Knowledge for Development

Science competitions promote innovation: Feeding 1 billion in Africa in a changing world

Author: Judith Ann Francis, CTA & Chair Expert Panel

Date: 28/03/2014


The great success of the 3rd Africa-wide Science Competitions ‘Feeding 1 billion in Africa in a changing World’ which extended over the period 2012-2013 clearly demonstrates how much CTA, FARA, IFS and partners* value the scientific contributions of Africa’s women scientists and young professionals in addressing the challenges that Africa faces.   


‘I humbly appreciate CTA and all the partners for giving us this incredible opportunity to increase our visibility as upcoming scientists. The best thing, I have learnt since the beginning of the competitions is the concept of agricultural innovations and carrying out research that has impact. This is going to be the way that I will design future research ......’ Mrs Stella Kabiri-Marial, 2nd prize winner, Young Professionals in Science.    

Competitions serve to raise standards, bring out the best among peers – individuals and organizations – and identify opportunities for innovation. They also generate new knowledge and support the development of skills and networks. They transcend all fields of human endeavour, sport, education, science and business, and are used to showcase and reward excellence. Several organizations use competitions to: (i) motivate individuals and groups to engage in new domains; (ii) promote new concepts, products and issues to bring them to the attention of a wider public or specific target group(s); (iii) identify new opportunities, talent or businesses for investment; (iv) develop knowledge and skills; (v) reward and recognise excellence and achievements and; (vi) promote their organizations, products, services and brands.     

The great success of the 3rd Africa-wide Science Competitions ‘Feeding 1 billion in Africa in a changing World’ which extended over the period 2012-2013 clearly demonstrates how much CTA, FARA, IFS and partners* value the scientific contributions of Africa’s women scientists and young professionals in addressing the challenges that Africa faces. The finals, which were attended by over 100 participants, were held in Accra, Ghana from 15 – 16 July 2013, as a side event of the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week. The 20 finalists each made a 15 minutes oral presentation on their research work to a panel of distinguished African judges. The finalists had to convince the judges of the soundness and relevance of their research to Africa and explain the demonstrated and potential impact of their research as well as how they had communicated the results to researchers, policymakers and end-users. The award and prize distribution ceremony for the top 5 winners in each category was held during the main plenary of the FARA General Assembly. This provided added visibility for African women and young scientists, their research and contribution to Africa’s agricultural transformation and the need to invest in their research endeavours. All winners received their prizes and awards from Professor Monty Jones, co-winner of the 2004 World Food Prize and former executive director of FARA.   

The competitions were launched in March 2012 and the journey to reach to the final stage involved an Africa-wide call for abstracts which attracted 316 submissions from 28 countries (see box). Abstracts were critically evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team of experts using established criteria to identify the top 45 semi-finalists who were invited to develop their abstracts into full papers. The semi-finalists were then trained in scientific writing and policy advocacy, and requested to revise and finalize their papers. The final papers were evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team of experts to select the top 20 finalists, who then vied for the top 10 places, five in each category, during the side event of the 6th FARA General Assembly. Although prizes and awards went to the top 10 only, all 45 semi-finalists are considered winners and received certificates and subscriptions to CTA publications. All 45 papers, subsequently underwent a further peer review and scientific editing process and will be published and widely distributed. It is especially noteworthy that the winning scientific contributions all correspond to the priority themes which the FARA General Assembly endorsed for the ensuing three-year work programme. The summaries of the winning papers and responses of the winners to four questions concerning: their research and its relevance, the recognition gained and their vision for themselves in the next five years are featured on the following pages.   

The Judges    

  • Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Managing Director, CEPHYR, Mauritius (Chief judge)   
  • Ms Marjorie Niyitegeka Kyomuhendo, PR & Strategic Communication Specialist, Makerere University, Uganda  
  • Dr Demba Farba Mbaye, Virginia Tech University, USAID/ERA project, Dakar, Senegal  
  • Professor Robert Kariuki Obura, Deputy Principal (A&R), Laikipia University College, Kenya  
  • Professor Abdoulaye Gouro, Executive Secretary, Conseil National de la recherche Agronomique du Niger Niamey, Nige    

The participants   

Regions Call for Abstracts Full Papers: Semi- finalists
  Women in science Young professionals Women in science Young professionals
Central Africa 13 32 1 4
Eastern Africa 49 56 10 9
Northern Africa 2 4 0 0
Southern Africa 15 16 4 1
Western Africa 52 77 4 12
Total 131 185 19 26
En:Fr 90:42 (2:1) 127:58 (2:1) 18:01 16:10 (2:1)
Male:Female   139:46 (3:1)   20:6 (3:1)
No of countries 28 26 12 10

Key observations   

  • The sub-theme ‘Improving productivity & food security’ had the highest number of submissions; the sub-theme ‘marketing, economics, policy & trade’  the second highest.  
  • Research topics need to be broadened and deepened.  
  • Scientific writing, communication, ethics and policy advocacy need to be integrated into degree.  
  • The men dominated the semi-finals of the Young Professionals in Science competition by 5 to 1.  

* Consortium members were CTA, FARA, IFS, ANAFE, RUFORUM, NPCA and AGRA. 

More information:  

Top 10 articles: 

Identification of QTL conferring resistance to Ethiopian stem rust in durum wheat

Valorisation of poultry litter to compost: an assessment of the pathogen reduction potential 

Landscape-scale management of invasive Cymbopogon afronardus (Stapf) in the rangelands of Uganda 

Labour saving tools for women: the forage chopper for smallholder dairy farmers in Uganda 

Introduction of heat tolerance genes into Lohmann Brown for improved egg production under hot and humid environments in Ghana

Agronomic performance of extra-early maize hybrids under stress and non-stress environments in Nigeria 

Recovery of urban solid waste in Lomé: methodological approach towards sustainable compost production

 Food security in Africa: an innovative technique for cowpea storage 

Enhancing pig productivity in Lake Victoria crescent zone: the effect of genotype and post-weaning diet 

Improvement of papaya productivity for commercial application 


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