In partnership with Corteva Agriscience we invited emerging leaders in the agriculture sector to share with us what drives them. We also asked them to tells us if they had a magic wand what would they change in the agriculture sector.
Today we share with you Ishaya Usman Gadzama’s story. Ishaya grew up in Sub-Saharan Africa and witnessed children dying of malnutrition first hand. His aspiration is to fight hunger and improve people’s lives through the provision of safe, affordable, nutritious food for all. This challenged him to ensure best practice animal well being. Ishaya is currently studying a PhD at the University of New England investigating Animal Behaviour and Welfare.
Ishaya shares with us:
- Seeing food insecurity first-hand has been a driver to study agriculture
- Young people can be effective mentors for other young people
- Seek every opportunity, open every door, give back and pay forward
This is Ishaya story …..
As a young child growing up in Sub-Saharan Africa, I followed my parents to our family farm, but at that period I thought I was being punished until one day while resting under one of the Mango trees I observed an ant after coming across a ‘food’ it immediately went and call the others and they came and took the food to their home. This behaviour made me become inquisitive about living things.
Going into high school I already knew where my heart was at, so I studied more of Biology, Agriculture and Chemistry and these courses laid the bedrock of my knowledge in the field of Biological Sciences as my best grades came under these courses.
My enthusiasm for agriculture continued to grow as I witnessed how children in my community die of severe malnutrition such as kwashiorkor and marasmus due to inadequate or poor access to high-quality food. For years, I asked myself what if I was in their shoes? In addition, the United Nations projected the world population to reach 9.8 billion in 2050. There is therefore the need for an increased effort towards food production – growing more grains, fruits and vegetables, raising more livestock, harvesting more fish and collecting more eggs and milk. These ignited a deep passion within me to seek a profession in agriculture to contribute to finding lasting solution to food insecurity issues and to make sure people have regular access to high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
Motivated by the passion to improve food production, I proceeded to the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria in search of world-class education to study Agriculture for a Bachelor Degree. It was there that I was nurtured and taught by elite lecturers with international experience in both practical and theoretical courses in crop and animal production, agricultural economics, and biotechnology.
I believe the only way we can feed approximately 10 billion people by 2050 is if food production becomes much more sustainable and governments need to take action. I joined the services of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in June 2014 working as a Research Fellow at the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, where I supervised undergraduate field practicals, carried out on-farm training of staff and farmers in feed formulation; contributed in on-farm animal-based research studies and field surveys and advised the government through NAPRI reports.
As a staff-in-training (SIT), I obtained theoretical knowledge and practical training over the course of two years studying for a Master’s degree in Animal Science and I shared my research findings with different stakeholders at national and international seminars and conferences, and through publications.
I am driven by curiosity to learn and I like to apply scientific knowledge in a societal context. In February 2019, I was appointed as a next generation Social Media Ambassador for Global Food Security Symposium at the Chicago Council for Global Affairs. I am involved in several volunteering activities such as the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), Grooming Leaders for Agriculture (GLA) and FarmCoach Agro-Services, through which I acquired a solid experience in mentoring which had positively impacted the lives of young people. I have been supporting young agricultural students in their personal and professional development to become excellent young professionals who can effectively contribute to food security, food safety and sustainability. Currently, I am mentoring 17 young people sharing my knowledge and inspiring them to take careers in the agriculture sector to contribute in feeding about 10 billion people by 2050.
As a result, I received an Award for my outstanding leadership and valuable contribution to the development of the Agriculture sector in Nigeria and also for my service as a mentor in the ongoing Grooming Leaders for Agriculture (GLA – seniors programme). My commitment to motivate people and communities towards a positive change was rewarded by winning a merit and experience-based award (the Marshal Papworth scholarships) to study an MSc in Agricultural Sciences and Production Systems at Harper Adams University in the UK and in February 2020, I was also nominated for a Chevening Scholarship in the UK.
Furthermore, I won the prestigious Netherlands Fellowship Programme (now Orange Knowledge Programme) where I was trained by world’s leading experts at Aeres TCI in Animal Feed formulation and production. This gave me the privilege to establish professional networks with resource persons working in the poultry, pig and feed processing industries.
Doggedness and a search for knowledge have always been my strong points, perhaps this explains why I was awarded the University of New England International Postgraduate Research Award (IPRA) scholarship for a 3 years PhD programme in Animal Science and I also won the UNE International Accommodation Scholarship.
My passion, ideas and commitment to provide the solutions and leadership needed to improve people’s life through agriculture right from childhood made me to volunteer as one of UNE’s International Students’ Ambassador; leveraging the UNEBuddy online platform, interacting with potential students online sharing my experience and engaging in discussion on UNE’s innovative research culture, and answering questions related to teaching and research in UNE. This concretize my selection as UNE HDR Representative in the Department of Animal Science, where I am identifying the research needs of HDR students, contributing in discussions supporting the strategic plans of the Faculty of Agriculture and advancing the capabilities of Ag students.
I love so much agriculture related courses and I took some online trainings offered by Coursera and I was awarded financial assistance which earned me certificates in Dairy Production and Management, Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Chicken Behaviour and Welfare, Sustainable Food Production through Livestock Health Management and How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper.
My aspiration to fight hunger and improve people’s lives through the provision of quality-food, challenged me to delve into the area of improving animal welfare. I was awarded a PhD project in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at UNE which is being funded by AgriFutures Australia. There is an increasing demand for meat chickens produced in a free-range system in Australia. This recent increase has been largely driven by the perception that free-range chicken meat is a welfare friendly product. My research aimed at motivating meat chickens to access the outdoor environment and we hypothesised that this will improve their health, welfare and meat quality.
I am also running for the position of Student Representative to represent UNE students in the UNE Council and to contribute effectively and ethically to strategic decision-making for the sustainable development of agriculture and to ensure students’ interests and voices are heard.