New South Sudan cohort to study in Kenya

BHEARD recently awarded 13 South Sudanese students with scholarships, which most will use to pursue master's degrees in agricultural science topics at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

As a nation of 8.26 million people living within 644,329 square kilometers, with high fertile ground for farming and plentiful natural resources and wildlife, South Sudan’s blessings have been undercut by a continuous cycle of poverty, conflict, war and displacement.

 The country returned to that cycle immediately after attaining its independence from Sudan in 2011. Statistics indicate that over 2 million people have been displaced internally and about 2 million others have crossed into neighboring African countries during the country’s latest civil conflict. Fifty-one percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line – and that percentage is higher in rural areas.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been instrumental in supporting vulnerable rural households through various funded programs. One of those programs, Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD), recently awarded 13 South Sudanese students with scholarships, which most will use to pursue master’s degrees in agricultural science topics at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

BHEARD’s goal is to develop agricultural scientists and increase agricultural research capacity in partner countries. The program is named after Dr. Norman Borlaug, an American biologist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution.”

The BHEARD scholarships will help increase local production, widen farmer-based skills and knowledge and streamline field practices in a country where 78% of the population depends on farming and animal husbandry.

The students in this year’s cohort are employees of non-governmental organizations, or are staff members of the Catholic University of South Sudan’s faculty of agriculture. They represent a wide variety of organizations that support the country’s agricultural development, and they come from different geographical areas within South Sudan. Special effort was made to recruit women in the agricultural sciences, and four of the 13 are women.

Here’s a brief profile of each student.

Peter Ajak is seeking a master of science degree in veterinary medicine. He wants to improve milk production in dairy cows and goats to alleviate poverty among smallholder farmers. South Sudan cattle and goats mainly depend on grazing grasses and shrubs, which become inadequate during the dry season, as does the supply of water. Greater access to water for livestock will contribute to the reduction of conflict, cattle raiding and child abduction among the country’s pastoralists. Cattle raids increase when animals die during the dry season.

Daniel Ajuong, seeking a master’s of science in crop protection, plans to survey, isolate and measure diseases of cereal crops, which will equip him to identify and correctly diagnose the diseases that are present in his country. He also would like to have a demonstration farm for the production of certified seeds.

Abraham Thiong is studying for his master’s of science in veterinary medicine. He wants to research the best ways to control ticks among livestock, a major problem for South Sudan’s pastoralists. After graduating, Thiong intends to obtain a teaching position or join an agricultural research institution or non-governmental organization in the development sector.

Robert James, seeking a master’s of science in agricultural economics, wants to cut the cost of fertilizer, improve rural infrastructure and communication and information technologies, improve smallholder access to credit, minimize postharvest losses and promote strong, farm-based institutions.

Lubajo Wani, studying for a master’s of science in land and water management, will evaluate the yield and water-use efficiency of sorghum as the main cereal in South Sudan. Wani hopes to become an irrigation and land conservation specialist to improve irrigated agriculture through proper scheduling, water harvesting techniques and soil management practices.

Gloria Lasu, studying for a master’s of science in horticulture, is interested in research on postharvest vegetables losses due to crop handling. Lasu wishes to conduct research in the field of horticulture and to develop projects for women through the EVE Organization for Women Development, where she worked prior to her BHEARD scholarship award.

Doris Lobojo, studying for a master’s of science in veterinary medicine, is interested in conducting research on the prevalence and serotyping of foot and mouth disease. Lobojo wants to become one of the few female epidemiologists in South Sudan.

Aryemo Ocaya, studying for a master’s of science in agronomy, will study the effect of molecular breeding in improving sorghum yields in South Sudan, the effects of molecular-bred sorghum on major pests and diseases, and the effect of molecular breeding on production per acreage. She believes her research will have a great impact in addressing food insecurity. Her research interest has always been improving yields of major staple crops and horticultural crops to reduce food insecurity, which has left the population dependent on food aid, imports and subsistence plots.

Moi Peter Elia, studying for a master’s degree in agronomy, will learn about plant physiology and ecology, advanced crop production, integrated pest management strategies, weed biology, advanced seed science and technology. He will gain skills in scientific research for the improvement of crops (cereals, protein and oilseed harvests) in a sustainable manner.

Tarbal Victor is seeking a master’s of science in veterinary medicine. His research interests are in the area of molecular genetics. Victor wishes to acquire knowledge and skills in the area of animal breeding and genetics. This is essential to improving livestock performance in both reproduction and the production of meat and milk.

Joyce Ware, seeking a master’s of science in veterinary medicine, said her research interest is zoonoses, diseases that are transmissible between animals and humans.

After earning her degree, Ware plans to continue her field and laboratory surveillance in the epidemiology of zoonoses, and to implement her knowledge and skills in their diagnosis, control, prevention and elimination. When she returns to her profession as a university lecturer, she will share her acquired knowledge and skills with students.

Achikule Yensuk, seeking a master’s of science in veterinary medicine, wishes to play a role in meat production and processing and gain more experience in the livestock sector. After completion of his master’s degree, Yensuk aims to continue to the Ph.D. level, so he can gain more skills for conducting in-depth research and training of livestock farmers.

Dominic Lado Gore is the one Ph.D. student in this cohort, pursuing a degree in animal and livestock sciences at Egerton University in Kenya. He was previously sponsored by BHEARD for his master’s degree at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, where he graduated with distinction in animal science/production physiology. Gore will conduct research in the use of reproductive technologies and nutritional supplements to improve reproduction in sheep and goats.

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