Credit: GIN Photo

Twenty-five-year-old Adjata Kamara’s specialized research into plant-based biopesticides brought her to the attention of the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO—two organizations that aim to give visibility to women researchers worldwide.

This week, Kamara was among five young women working in science to receive the UNESCO/L’Oréal prize. She had been exploring the use of plant extracts, fungi, and beneficial bacteria on yams rather than chemicals which, she said, depletes the soil. Yams are a root that is highly prized in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The prize allows me to show my research to other women, to other countries and it puts a little pressure on me because I tell myself that now I have to be a role model for young girls in science,” she said. Adjata explains that her goal is to develop “biopesticides based on plant extracts, fungi, and beneficial bacteria,” in order to treat without chemicals this anomaly that disrupts the production of a plant that is the basis of staple food in several regions of Africa.

“I work on the development of biopesticides based on plant extracts, bacteria, and also fungi. These bacteria and fungi are said to be beneficial and so I’m trying to find methods to control the fungi that attack post-harvest yams,” said Adjata.

Adjata is one of the five laureates of the “For women in science” young talent prize from sub-Saharan Africa who will receive US$10,000 apiece to help them in their work.

She explained her interest in the field: “From an early age, my father had a mango plantation. And this plantation was attacked by mushrooms, but at that time we did not know it. And as the years passed, there was a drop in production. And from then on, I wanted to know why these mangoes were being attacked [by fungi], and why production was falling. And it’s since then that I devoted myself to it and that I loved science.” 

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