Her Journey to the PhD: Petronille Dusingizimana
Ms. Petronille Dusingizimana comes from Rwanda and is pursuing her PhD in climate change, bioversity and sustainable agriculture at the University Felix Houphouët-Boigny in Cote D’ Ivoire. She narrates her story about becoming a RSIF PhD .
I have master’s degree in climate change adaptation, and a bachelor of science degree (BSc) in molecular biology and biotechnology. Throughout my studies and other experiences, I have gathered knowledge and skills in biological science, agriculture and climate change research. I therefore chose my research topic in the same thematic area.
I decided to pursue a PhD because I am interested in and have a passion for a research-based career and I want to explore innovation in the field of agriculture. I think a PhD provides an opportunity to improve my research, management, and other related skills and to enable me to understand and solve problems, in relation to Africa’s needs in agriculture and climate change, for sustainable development.
The Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) – Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) sparked my interest because it is an Africa-led solution to solving African challenges. As a young African, I felt that being part of this program would be a great honor as it would give me an opportunity to strengthen my knowledge and skills, and use them to contribute to building the Africa we want, a self-reliant Africa.
A big percentage of Africa’s economy and livelihoods depend on a rain-fed agriculture system, which is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Failure to factor climate change into long term planning would leave countries across sub Saharan Africa vulnerable to impacts of climate change.
My vision is that the results from my research will support decision making and planning towards climate resilient agricultural and socio economic development in Rwanda. I hope that my research will be used as a prototype for other sub-Saharan African countries, in order to increase agriculture resilience and boost African economy in general. I am convinced that the skills and knowledge I will get through my PhD training in climate change and Biodiversity will assist me to have the “standing” to be a critical thinker and innovator in finding solutions to agriculture, environment conservation, and climate change issues. I also hope to identify new partners that will support my future research and capacity building efforts.
When COVID-19 cases were first reported in Rwanda, I had already quit my job in anticipation to start my PhD program; It was just a week to my travelling day. From then, airports closed; and the whole country went under lockdown. I was not quite sure what to expect or what the next day would hold, which caused me anxiety. I managed this period and anxiety by focusing on controlling what I could and released what I could not. I used the extra time to learn new and different things (academic and social) online. Furthermore, I got to spend time with my family. All this helped me to cope with that stressful period.
I have a family which I belong to. I have prepared them for the commitment and asked for their support for the duration of my PhD program. Work planning in time and time management will help me to balance the two (my family and my studies).
During my PhD program, I expect some challenges. However, I believe these I will overcome and finish my PhD successfully.