CABI researchers Lilian Owembabazi and Dr Hettie Boafo have each been given special CABI science awards – in memory of former colleagues – allowing them to help increase food security, livelihoods, and empowerment for women in Africa.

Ms Owembabazi, Research Assistant at CABI’s regional centre for Africa in Nairobi and master’s student in Livestock Development, Planning, and Management at Uganda’s Makerere University, is the first winner of the Gopi Ramasamy Science Award.

The Award, in memory of Mr Ramasamy – former Regional Director, CABI South Asia, who passed away in 2023 after 10 years’ service – is given to young scientists committed to youth and women’s empowerment in rural communities or business development.

Specific focus on empowering women

Ms Owembabazi (main image) will use her £2,000 grant to pilot business models for increasing the uptake of livestock vaccinations in Uganda by establishing a network of community animal health workers with a specific focus on empowering women.

The business models will aim to not only ensure the accessibility of vaccines for women but will also create income-generating opportunities for women smallholder farmers, and service providers, building long-term self-reliance to help improve livelihoods.

A particular focus will be on the prevention of Newcastle disease which is the most significant disease presented at joint crop and livestock clinics in Uganda, already supported by CABI for the benefit of hundreds of smallholder farmers.

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious disease of birds caused by a para-myxo virus and affects fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, pheasants, partridges, guinea fowl and other wild and captive birds such as ostriches, emus, and rhea.

The award will also facilitate the formation of group networks among women farmers, encouraging collaboration and resource-sharing.

Ms Owembabazi said, “I extend my heartfelt gratitude to CABI for this opportunity and eagerly anticipate the benefit it will bring to my research. I am equally excited about the potential to create significant impact for women in rural communities.”

Previously, Ms Owembabazi served as a project coordinator at Makerere University for the implementation of a project to enhance capacity for Mobile and Rapid Field Diagnosis of Bovine Trypanosomiasis (Encap-MDt).

She was also a graduate student involved in the ‘SheVax’ project, focusing on action research to support women’s agency and empowerment in livestock vaccine distribution, delivery, and utilization across Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.

Natural enemies of the Asia citrus psyllid (ACP)


Dr Hettie Boafo (Credit: CABI).

Dr Boafo, Research Officer, Invasive Species Management, based at CABI’s centre in Ghana, meanwhile, is the winner of the Carol Ellison Science Award. She will use her £2,000 grant to study natural enemies of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) in Ghana.

Specifically, the money will go towards conducting field surveys to identify natural enemies linked with ACP, as well as laboratory research and identification services dedicated to identifying these natural enemies.

The Carol Ellison Science Award is awarded to a student doing their research with CABI, or an early career CABI researcher, with the objective of enriching their research experience at CABI. Dr Ellison worked at CABI for over 30 years as a specialist in the biological control of invasive alien weeds before she died in 2020.

ACP is a serious pest of citrus fruits as it acts as a vector for the bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (citrus greening) and Candidatus Liberibacter americanus (American greening) – the causative agent of citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing (HLB).

The disease kills citrus crops within five years of attack. The major control option has targeted the vector (ACP), as there is currently no treatment for the disease which threatens livelihoods and food security in Ghana.

Dr Boafo said, “As the pest is a new pest, the natural enemies associated with it are unknown.

“This study therefore seeks to catalogue the natural enemies that are associated with ACP which can be utilized for effective pest management.

“This is a great opportunity for me to build skills which would make me a better entomologist and advance my knowledge in the biological control of arthropod pests.”

Dr Boafo’s previous research sought to determine the rate of parasitism by the egg parasitoid Telenomus remus on eggs of the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) after releases in maize fields in some parts of Ghana.

Awards align with strategic goals

Both areas of work under the two CABI science awards align with the goals of CABI’s Medium-Term Strategy 2023-2025. These include ‘improving the food security and livelihoods of smallholder communities’ and ‘reducing inequality through better opportunities for rural women and youth.’

Dr Morris Akiri, CABI’s Senior Regional Director, Africa, said, “I congratulate Lilian and Hettie for furthering CABI’s mission of helping smallholder farmers sustainably tackle pests and diseases which can threaten livelihoods and food security.

“Central to this, also, is the need to further empower our women and youth to play more prominent roles in agriculture and entrepreneurship and I am pleased both projects resulting from these awards also recognise this in their delivery.”


Additional information

Main image: Ms Owembabazi delivers a presentation on joint crop and livestock clinics in Uganda at the African Continental Association for Food Protection food safety (ACAFP) conference for Africa in Accra, Ghana.

Relevant story

‘Case study explores a ‘One Health’ approach to crop and livestock care in Uganda.’

Working paper

‘The Asian Citrus Greening Disease (Huanglongbing): Evidence Note on Invasiveness and Potential Economic Impacts for East Africa.’