Meet CGIAR-IITA’s women fighting plant pests and diseases

4 April 2020

International Year of Plant Health 2020The current COVID-19 pandemic is a heart-wrenching example of how viruses can quickly spread from one continent to the next.

The way human diseases spread is not any different from how plant pests and diseases spread. Lava Kumar, a virologist and head of the Germplasm Health Unit (GHU) at IITA, says, “Humans are the number one carriers of plant pests.” With no ill intention, people carry plants, flowers, and fruit from one destination to the next, thereby spreading diseases over the whole world. “That is why it is always wise to carry only certified plants or seed to prevent the spread of diseases,” Kumar further added.

Meet CGIAR-IITA’s women fighting plant pests and diseases

If pests or diseases spread—which is inevitable—there is a team of foot soldiers who work tirelessly to curb the pest or disease. In human medicine, it is doctors; for plants, it is plant health scientists. As the women’s month of March comes to an end, we want to recognize the women scientists who ensure that our food does not succumb to epidemics that result in famine.

IITA, one of the centres in CGIAR, has a team of 38 plant health scientists dedicated to ensuring the safety of plants under the Institute’s mandate—cassava, banana/plantain, maize, yam, cowpea, and maize. This is the largest institutional team of plant health scientists in Africa and CGIAR. Of these, eight are women. As we celebrate women’s month (March) and the International Year of Plant Health, 2020, we shine the light on these women who have dedicated their careers to ensuring the well-being of our plants and by extension—our food and nutrition security.

May-Guri Saethre – Deputy Director General (DDG) Research for Development
Leena Tripathi – Biotechnologist
Jane Wanza – Agribusiness specialist
Livia Stavolone – Molecular biologist
Kolade Olufisayo – Disease phenotyping specialist
Everlyne Wosula – Postdoctoral fellow
Titilayo Falade – Associate scientist – pathology
Charity Mutegi – Food Safety Specialist