Nimmo Gicheru, one of the 2011 African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Fellows is a PhD student working with the Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) project at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi, Kenya. CBPP is a disease that greatly impacts on livelihoods of livestock-dependent communities within Africa by restricting market access for livestock products, reduced protein food supply, reduced traction power and manure for food production. There are however no sensitive, inexpensive, and easy to use diagnostic assays to facilitate the quick identification and control of CBPP. The aim of the project is the comprehensive characterization of humoral immune responses against Mycoplasma proteins in the course of infection and the subsequent identification of potential proteins for incorporation into improved diagnostic assays for Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), which is caused by Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies mycoides (Mmm).
Through this fellowship, she aspires to make major strides in the various aspects of her career. In her current research work, Nimmo would like to be able to contribute to improved livelihoods of women and children within livestock keeping communities through facilitating an increase in productivity from livestock by contributing to the control of CBPP in the African region. The fellowship will also provide her with interaction opportunities with other women scientists, an opportunity that will promote sharing of new ideas, insight into the challenges and research others are conducting and increased motivation. It will facilitate the development of collaborations with well-known research facilities all over Africa and friendships that will not only contribute to her personal research network but also improve on the quality of agricultural research and problem solving in an African context. In addition, the AWARD workshops will provide an excellent platform for her to be able to exchange knowledge with other fellows, contribute to capacity building of her research findings to fellow scientist and women peers interested in having an impact on livestock keepers while at the same time strengthening her leadership and management skills.
Fellowship contributions to the society
This young upcoming resilient scientist looks forward to making major contributions in various ways through the skills and experiences gathered from the fellowship. In her research, her ultimate aim is the generation of a new diagnostic assay (a diagnostic assay is a quantitative and qualitative analysis for diagnostic purposes. Eventually leading, in this case to a diagnostic test which is more rapid) this product will lead to better disease control, which will benefit the livestock dependent people including the community at large through better food supply and market option. From the fellowship, she hopes to improve her communication and presentation skills which will enable her to better engage different stakeholders to understand their needs (diagnostic platform) and to translate this knowledge into the development of the prototype diagnostic kit that will benefit the rural community by contributing to the quick identification and reduced spread and loss of livestock to the disease. She will also apply these skill in sharing information and knowledge to other younger aspiring female scientist within her circles of influence. For her home organization, the fellowship would strengthen the institute through capacity building, providing them with a female African scientist better equipped to improve the research carried out at the institution.
Advise to other young scientists
Nimmo would like to encourage her peers to apply for the fellowship and also to make a conscious effort to find mentors that they would like to emulate, regardless of whether they obtain the AWARD fellowship or not, and continuously learn and be willing to be mentors themselves in order to pass on the knowledge and develop quality research in Africa and outstanding African female scientist.