Former IITA-Bioscience Center scientist receives prestigious award from Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF)

Dr. Gezahegn Girma Tessema, former visiting scientist in the Bioscience Center of IITA based in Ibadan received the 2016 Japan International Award for Young Agriculture Researchers for his efforts in characterizing yam germplasm held in conservation at the IITA Genebank, Gezahegn Girma Tessema, former visiting scientist/DNA Fingerprinting Specialist in the Bioscience Center of IITA based in Ibadan received the 2016 Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers.

The award was presented to Tessema on 1 December at the U Thant International Conference Hall, United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan.

Tessema’s research on “Contemporary approaches to the improvement of yam germplasm conservation and breeding” earned this year’s recognition.

He said he was motivated to research on yam because it is a very important crop offering huge benefits to humankind but the extent of genetic diversity has not been well investigated and minimal efforts have been made to understand its taxonomy. In addition, very little is known regarding which genes are responsible for key traits in yam and there is almost no report on polyploidy and its effect on phenotypic performance.

The research addressed the gaps in the establishment of a DNA barcoding system that supports conventional taxonomic identification, improvement of yam field genebank management through mismatch/duplicate identification, understanding the extent of genetic diversity among cultivated guinea yams and wild relatives based on next-generation sequencing based genotyping techniques, understanding the effect of polyploidy on aerial tuber production, and the discovery of novel candidate genes implicated in flowering and sex determination.

Receiving the award, Gezahegn said, “I feel honored to be one of the recipients of the 2016 Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers. I am truly pleased for the recognition of our research efforts toward solving some of the challenges in yam germplasm conservation and improvement. This would have not been possible without the great mentorship from my research supervisors, Melaku Gedil from IITA and Charles Spillane, academic supervisor at the National University of Irelan-Galway. I am grateful to Robert Asiedu and Satoru Muranaka for their recommendation and kind support. I also believe that this recognition will motivate other young researchers in making commendable research outputs that contribute to solving agricultural challenges in developing countries’’.

Officials and researchers from the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA), and the Ethiopian ambassador in Japan, attended the event.

JIRCAS president Masa Iwanaga, in his remarks, expressed his appreciation on the great achievements made by the young awardees, and expectations for much greater success in the future. “Young scientists are essential to developing countries to achieve further development, and the government of japan sincerely wishes to contribute to the capacity development of the next generation of scientists who will play a major role in improvement of world food and nutrition security”.

This annual award, which began in 2007, is organized and presented by MAFF. Its purpose is to increase motivation among young researchers contributing to research and development in the field of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and related industries in developing regions funded by Japan for the benefit of those countries. Up to three young researchers receive the award and cash gift of US$5,000 each every year.