International science champions to join Cornell Alliance for Science training

August 23, 2018

The Cornell Alliance for Science is welcoming its 2018 Global Leadership Fellows, who include farmers, communicators, scientists, youth leaders and agricultural experts from eight nations.

The 29 Fellows are traveling from their homes in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, the Philippines, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania to attend the 12-week intensive training program, which begins Aug. 27 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

“The Fellows are an integral part of our mission to create a global network of science champions who are dedicated to helping smallholder farmers, reducing poverty and eliminating hunger,” said Sarah Evanega, director of the Alliance for Science.

The course includes training in effective communications, grassroots organizing, strategic planning, international policy and the science behind agricultural biotechnology.

The 2018 cohort includes Ghanaian farmer Evans Okomeng, who characterizes his country’s delay in adopting genetically modified crops as “an injustice to the ordinary farmer,” and Winnie Nanteza, who has conducted extensive public outreach around biotech crops as development communication officer with the National Crops Resources Research Institute-Uganda.

Many of the 2018 Fellows are also staunch proponents of environmental sustainability and social justice, including Chidi Okereke, who advocates for human rights, gender equality and youth participation in governance in Nigeria, and Taikee Calleja, who believes the Philippines can make great progress in development, without sacrificing the health and balance of the nation’s ecology, by taking advantage of new technologies.

Others, like Louis Juma Baraka of Tanzania and Okon Odiong Unung of Nigeria, are working directly with farmers. Some, such as Veronica Zulu Mwaba of Zimbabwe and Verenardo Meeme of Kenya, are already active in promoting effective science communications.

John Albert Caraan of the Philippines has been named the Randy Hautea Fellow in honor of the late Dr. Hautea, a plant breeder, untiring farmers’ advocate and member of the Alliance for Science advisory board, who passed away in July. Yewande Kazeem, a US communications professional who works extensively in Nigeria, has been named the Sathguru Fellow in recognition of the support provided by the Alliance’s main partner in India.

Cecilia Edita Burgos of the Philippines and Knowledge Chikundi of Zimbabwe are the 2018 Gazard Family Fellows, named for an Alliance advisory board member who has been extremely supportive. The four Ugandans — Victoria Mbigidde, Alfred Namaasa, Winniefred Nanteza and Jonan Twinamatsiko — have been named Winkler Family Foundation Fellows in recognition of the Foundation’s generous donations to the Allinace.

“We are thrilled to welcome such an engaged, talented and dedicated group of Fellows,” said Polly Endreny Holmberg, who developed and leads the Global Leadership Fellows Program (GLFP) and other short-course training programs for the Alliance.

The GLFP — now training its third cohort — is designed to build the skills of emerging international leaders who are committed to advocating for access to agricultural innovation in their home countries. The course includes training in strategic planning, grassroots organizing, the science of crop biotechnology and effective communications.

Upon completion of this certificate program, Fellows become members of an international professional network uniquely qualified to promote evidence-based decision-making around global issues such as food security, agricultural development, environmental sustainability and climate change. The network has partners on six continents.

The program graduated 28 Fellows in 2016 and 25 Fellows in 2015. Together, they represent 20 countries across South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the United States.

These alumni Fellows have successfully launched activities in their home countries that support science education and expand public awareness of the role that agricultural biotechnology can play in improving the lives of smallholder farmers and boosting food security. They have also worked to advance science-based policies related to agriculture in their own countries.

The GLFP is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well donations from individuals and sponsorships by partner organizations. Tax-deductible contributions are welcomed.