Dr. Mamadou Ibrahim Aissata

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Mamadou Ibrahim Aissata is no stranger to breaking new ground. She is the oldest of five children born to her parents in Niger. She was one of the first female researchers at the National Institute for Agronomic Research in Niamey the capital. And now she is the only woman in the first class of eight AGRA-sponsored researchers studying at the University of Ghana Legon.
For me if you have a good background it is not a problem being a woman in this field " Aissata said. "After all it is not physical work. It is intellectual work." At Niger's institute for agronomic research which has about 50 scientists Aissata is one of about six female researchers. Her area of focus is genetic improvement of sorghum. For her doctorate studies she will look at ways of breeding new varieties of sorghum to improve crop yields for farmers. She grew up along the southern tier of Niger near the border of Nigeria in the commercial market hub of Maradi which is 700 kilometers east (a nine-hour bus ride) of Niamey. She lived with her aunt and uncle a trader who sold everything from crops to salt. Aissata 43 a widow who does not have children attended undergraduate school in Russia. She earned her master's degree in biotechnology and crops improvement at the University of Cocody in Cote d' Ivoire. Her focus now she said is to help her country. "Niger is very poor and about 80 percent of the people living there are farmers. I feel it is my responsibility to do something to contribute and I believe I can do that through my work in agriculture." She said she has high expectations of herself. Perhaps she said she can discover or create new varieties with farmers that will thrive with little water or be resistant to a wide range of pests and disease. "Who knows?" Aissata said. "I hope the work I will do will benefit farmers in Niger and maybe all of West Africa. It is important for me to try to do this."