Young Scientists

Michèle Mbo’o-Tchouawou: "The One Planet Fellowship Programme will create scientists networks"

Who are you?

My name is Michèle Mbo'o Tchouawou. I am from Cameroon. I am a development economist. I live in Nairobi, Kenya, where I work at the International Research Centre on Agroforestry, ICRAF, as part of the AWARD programme, which stands for African Women in Agricultural Research and Development.

What is the One Planet Fellowship?

To talk about the One Planet Fellowship Programme, we should talk first about AWARD. Because the program is actually a replication of AWARD's fellowship model. So the idea is really to be able to show the world that we have potential and that we must value that potential wherever it is. But also to give these women researchers the self-confidence, the opportunity to influence our political systems, to influence the evidence that public policies need to be able to put in place policies that meet the needs of our populations. Because finally, we do research so that it is at the service of the public.

On which model do you rely?

The One Planet Fellowship is based on the AWARD model, which puts scientists from different African countries at the centre, but also European scientists and supervisors in laboratory centres around the world. Especially in Europe and Africa. But also young scientists who will be associated with fellows in the framework of these programmes. So we are aiming for about 600 scientists, who will be selected under this program. But the idea is that after five years, we will create interactions of thousands of scientists around the world. So it is really a programme that, beyond putting at the centre scientists who will benefit from certain opportunities, will also promote and mobilize collaborations between African scientists, but also European scientists. And the idea is to replicate the model, why not, in Asia, Australia and other countries.

What do you think about young scientists who do not return to Africa?

It is not a problem as such because you feel good where you are. But that's one thing. Now, from my experience, I would say that we must dare because there are a lot of opportunities in Africa, and it is still a fairly virgin field where each of us, as scientist, can have an impact. There are challenges to be met, we must not forget that. But you have to dare, you have to tell yourself that there are opportunities. And we must not only look at the impact we will have in Cameroon. If we happen to be in Mali and we can have an impact that can be generalized to Cameroon, why not? Whether we are in Namibia, whether we are in South Africa or anywhere in Africa, as long as we work together to develop our continent, I think it is an effort we must do. I lived in France for a little over ten years. I dared. I left and I think I don't regret it at all.

Interview by Jean-Bruno Tagne

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