Dr. Maureen Fonji Nkoumki

Maureen was born into a family of 7. Being the only daughter I have always been treated like a princess. TodayI am married with a son and have to play the role of a mother and wifegradually forgetting I am a princess. My interest in agriculture rose from the fact that I grew up in a peasant family. Each time I was on the farm with my late mumit was very disturbing to observe that the crops we planted on the same day were not growing at the same rate. As such our farms were usually divided into patches or sections that were allocated different uses by my mum.Like most farmers in our locality the sections that performed well were left for the market. Growing with unanswered questions in my mind as to why some portions of our farms were not performing wellI decided to study agriculture after my high school. FortunatelyI was successful the very first time I sat for the entrance exams into the Faculty of Agronomy and Agricultural sciences in the university of DschangCameroon in 1995. A 5-year diploma was awarded to me at the end of the courseand with this I could be retained as a research technician at the International Institute of Tropical AgricultureIITA Cameroon where I served for 18 months before being recruited as an assistant researcher in 2002 in our national research instituteIRAD Cameroon. Training as a student at IITACameroonI worked on grain legumes screening them for adaptation to soil physico-chemical properties. I remember my supervisor at IITA encouraged me to remain focused on grain legumes if I wanted to progress faster in my career. With this in mindwhen I went to Belgium for my masters in plant molecular biology at K-U Leuven in 2003I did everything to continue working on grain legumes. This time I subjected common bean to Phosphorus deficiency and measured the organic acid they exuded as a strategy for adaptation. My dream has always been to get knowledge and skills that can be useful in my country. When I returned home from my master studiesI started writing a thesis proposal on common bean to apply for the VLIR graduate sandwich PhD program before I was involved in a motor accident. That did not stop me from dreaming. Today I feel fulfilled being a student at WACCIwhere I have the opportunity to take courses that will prepare me for my field work. Given that intercropping cereals and other crops with grain legumes is a key feature of low input cropping systems in Cameroonwhere soils are acidic and poor in Phosphorus and nitrogenI want to breed cowpea and select those varieties(s) that can produce acceptable yields and fix high amounts of nitrogen biologically. The nitrogen they fix is beneficial to the cowpea plants as well as other associated or rotated crops. But to fix nitrogencowpea needs huge amounts of phosphorus that is limiting in acidic soils. Thus working on P-efficiency and nitrogen fixation on cowpea in acid soils is my focus. I intend to give cowpea farmers varieties they can rely on for foodcash and nitrogen supply. This is possible since I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.