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Cameroon: Assets and Potential for Science-based Development

Published: 2019-12-03

During 2019, our blog posts will primarily feature a range of countries in which IFS has awarded grants to early career scientists, drawing on responses to a 15-item survey with mostly open-ended questions that we are sending to former and present grantees in selected countries, as an element of this year’s process culminating in our new 2021-2030 strategy. This month we highlight Cameroon, where 231 people (46 women and 185 men) have been awarded grants by IFS since it was founded in 1974. Of the 231 grantees, 77 went on to receive a second grant, and 24 a third grant.

Nighisty Ghezae, DirectorNighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

Of the 208 invitations sent to colleagues in Cameroon, 66 (or 32%) responded to the survey. Among them, 20% have master's degrees, 42% have doctorates and 38% have done post-doctoral work, with 87% of respondents living and working in Cameroon. They are professors and lecturers of various ranks, program and project coordinators, school principals, department heads and researchers. Their research areas include cancer biology and natural products, energy, food science and nutrition, forest science, land use management and silviculture, and legume genetics.

Of the examples given of how their research has been put to use, of note are application of tree ring width in forest management; improved traditional medicines prepared from neem (Azardirachta indica)Cameroonian propolis and Ficus umbellata made available to Cameroonian patients to fight cancer and menopausal complaints; a solar dryer to preserve products after harvesting; major contraints removed for farmers to access credit; and land use management by small holders as a promising way to adopt the Rio conventions in a semi-arid area of Cameroon. Sixty-two percent of respondents have published more than ten peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters or books, 45 colleagues are members of professional scientific organizations, and 21 have received awards for their work, both in Cameroon and in other countries.

In response to a question about exciting or rewarding professional experiences, were the examples of defending PhD research, mentoring and training young professionals, publishing articles and books, research residencies in other countries, and exchanging with local farmers on the development and implementation of research. Cited by several respondents as important factors contributing to career development were fellowships; grants from IFS, TWAS and others; determination, patience and curiosity to learn; hard work and family support; and collaboration.

Examples of career challenges faced by respondents included funding for research, acquiring equipment and materials, sociopolitical unrest, tribalism, and working with multicultural teams. In terms of what would be most helpful to them in achieving their career goals, women respondents mentioned grants and capacitiy building, working hard, and being optimistic and versatile, although a few respondents said being a woman was not a concern. When asked what they think needs to change so that women can play a more significant role in science and research, one suggested financing more women in science and research such as through specific grants, encouraging collaborations between men and women research and finally, from the perspectives of colleagues and society, to consider women as researchers with as much potential as men, and starting at primary school by encouraging girls to get involved in STEM.

Common suggestions for how linkages can be strengthened among scientists, research institutions, grants-making organizations and funding sources included creating connections among scientists for collaborative research and sharing opportunities, financing more researchers, organizing scientific meetings, and proposing research that addresses human development needs. Finally, with regards to perceptions of the role of science in national development, it was seen as essential, as expressed in the words of one respondent, “Cameroon has enormous assets and potential in terms of human resources that would allow for abundant scientific production.However, research policy and the politicization of research are major obstacles to the development of science, which prevents research from playing its role in the country's socio-economic development."

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae



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