Anne Njoroge, a molecular pathologist working at the International Potato Center (CIP) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), based in Nairobi, Kenya, uses molecular techniques to study organisms and environmental conditions that cause diseases in plants, her current focus being on potato.
Since 2012, she has been studying the highly destructive pathogen Phytophthora Infestans, responsible for causing the potato late blight disease, the cause of the famous Irish famine in the 1840’s. In SSA, potato late blight causes losses amounting to USD2.75bn per year, and Anne is helping find a solution to this problem.
Her strategy is twofold. The first is build her capacity as an African scientist working in Africa. In late 2016, Anne received a one year Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellowship through the Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub located in Nairobi, Kenya. This means she now has access to the state of the art research facilities at BecA-ILRI Hub and a chance to interact with other renowned scientists, from Africa, hosted at the facility.
“I employ molecular techniques to study pathogen populations, from East and Central Africa. The aim is to generate data to aid the design of better control strategies for late blight,” says Anne. Better control strategies will lead to improved food security and livelihoods for farmers in the region as a result of improved management of the disease, she explains further.
From her work at BecA-ILRI, Anne hopes to build a community of practice (CoP) of African scientists working on Phytophthora diseases.
The second strategy is to continue availing information on the pathogen population in East Africa to different research groups. At the moment, she is part of the lateblight resistant biotech potato team at CIP which has engineered a genetically modified potato. This potato, with 3R genes, has been tested in Uganda for a period of two years in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Organization’s (NARO) Kachwekano Zonal Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI), near Kabale in Southwestern Uganda. This work is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the 2 Blades Foundation.