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

SCIENCE – As a child, Adjata Kamara wondered why her father’s mango plantation in Côte d’Ivoire produced less than before, so in order to understand, she embarked on lengthy studies on the health of plants, particularly yams .

As you can see in the video at the top of the article, At 25, Adjata Kamara is now a doctoral 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 award for young talent from sub-Saharan Africa -excluding South Africa- of 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 from yams, a plant grown in particular in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. “It is an important crop in Côte d’Ivoire, the third country in terms of production after Nigeria and Benin in West Africa. We have noticed that the storage time of yams has been drastically reduced: ten years ago we saw rot appear two or three months after harvest, now it is after one or two weeks.”, explains Adjata to AFP about the problems linked to the cultivation of the tuber plagued by fungi that cause early rot. His 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 basic food plant in various regions of the African continent.

“I was trying to understand”

His research determined that chemical pesticides “that impoverish the soil” and harvesting methods of farmers who “make wounds in the yam”, favored the rapid appearance of fungi that rot the plant and finally make it unfit for consumption. Hence the urgency to develop natural pesticides. Adjata says that she has already obtained “satisfactory results” in the laboratory and in small plots where they began to be tested.

Born in Bondoukou, in northeastern Côte d’Ivoire, a region famous for its yam tubers, the young researcher is the last in a family of sixteen children. “There my father had a mango plantation where we noticed that the yield had dropped”says, before adding “I was little and tried to understand why, it is since then that I loved science and dedicated myself to it”. Therefore, she chose to study at a college where they taught “earth and life sciences”, to find solutions. He continues his university studies in plant biology and physiology.

“Having been awarded is an honor, it allows me to show my research to other women, to other countries” she says. However, she does not hide that this price pressures her. “I have to be a role model for young women who have to do science”she says.

The €10,000 he will receive at an award ceremony scheduled for December 1 in Abidjan will enable him to further his research in this field to “see if my pesticides are effective and continue until they are registered”.

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

The Bingerville Science and Innovation Pole, where Adjata Kamara conducts his research, works in collaboration with other African universities, particularly in Kenya, with the aim of training and financially helping 10,000 African researchers each year.

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