March 11, 2021

NDSU researcher leads international course initiative


NDSU dry bean breeder Juan Osorno recently led a multi-faceted effort to create an online course titled Gender Responsive Plant Breeding for researchers and scientists working in sub-Saharan Africa.

In collaboration with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research managed by Michigan State University, and the Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project, Osorno and a team from the U.S., Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique developed a pilot initiative to adapt a normally multi-week, in-person course to an online program. The effort is thanks to an additional award given by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research, which is funded by USAID under the Feed the Future initiative to focus on USAID cross-cutting themes.

Osorno, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research gender adviser Andrea Allen and GREAT consultant Margaret Mangheni worked together to bring the course, which was held Nov. 12-16, to fruition. Osorno is the lead principal investigator for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research funded project Genetic Improvement of Dry Beans for Bruchid Resistance for Southern Africa known as the “Bruchid Resistant Bean Team.”

Allen said they had been discussing possible in-person courses with GREAT, but plans needed to be revised due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The groups decided that an online program would help keep the GREAT objectives on track, and the November course was quickly organized.

Allen and GREAT program administrator Elizabeth Assimwe say they are pleased with how quickly the teams pulled the online course together. They said a top-notch program was presented and planning precedents and protocols for online courses were established. Allen and Assimwe said, “It was a groundbreaking experience for all individuals involved.”

The Genetic Improvement of Dry Beans for Bruchid Resistance for Southern Africa project focuses on developing bruchid resistant common bean varieties for production in southern Africa. Osorno, Phil McClean from NDSU, Carlos Urrea from the University of Nebraska, Kelvin Kamfwa from the University of Zambia, Virginia Chisale from the Department of Agricultural Research and Technical Services in Malawi, and Celestina Jochua from Investigaҁꞔᾶo Agraria de Mozambique are team members of the project.

As a result of this training, new gender-responsive activities have been incorporated into the project’s workplan.

GREAT is a five-year collaboration between Cornell University in the U.S. and the Makerere University in Uganda designed to provide sub-Saharan African researchers opportunities to create effective and inclusive agricultural systems for both women and men in the regions.

Four cohorts (Roots, Tubers and Bananas; Cereal Grains; Legumes; Plant Breeding) have been the focus of the GREAT program during the past five years. Each cohort includes agronomists, plant breeders and pathologists, agricultural economists, rural sociologists and anthropologists. They have presented in-person courses to educate and increase opportunities for women and men in all levels of agriculture research and production, especially smallholder farms and entrepreneurs.

GREAT is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is funded through international programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

As a student-focused, land-grant, research university, we serve our citizens.

Submit Your News Story
Help us report what’s happening around campus, or your student news.