Green Talent Alassan Assani Seidou: Combining tradition and research

Even as a child, Alassan Assani Seidou wanted to become a doctor. Apparently a distant dream, since Seidou comes from a poor family in Benin. He grew up in the small town of Founougo in the north of the country and even early on he had to help out in his family’s fields. He developed a particular talent for raising poultry, sheep and goats. 'My parents didn’t have the financial means to fund my education', he states. 'So I had to work hard to achieve my goal.'

But he did manage to achieve it: today, at 32 years of age, Alassan Assani Seidou is a doctoral agronomist and has just been distinguished with the Green Talents Award 2020 – as the first-ever early career researcher from Benin. This prize awarded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) enables early career researchers to undertake research visits and make use of important networking opportunities (see information box).

Scholarships for studies and doctorates

Even at school, Seidou was the best in his class year after year. Scholarships after his university-entrance diploma enabled him to study at the state university in Parakou and then to earn his doctorate in agricultural sciences. He continued to develop his research via the DAAD programme Strengthening Advisory Capacities for Land Governance in Africa (SLGA). This In-Country/In-Region programme offers a scholarship to early career researchers enabling them to study or undertake a research visit in their home country or at an African higher education institution in the region.

Seidou now works at the Laboratory of Ecology, Health and Animal Production (LESPA) at the University of Parakou. His work contributes to the development of sustainable strategies in the livestock sector. The research results could provide urgently needed findings for Benin. This subtropical country is particularly exposed to climate change. Heavy downpours and severe temperature fluctuations are increasingly resulting in floods and droughts.

Reducing enteric methane

The rural population is struggling with the consequences, since agriculture is one of the main sources of income. Yet livestock farming is simultaneously one of the precipitants of climate change. Methane is a greenhouse gas that arises during the digestive process in ruminants and causes substantial harm to the environment. There is therefore a need for solutions that create a balance between environmental protection and the economic interests of livestock breeders.

Dr Alassan Assani Seidou has decided on this challenge as his main topic – he is focusing on improving livestock production systems. He believes his findings will result in strategies for reducing enteric methane and improving the capture of carbon in soil.

Reducing the ecological footprint

The management of agricultural land is of great importance here. Agroforestry systems, which rely on a combination of trees with arable and livestock farming, achieve beneficial synergies not only in relation to agricultural production. They also play an important role in balancing emissions. Because trees store carbon and therefore contribute to a balancing and reduction of agriculture’s ecological footprint caused by animal production.

The researcher’s work involves a socio-economic approach that combines traditional knowledge with scientific findings. When confronted with recurring dry spells and the resulting feed shortages, for instance, local small-scale farmers developed different practices to improve their situation. They now use local tree species and integrate them into their arable and livestock farming, for example

Green Talents – Sustainable research at the highest level

Each year the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) organises the prestigious Green Talents – International Forum for High Potentials in Sustainable Development, which promotes international exchange on innovative green ideas from a wide variety of research areas. Young talents from around the world take part in the competition. The German Federal Government awards the prize to young early career researchers from many scientific disciplines who are conducting research into sustainable development. The award enables research visits to German institutions, provides access to a top rate network and lays the foundation for collaborative international research.

This year’s Virtual Science Forum 2020 set the scene for the first ever digital award ceremony. For the first time, the 25 Green Talents awardees include winners from Benin, Japan and Malawi.

Finding a scientific basis

The research project’s objective is to assess the effectiveness of these measures and systems and thus create a scientific basis for sustainable production processes in the livestock sector. 'My own experiences are proving to be very useful in this project', states Alassan Assani Seidou. He has been well aware of the challenges faced by the farmers in Benin since his childhood. 'These experiences enable me to find appropriate solutions for the breeders.'

The fact that Seidou has been recognised with the Green Talent Award means a significant step forward in his career. The award ceremony during the first ever Science Forum in a virtual format gave the African researcher an initial foretaste of the opportunities that the prize opens up to young early career researchers. 'It really was enriching to meet the other Green Talents at the forum and to share experiences with them', says Alassan Assani Seidou.

He discussed green topics with representatives from respected German research institutions and companies. And he also established his first contacts with regards to a potential collaboration.

Author: Gunda Achterhold

About the DAAD alumn

  • Alassan Assani Seidou Alassan Assani Seidou

Dr Alassan Assani Seidou was honoured with the Green Talents Award in 2020. He holds a PhD in Agricultural Sciences, Animal Husbandry and Livestock System Modelling. His research focusses on agroforestry, i.e. sustainable land use. Dr Alassan Assani Seidou is also granted funding within the scope of the DAAD climapAFrica programme.

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December 2020

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