Africa told to give plant science bigger attention

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AS the world marked Fascination of Plants Day yesterday, Africa still needs more plant scientists. Over the past decade, there has been rapid growth in the numbers of biomedical scientists but no growth at all in the total number of plant scientists. Yet the demand for increasing quantities and higher quality has increased.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Director for East Africa Hub, Dr Victor Manyong, made the remarks yesterday in Dar es Salaam to mark Fascination of Plants Day.

“Capacity development in plant science is very important; students undertaking anything related to agriculture should understand that it is not sufficient to acquire bachelors or masters degrees; you need more people who will go for the PhD level but few do that,” he noted.

Dr Manyong remarked further that proper training to lower level students is also crucial, as the continent needs more researchers, especially females, because they are very sharp and read a lot.

He said African countries have to promote vocational research institutes to prepare plant scientists in the future, and that giving presentations to university students was very crucial, because through them, and especially females, can be inspired to pursue these kind of courses.

Expounding further, the director said Africa didn’t have enough plant scientists and the problems in the continent regarding plants were quite diverse and required different skills.

The focus of the plant day was to celebrate the beauty of what plants could do to the life of human kind, since without plants, there would be no life. The goal of the day was to get as many people as possible around the world fascinated by plants and enthused about the importance of plant science for agriculture.

“Plants are vital to our health and our environment not only for sustainably producing food, but also in ‘hidden’ ways such as the production of medicines, fuel, chemicals, paper and timber,” Dr Manyong said.

Fascination of Plants Day was first launched in 2012, at which over 960 events were organised by over 590 institutions from 56 countries world-wide, and attracted thousands of scientists.

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