Scientists apply art to tell climate action, land use stories

Participants during the inaugural storytelling event for scientists in Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Four Kenyan researchers working towards finding solutions in agriculture in the face of climate change were among the keynote speakers at an inaugural storytelling event for scientists held in Nairobi.

The maiden event, organised by the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (Award) saw female African researchers indulge the audience in captivating personal stories of their journeys in research in different fields to find solutions to problems caused by climate change.

Presentations by the scientists, which was done in the backdrop of song, poetry and dance, touched on subjects such as soil fertility management, food security and reclamation of previous mines to become productive agricultural works. “I am working on checking the agricultural potential of post-mined land as a reclamation measure,” Esther Mwende Muindi, a Pwani University lecturer said.

Dr Mwende, who holds a PhD in Soil and Water Management, said reclamation of these previous mines can contribute to food security and improved livelihoods in heavy mining regions.

Also representing Kenya at the event was Ms Jerop Rebecca from Laikipia University, whose research focuses on the promotion of underutilised crops in promoting food security. “My work focuses on environmental-friendly innovations that foster the productivity of underutilised cereal crops, specifically finger millet,” she says.

Dr Jerop, also a PhD holder, says that since the crops are more nutritious and resilient to poor or unpredictable agroecological conditions than maize, wheat, or rice, improving their productivity and commercialisation could foster food security and reinforce climate change mitigation and resilience.

Other representatives from Kenya at the event were Mr Mibei Elias Kibiwot Nambeye of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Ms Elizabeth Wangeci Njuguna of South African based Bio-pesticide Group International Centre for Genetic engineering and Biotechnology.

All the Kenyan researchers are fellows of One Planet, a $20 million initiative by AWARD and Agropolis Foundation supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), France’s BNP Paribas Foundation, the European Union and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that is dedicated to supporting research on climate change adaptation.

Fellows at the storytelling event were from Kenya, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Malawi, Togo, Benin, Zambia, Senegal and Mali. “The stories that have been shared this afternoon are rich. I am moved and inspired. You attest to the value of building up applied research skills to improve lives and livelihood,” Kathryn Toure, the regional Director of Canada’s International Development Research Centre said. “I think that storytelling as a means of communicating is important. This sharing of personal stories can be truly transformative.”

The work presented at the storytelling event touched on different aspects in agricultural research like climate change and agriculture, post-harvest management, nutrition and food systems in sub-Saharan Africa, development of disease resistant bean varieties, alternatives to firewood, safe and sustainable means for pest control, application of statistics models in predicting soil properties and important role women play in agriculture.