ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, July 15, 2021—Climate change research seldom focuses on plant pathology. An agronomy enthusiast with a keen interest in this topic in particular, Howélé Michaëlle Toure wanted to change that.
“My determination, my perseverance, and that feeling of a job well done were my main motivators,” she says. “But I would not have gotten to where I am without my family’s belief in me, especially my father, who always told me that he wanted to see me rise to the top, and my research director who was also a role model, a mentor, and a second father to me.”
Developing cassava varieties that are tolerant to environmental conditions and resistant to disease
With a good head on her shoulders and clear goals in mind, Howélé enrolled at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny University in Abidjan in 2010 where she obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in genetics and species improvement.
And then? A PhD of course! She secured a scholarship and enrolled in a research program at the African Center of Excellence for Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Sustainable Agriculture (CEA-CCBAD). Howélé decided to focus her research on cassava, a tuber that is widely consumed throughout West and Central Africa. Cassava, which is critical to the country’s food security, is also one of the priority crops listed in the National Agricultural Development Plan (PNDA).
“I conducted a case study on the reaction of cassava bacterial blight in Côte d’Ivoire to weather changes and discovered that changes in the climate have an unpredictable impact on the manifestation of the disease. If these pathogenic bacteria were to adapt to these new climate conditions, they would pose a constant threat to cassava crops.”