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For Nadia, an international Master's student from Burundi, being able to study in the German Southwest is a great opportunity to pursue her interests.

Establishing seed banks for rural communities in Africa

Nadia Ntaconayigize is sowing the seeds for organic and sustainable food production with her master’s thesis at the University of Hohenheim.

Nadia Ntaconayigize loves gardening and nutrition. She also cares about social justice. When she found a way to combine her passions in her studies at the University of Hohenheim, she was elated. The young woman from Burundi moved from Italy where she had completed her bachelor’s degree to Hohenheim near Stuttgart.

The University of Hohenheim is one of the most respected educational institutions for sustainability and agriculture in Germany. For Nadia, being able to study here is a great opportunity to pursue her interests and contribute to the scientific knowledge that will benefit farmers all over the world, including several countries in Africa.

Bringing neglected crops into the spotlight

Nadia found organic agriculture and food systems as a field of study especially attractive since this is the kind of agriculture she is familiar with from her native Burundi. However, especially when it comes to seeds, she sees an urgent need for improvement in many rural areas in Africa. Her goal is to help establish seed banks in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Niger and Chad. 

“Seeds are really important in agriculture because without seeds we wouldn't be able to produce food. Everything starts from seeds. Without seed, farmers are also restricted on what they can do and which crops they can plant”, Nadia says. She focuses on neglected and underutilized crops like sorghum, amaranth and groundnuts that aren’t used in mainstream agriculture but have a high nutritional value. “We want to do agriculture in a sustainable way”, she explains. To achieve this, she uses agro-ecological methods, agroforestry and mixing crops to produce resilient crops that can withstand future challenges brought about by climate change.

The goal is to establish community seed banks where the farmers in rural areas own and manage the seeds together. They are taught how to conserve the seeds according to scientific methods to ensure that the seeds are of high quality.

Research with real-world application

Nadia’s master’s thesis is supported by a Swiss NGO. This shows not only the quality of her work but also ensures that the results of her research will be implemented in the five countries that are participating in the project. “I hope more countries will join”, says Nadia.

Deciding to come to the University of Hohenheim has been a great choice for Nadia. “I liked the international master’s programs and the fact that the programs are so flexible”, she says. She was able to combine different modules from different programs so she could study what interested her and what would be most useful for her future.

Personal support and new friendships

While she appreciates the academic opportunities, Nadia also values the personal support she receives and the connections she built. “The relationships with my coordinator and the professors are really good and I have wonderful colleagues from all over the world”, she says. “The internationality is something I appreciate a lot because I met many people who are different from me. This means learning and growing together.”

Meeting different people often means being surprised. This is definitely true for Nadia. She was surprised that the professors were humble and really interested in the students’ opinion. “I studied in Italy before and I found the relationship between professors and students more hierarchical there.” In Baden-Württemberg, she encountered another facet of life she didn’t expect: “People work really hard”, she says. “But they also party really hard”, she laughs.

For her future, Nadia would like to work with African countries in the areas of international cooperation. “It would be great to be able to help my community”, she says. 

Tip: For more study programs in Agricultural Sciences in Baden-Württemberg, go here.

Author: Siri Schubert