Abdub Galgallo, 27, is a Kenyan Master of Science student at the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (INST), University of Nairobi. He is involved in the programme of FoodAfrica research for development through the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) where he has conducted research on his thesis on soil micronutrients. Building capacity by educating young scientists in the participating countries is one of the key activities in the programme.
Abdub Galgallo is carrying out analyses of total and easily soluble micronutrients in soil from samples collected at a site near Nairobi in Kenya. Analyses of total trace element contents have been completed at ICRAF and the extractions of the easily soluble micronutrients are in good progress at the laboratories of MTT Agrifood Research Finland in the town of Jokioinen.
While working in Jokioinen Galgallo will learn analytical methods of wet chemistry that are used in FoodAfrica Work Package 1. Under this package, a comprehensive survey of soil micronutrients in Sub-Saharan Africa is being done. He will use the same methods, which aim to predict the plant availability of soil micronutrients, to analyze the Nairobi samples.
What makes soil analysis important?
– Micronutrient status in the soil is an indicator of soil fertility and a key factor in mitigation efforts to address poverty and hunger in Africa. Soil analysis will therefore provide the basis for understanding plant health and status of food production. People might be exposed to hidden hunger, eating food that lacks essential nutrients but makes them feel full. When there is nutrient deficiency in the soil, the plants grow poorly, the quantity and quality of food production decreases and the final consumers suffer. The whole chain is thus affected by micronutrient status in the soil, he explains.
How did you end up doing a part of your research in MTT Jokioinen?
– After visiting the laboratories at MTT Jokioinen, my supervisors Dr. Michael Gatari from the University of Nairobi and Dr. Keith Shepherd from ICRAF recommended that I would do part of my MSc research work in Finland. On my acceptance, Dr Gatari requested International Science Programme (ISP) at Uppsala University in Sweden to help in funding my travel, accommodation and living expenses in Finland. Professor Martti Esala from MTT Jokioinen was requested to host my research work. Both ISP and Professor Esala accepted and that is how I ended up at MTT Jokioinen.
How do you think the farmers can benefit from your research?
– In most cases farmers do not know the status of their soil. In Africa, they rely on knowledge passed from generation to generation. However, that knowledge is no longer useful in the current situation of high population, and reduced arable land that is over utilized and overgrazed. For farmers to get profitable yields and to help fight poverty and hunger, knowledge and advisories on soil micronutrient status are very important. The goal is therefore to assess the soil fertility through high quality micronutrient data, explain this to agricultural extension officers and together with them explain the situation to the farmers and recommend solutions. In the end, we foresee farmers improving plant health on their farms, increasing crop yields and therefore profits. This is expected to motivate commitment to food production and consequently reduce poverty and hunger.
How did you become a Research Scientist?
– I realized the importance of science and the fun in doing it early in my education, especially the chemical constituent of what we see and consume in our food. I therefore pursued education in science and now I am into research where there is fun and satisfaction in helpful knowledge delivery to mankind. The lives of human beings can be improved through science put into practice, Galgallo says.