Dr. Enoch and his students working on his science agricultural project

Hunger still impacts over 690 million people around the world [1]. And, in countries like Benin in West Africa, a shortage of healthy, sustainable crops lies at the root of the problem.

Imagine if Benin’s farmers (and farmers across the globe) could effectively increase their production and income. Imagine if communities had access to locally grown, high-nutrient crops. For Enoch Achigan-Dako, Ph.D., this vision of better wages, a stronger economy, and improved nutrition can become a reality. How? The solution is found in science.

Fighting hunger through plant breeding in West Africa

"Planting the seeds" for hardier, healthier foods

Dr. Achigan-Dako is the Associate Professor in Genetics and Plant Breeding at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Cotonou, Benin. And while he was born and raised in Benin, he has traveled the world in the pursuit of science.

Before returning to his home country in 2014, Dr. Achigan-Dako trained and worked in Cote d’Ivoire, Germany, India, Kenya, and UC-Davis. Today, his research efforts with faculty and students at the University of Abomey-Calavi are driven by a bold and inspiring dream – one that could improve the lives of people in Benin and other parts of the world.

"My dream is to be able to make very quickly available improved cultivars that – instead of waiting 10 years to produce fruit – in two years, three maximum, you can start harvesting," says Dr. Achigan-Dako. "The time is ripe for us to start showing those innovations. If we don’t do anything, there will be a very big crisis in the future."

To proactively curb an already growing crisis, Dr. Achigan-Dako and his team are working to develop different species (or cultivars) of crops that can improve yields while also providing a daily source of nutrition to citizens.

"By bringing in new scientific knowledge and additional data, we are trying to turn the attention of our decision makers to those crops, so they discover the value the species have for health and for helping farmers increase their production and even income," he says.

Resources needed to grow the vision

While Dr. Achigan-Dako has no shortage of passion, his dream of serving communities, helping local farmers, and fighting food scarcity has been hindered by a substantial lack of equipment.

Without the right resources and technology, Dr. Achigan-Dako can’t deliver the hands-on training his students need. And his team can’t always publish the findings it takes to make true scientific progress.

"As a university with a population of 100,000 students, the biggest university in Benin and one of the biggest universities in West Africa in terms of population size, it is difficult to handle hands-on activities with the students," he explains. "In my faculty alone, we have 1,200 students in agriculture. If I have to give the opportunity to each student to practice, I need a lot of equipment."

In particular, PCR thermal cyclers are a critical component of Dr. Achigan-Dako’s research. Yet, a limited number of machines means less access for his students and less discovery for the world of science.

"Up to now, we have, I will say, one and a half PCR machine thermal cyclers," says Dr. Achigan-Dako. "When we start using one, the other students have to wait. If I am able to run in parallel two machines, I am saving a minimum of 4 hours each day, which is important. It will cut down the length of the whole process by at least 30%."

A PCR donation helps life-giving research thrive

Through an exciting partnership between Thermo Fisher Scientific and Boston-based NGO Seeding Labs, Dr. Achigan-Dako is receiving the additional PCR thermal cycler he needs to keep his dream alive and his research flourishing. This collaborative program encourages scientists to trade up their legacy thermal cyclers and donate them to researchers in developing nations.

With the PCR machine donated by a fellow scientist, Dr. Achigan-Dako can provide more opportunities to his students, increase the speed and quality of his research, and achieve usable outputs to improve livelihoods.

"I'm truly grateful for this donation," says Dr. Achigan-Dako. "This will help the research that we are doing. But more importantly, it will bring us more willingness to continue our work when we see more foods for our people and an increase in the amounts of resources that we can put on the table for children, women, and men."

Now those are goals that deserve to grow.

Donate and be an instrument of change

Find out how you can trade up your thermal cycler to help accelerate the research of global scientists like Dr. Achigan-Dako.

Learn more