Prof. Mary Abukutsa Oyiela Onyango is one of the two winners of the African Union Award’s Eastern Africa Awards, each worth US$20,000.
Prof. Onyango, who has been actively involved in research into African indigenous vegetables and university teaching for over 20 years, won the Earth and Life Sciences Award at the AU Scientific Awards ceremony that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on September 9, 2010.
The AU Scientific Awards Programme targets young researchers at Member State Level, Women at Regional Level and outstanding Scientists at Continental Level. The Regional Scientific Awards category, which Prof. Onyango won, is aimed at promoting the participation of women in science; technology and innovation. They are further intended at acknowledging the women’s contribution to the use of science in addressing African challenges.
Under the same regional category, another Kenyan scientist, Dr. Grace Adila Murilla, Chief Research Officer and director at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, won the Basic Science, Technology and Innovation Sector Award.
A professor of Horticulture, Onyango is an experienced and internationally recognized scholar, scientist and prolific researcher. She is particularly fond of her students, women farmers and the underprivileged. She is a great team player who believes that research for development is the way to go and investing in women in Africa is the smart option to solve poverty and malnutrition challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa and that agricultural biodiversity must play a part in the current efforts of the continent’s Green Revolution.
The awards were set up in 2007. They include the Young Scientists National Awards worth US$5,000 each, funded separately by the AU and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS); the regional Woman Scientists awards, each worth US$20,000; and continental Top Scientist awards — one for life and earth sciences and the other for basic science, technology and innovation — each worth US$100,000 and open to “all outstanding scientists” in Africa.
Science and Technology is of the key focal areas on Africa’s development agenda. The African Union Constitutive Act, which establishes the AU, recognizes the need to advance Africa’s development through the promotion of research in all fields and in particular, science and technology.
The annual awards are currently funded by the European Union’s institutional support to the AU Commission for Human Resources, Science and Technology. This totals around €2 million (US$2.6 million), of which US$500,000 is allocated to the awards programme.