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AYENAN Mathieu

Mathieu grew up in a farming family, in Glazoué (Republic of Benin) and in his very early days, he fell in love with farming. He couldn’t help going to farm whenever it was possible. He attended primary and secondary schools in the same town. In 2008, he got his high school diploma and he was awarded a scholarship by Benin Government to enrol in a BSc degree program in Agricultural sciences (University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin), which he completed in 2012 with a major in crop science. His undergraduate years opened his eyes to the importance of agricultural research and extension as drivers of development and he was eager to play his role and become a change maker. This desire has led him, after his BSc program, to join the laboratory of soil science (University of Abomey-Calavi) as research technician where he was involved in research projects aiming at improving productivity of cashew nut and maize. His thirst for getting a holistic view of agricultural sector was quenched when, in 2013, he joined SOJAGNON NGO, a local non-governmental organization. As a technician at SOJAGNON, he has been involved in the development and implementation of a number of research for development projects which have led to technologies development to the benefit of grassroot actors. His interactions with farmers and his personal experience as farmer have given me a unique chance to fully apprehended the importance of good quality seeds in crop production. This has triggered his interest for plant breeding. In 2014, he was awarded the Africa Regional International Students/Staff Exchange (ARISE) scholarship to pursue his master degree in Genetics and Plant breeding at University of Ghana (Ghana), which he completed in 2016. Right after completion, he joined the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) as research assistant where he conducted multi-locational evaluation of tomato varieties. At that position, he came to the realization that he still needs advanced skills in plant breeding to fully unleash his scientific potential and advance knowledge in this field. In 2018, he was granted a DAAD scholarship to study PhD in plant breeding at WACCI, University of Ghana.

Africa in general and Benin in particular is facing severe lack of plant breeders, which comprise development and delivery of improved varieties to cope with current and future challenges including but not limited to pests’ attack, climate change, declining soil fertility, need for increase nutrients in food. Mathieu does believe that the opportunity he got to acquire new knowledge and skills by doing a PhD in plant breeding will strengthen his capacities to actively take up these challenges. He can then be able to impact people’ lives by developing varieties to contribute to nutritional and food security and agricultural transformation in Africa.

Mathieu always find joy in working with farmers and support them in improving their livelihood. In 2014, he co-founded and he has been, since then, the Chair of the farming cooperative “Coopérative Agro-Pastorale et Agro-Alimentaire du Bénin (CAAG, https://caagbenin.wordpress.com)”

From the various positions he has occupied, Mathieu has developed expertise in pre-breeding activities including germplasm collection and characterization, plant breeding, analysis of agricultural value chains, seed systems and agricultural research for development. His current research interests lie in harnessing conventional and molecular tools to develop market oriented tomato varieties. he is also interested in seed systems and issues related to property rights and plant genetic resources.