Blessings in Disguise: Experience of a Cohort 2 Fellow

Dr Catherine V Nnamani
Home Institution: Ebonyi State University Abakaliki, Nigeria
Host Institution: Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Supervisor: Prof. S. A. Ajayi


In the Beginning

When I received the email from Benji Gyampoh congratulating me that I had been selected as a CIRCLE Visiting Fellow, Cohort 2, I was very excited. However, my joy was cut short when my appointed supervisor could not take me and I was reposted. At this juncture, I was disappointed and I was not sure I wanted to take up the award. However, Prof H. O. Oselebe and the Coordinator of CIRCLE in EBSU, Prof J. O. Ogunji, both took it upon themselves to counsel me to take up the fellowship. When I contacted my supervisor he told me that all is set for me and that I should come over. I got to my Host Institution in January 2016. I thank God for His grace in my supervisor Prof S. A. Ajayi, for he took over everything about my welfare immediately. Coincidently, the president of the Botanical Society of Nigeria (BOSON), my affiliate society, Prof A. S. Ishiche is in the Department of Botany in OUA. He was excited to hear I was there and invited me to join him at church. Finally, I got to find my way around OAU and together with other CVFs Dr (Mrs) Daniella Sedegah and Sylvia Ankamah I became more comfortable in my host environment and poised for exploits.

My CIRCLE Research

Together with Dr Afiukwa, a CIRCLE Cohort 1 Fellow, and Prof H. O. Oselebe I organized a stakeholder’s workshop at Ebonyi State University on the 25th May, with the major aim of disseminating the outcomes of our collaborative project on “Addressing Wastewater Challenges for National Development with an African Bio-resource”. The workshop attracted a range of key stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, farmers, researchers, government agencies, miners, women’s groups, NGOs, CBNs and the private sector). It was an amazing experience because I was able to share my CIRCLE project, get feedback and pick some of the farmers as respondents for my field survey and sample collection.

After some modifications on my proposal and input from farmers during the stakeholder’s forum, I decided to work with five states in South-east, Nigeria. Five hundred (500) respondents were interviewed and 34 accessions of African Yam Bean were collected. My ethnobotanical survey and sample collection was an exciting experience as it gave me the opportunity to interact directly with local communities, particularly the resource poor rural dwellers and farmers. Their responses gave birth to our first CIRCLE paper that is in the pipeline now.

Interviewing a farmer  Eleke Achara community at Ikwo LGA in Ebonyi State


The highest academic platform for Botanists

The highest academic platform for Botanists is the American Society of Botanists. Their conference this year had the theme “Celebrating Our History and Conserving our Future”. It attracted over 1,200 international plant scientists and students. Six researchers attended from Nigeria. My friend Dr C. Asuzu and I officially joined the International Association of Plant Taxonomist (ISPT) and the President welcomed us as members. Future collaboration stemmed out from this event and the president asked us to submit a research proposal for the 2017 year grant award competition, for researchers coming from the developing countries.  I made a presentation on research directly related to my CIRCLE project and the conference gave me the opportunity to interact with other researchers working in the same area.

Participants from Nigeria at Botany2016 at Savannah, Georgia
In the US I made contact with Prof Diuto Esiobu in Florida Atlantic University, who offered me a place in her Lab for two weeks to undergo training in molecular analysis. The training has been thrilling, for the first time I was able to carry out my molecular analysis with ease. Thanks to CIRCLE and Prof Diuto Esiobu for this opportunity.

Training at OAU

OAU is a Center of Excellence, bubbling with so many National and International programs.

The induction workshop for CIRCLE Cohort 2 Fellows made me understand the importance of integrating in our host institution. This spurred me to action and I quickly applied for a two week training course on Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS). The training was an eye opener on what a researcher could do and achieve with GIS. Later, I attended a workshop on the application of Biotechnology in medicinal plant research. The training improved my skills in Molecular Analysis and paved the way for future collaborations.
Participants in the training on the Application of Biotechniques
Leading on from the biotechniques workshop I was invited to attend an award winning grant proposal writing workshop, facilitated by Dr Opelo Ojo, which looked at why most of our grant proposals do not see the light of the day and how to overcome these challenges.

My Achievements

I am happy to share that I attracted two grants for my Home Institution during my CIRCLE Fellowship:

a) Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP) - a scholar fellowship program for educational projects at African higher education institutions, offered by IIE in partnership with the United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa).

b)            EBSU-TETfund University Seed Grant for Research - I won funding for a proposal on Bio-Banking on Neglected and Underutilized Crops of Ebonyi State.

I have published 8 peer reviewed research papers and I have also published my long overdue Text Book on Diversity of Traditional Vegetables of   South-east, Nigeria for food security. I have also been invited by the Director of the Genetic Resource Center, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to present my CIRCLE Project to researchers and academics at a symposium on African Yam Bean. I say big THANK YOU to CIRCLE Organizers, ACU, AAS, DfID, Vitae for this wonderful opportunity to me and to Africans.


Comments

  1. Great work, Catherine. I am very happy to read about your experience with CIRCLE. There are many positives in your experience that I can comment on but for now, I would like to restrict my comment to your integration at your host institution. From where I sit as a Programme Manager for CIRCLE and getting to know the unwritten details of benefits of the programme to CVFs, I can state clearly that all CIRCLE Visiting Fellows (CVFs) who made it a priority to get themselves effectively integrated into the activities at their host institution have benefited immensely. Well done.

    More successes.

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