training people. The next generation of scientists that go and do research contribute to the development of countries everywhere.
Many of SMIL’s young professionals move through a career to a ministerial level or head of an agriculture institution. We want to help these young leaders have a bright future in their particular countries. Not to mention the energy, fresh ideas and the go-getting attitude a cohort of young professionals brings.
There are a lot of projects in Niger that are working on nutrition, but most of them lack the technology and the approach we're using to do it. We go into the site and make it so they can develop the product locally, sell it, and interact with the rural community health centers. They have a lot of interaction with the women directly and with health centers, and will direct the women who have malnourished children to those centers to come in and buy the product. So it is generating income for the women, and it is saving the lives of those children. And at the same time, it is empowering the local communities to help their people.
So we consider the farmers as key partners and they have responsibilities in the implementation of the trial. Also, they are involved in the extension and adoption of those trials and technology coming in. Sometimes we travel and visit them in the field. And if we have a workshop, a meeting, we also invite them in. Like recently, when we have the SMIL annual review meeting, all of them came to Niamey and they have some lead farmers that were with us also at the meeting. And we exchange feedback, like their concerns and the challenges they are facing in terms of trying some of the varieties and what they have seen. We also give them some responses and also orientation about how to use those varieties in the field.
What really stands out to me is the local capacity development efforts that SMIL does, and then the engagement with stakeholders to make sure that information is being shared. So I really appreciate that SMIL is pairing American expertise and ingenuity with the best and brightest globally and training students in developing countries and the U.S. By doing that, we're ensuring that the next generation of food system leaders are equipped and empowered to address the food security challenges that we know are coming tomorrow as well. So I think that's one of the most inspiring things about the program is we're not only seeing results today, but we're building for better systems in the future.
During my Ph.D., I had the privilege to be enrolled in a very competitive and prestigious program at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI). This opportunity was made possible through the funding from USAID/SMIL that provided me the resources to get trained, acquire knowledge and apply it while conducting research. Through the USAID/SMIL support, I was able to gain access to a professional network with scientists from across the globe. I was able to attend conferences, give presentations, as well as receive mentorship from other plant breeders. I also had the opportunity to be a visiting scholar at Purdue University, where I worked on part of my doctoral research activities and developed collaborations, which helped to start my career as a plant breeder after graduating. In addition, I was given the opportunity to co-lead a project immediately after graduation. Overall, the support provided by USAID/SMIL was the foundation and catalyst for my career as a plant breeder.