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Tanzania: “Inspire young girls and women in science and research”

Published: 2019-09-28

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 Tanzania, where 117 people (22 women and 95 men) have been awarded grants by IFS since it was founded in 1974. Of the 117 grantees, 31 went on to receive a second grant, and five a third grant.

Nighisty Ghezae, DirectorNighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

Of the 93 invitations sent to colleagues in Tanzania, 38 (or 41%) responded to the survey. Among them, 18% have master’s degrees, 68% have doctorates and 14% have done post-doctoral work, with 96% of respondents living and working in Tanzania. They are coordinators, directors, engineers, government and non-government officials, professors and lecturers of various ranks and researchers. Their research areas involve multipurpose trees as feed supplement for dairy goats; promotion of indigenous chickens and dual purpose breeds to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers; neglected infectious diseases; evaluation of vegetation as feed resources for wildlife and livestock; conservation and managements of medicinal plants; groundwater investigation for irrigation and other uses; genetic diversity studies and development of molecular-based diagnostic tools for detection of plant pathogens; search for potential antimycobacterial compounds from natural sources; and risk assessment of contaminants in staple foods.

Of the examples given of how their research has been put into use, of note are solar drying of fruits and vegetables; defoliation management of tall-growing native warm-season grasses at early succession phase; trained African giant pouched rats being used to detect tuberculosis, in 70 collaborating hospitals in Tanzania, and replicated in Mozambique and Ethiopia; nano materials to trap heavy metals and remove microbes from fresh water used for domestic purposes; and communication materials related to mycotoxins and health impact developed for stakeholders along the value chain. Fifty-six percent of respondents have published more than ten peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters or books, 26 colleagues are members of professional scientific organizations, and 14 have received awards for their work, both in Tanzania and in other countries.

In response to a question about exciting or rewarding professional experiences, were the examples of receiving IFS, TWAS and other research grants; improving the livelihoods of rural people through better nutrition, food security and income; participating in an IFS collaborative research workshop in Benin; seeing people using groundwater for irrigation and drinking; and participating in preparing the public for response against highly pathogenic avian influenza. Cited by several respondents as important factors contributing to career development were the grants received from IFS and other research funders; determination and perseverance; collaborative networks; and proposal and grant writing workshops. 

Examples of career challenges faced by respondents included losing a child while studying; managing family and career; working in dangerous areas or harsh weather conditions; scarcity of research funding; and inadequate government and institutional support. In terms of what would be most helpful to them in achieving their career goals, women respondents mentioned hard work, determination, child support, programs to uplift women's careers, leadership skills, funding, and consideration of roles beyond the career that take much time as compared to men. When asked what they think needs to change so that women can play a more significant role in science and research, men suggested strategies at all levels to accommodate more women in science and research; more support in research funding for women; inspiring young girls and women by engaging them in science and research activities, and giving them more leadership positions; and sharing domestic activities at home equally between men and women.

Common suggestions for how linkages can be strengthened among scientists, research institutions, grants-making organizations and funding sources included regional collaborative research programmes with capacity- and team-building elements; online, interactive platforms and databases of research findings, equipment and researchers; focal persons in institutions who are known by grants-making organizations; and developing more demand-driven research. 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, “The government of Tanzania, under the leadership of President Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, is commited to creating politically sound policies and macro-economic stability to ensure a win-win business environment for both local and foreign investors.”

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae

Director

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