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New IFS strategy for 2021-2030 receives echo from young researchers in Benin

Published: 2020-02-07

Taking the opportunity of an official visit in Benin, Prof Patrick Van Damme, Head of the Laboratory of Tropical Agriculture and Ethnobotany, Plant Production Department, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, and Professor of Tropical Agroforestry and Ethnobotany, Czech University of Life Sciences, and also Executive Chair of the IFS Board of Trustees, delivered seminars in two national universities of Benin.

The first was held on 22 January at the University of Abomey-Calavi (UAC) and the second at the National University of Agriculture. This was the result of the informed leadership of Prof Achille Assogbadjo, President of the IFS Alumni Association of Benin and also IFS Board Member, and Prof Flora Chadare, Director of the School of Science, Conservation Techniques and Processing of Agricultural Products, with support from the Doctoral School of Agronomic Science and Water.

The aim was to share the new IFS strategy for 2021-2030, and to provide guidance to young researchers in Benin on the new IFS grants scheme. The seminars gathered about 150 people at UAC, where the room allocated became too narrow, and about 60 people at the National University of Agriculture in Sakété. Prof Van Damme displayed clear and insightful slides that showed details about the new orientations in the IFS vision and mission for the next decade.

Prof Patrick Van Damme presenting new orientations in the IFS vision and mission

The new eligibility criteria were thoroughly covered, pointing out the still-eligible countries and the countries that have been withdrawn. The presentation analyzed the number of grantees per country and demonstrated that, with more than 250 grantees, Benin ranks among the top five of the still-eligible countries. Analysis revealed that this was made possible because the alumni support new applicants by reviewing their proposals, making them more competitive. This backstopping platform has enabled Benin to rank this high. Prof Van Damme encouraged such practices to continue and advised that a formal association of alumni be put in place for better mentorship and perhaps larger actions.

Being prolific in number, participants were also prolific in comments and concerns. The participants highly appreciated the brilliant idea of removing the barrier of biological age limit, to enable more researchers to benefit from IFS grants and find their paths in research. Also, the increase of research budget ceiling to USD 15000 was much appreciated. Nevertheless, participants also raised concerns about these key issues to be addressed:

  • Why are IFS grants awarded more in agronomic field than others?
  • Many young people less than 35 years old have more than five years after their graduation. However, they did not have the opportunity to be involved in a post-doc research project directly after graduation. Thus, they lose many years after their PhD without experience. Could you plead to review this requirement with IFS Board members?
  • Are research groups allowed to apply for IFS grants?

Participants of New IFS strategy Seminar in Benin



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