When she saw the call for nominations early this year, Nakalembe says she never anticipated that she would win; she understood it to be targeting innovators who develop solutions that directly impact the farmer, like her co-winner Dr André Bationo from Burkina Faso developed a method of micro dossing that involves using very little environmental-friendly fertilizers to boast crop yields.
2020 Africa Food Prize co- Winner Dr Catherine Nakalembe to spend part of her share of the prize money for furthering the cause of improving the food security of those most in need of it. Nakalembe collects data through satellite technology which is used to guide agriculture decision making.
The Assistant Research Professor at the University of
Maryland in the US told URN in an interview on Tuesday that the Friday announcement
came off as a surprise through a call from Nigerian former president
When she saw the call for nominations early this year,
Nakalembe says she hardly anticipated that she would win, having understood
it to be targeting innovators who develop solutions that directly impact the
farmer or agriculture. Her co-winner Dr André Bationo from Burkina
Faso developed a method of micro-dosing that involves using very little
environmental friendly fertilizers to boost crop yields.
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Applying this data initially in
2015 when she was pursuing her PhD research at the University of Maryland in
the US, Nakalembe has now turned into a globe trotter because of her ability to
map using GPS and predict the occurrence of natural disasters and likely
performance of crops in different terrain and seasons.
As a result of this, she has trained government officials
and scientists in different countries including Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda
and Tanzania among others in Africa. In Uganda, she has seen her data being applied by the government
to make a decision about tackling hunger in Karamoja.
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She says with data and evidence-based interventions,
government programmes like Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) would put resources
where they are most needed by comparing what’s happening in different areas. This
way, she says there will be efficiency in agriculture which is the agenda of the
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However, Nakalembe only became an environmental scientist by
chance having missed her first preference sports science course when she was
enrolling for her undergraduate programme at Makerere University early in 2002.
Being unable to afford self-sponsorship at the university,
she resolved to settle for a new course at the time of environmental science
which she blended with a number of short courses in ICT that formed her first
knowledge of using the computer to do the mapping.
A few months after graduation and conducting her
undergraduate research in remote sensing of the environment, Nakalembe would
apply and win a partial scholarship for a master’s degree in Geography and Environmental
engineering at the Johns Hopkins University.
Apart from agriculture, she has used her mapping technology with
drones to guide the establishment of Bidi Bidi Refugee settlement camp in Yumbe
district which is among the biggest refugee sites in the world.
Also, last year, she won the Inaugural GEO Individual
Excellence Award that recognizes scientists who have come with scientific innovations that
can be easily turned into applicable solutions.