Finding natural solutions for devastating insects pests in West Africa

Published: Wednesday 4th October 2023
Tags: ,

This researcher is developing eco-friendly insect control methods to protect crops — and sharing her work with farmers in Benin and beyond

Dr Yeyinou Laura Estelle Loko had dreamed of becoming a researcher since childhood. Growing up in Benin, she observed the struggles of smallholder farmers and felt there was an opportunity to help through scientific research.

During research for her doctoral thesis, she became aware of the devastating effects of insect attacks on food crops — and inadequacies in the current approach to control them:

“I surveyed more than 100 villages across Benin. I was shocked by the losses caused by pests, but also by the distress of the farmers trying to use chemical insecticides to control them.”

This revelation led her to seek environmentally friendly control methods to protect crops against insects.

Laura went on to get her PhD in plant genetic resources and crop protection from the University of Abomey-Calavi(opens in new tab/window), Benin, in 2013. She is now an Associate Professor of Zoology and Genetics at the National University of Sciences, Technologies, Engineering and Mathematics (UNSTIM)(opens in new tab/window) in the Republic of Benin. She continues to focus on reducing losses caused by insect pests.

This year, her research with food security was recognized when she was awarded a 2023 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World.

A balancing act

Her path from childhood aspiration to career specialism may appear to be smooth, but it was not without obstacles, particularly as she became a parent herself:

Being an African woman scientist has its constraints. One of the most important is the balance between family life and career. I’m a mother of five children and occupy an administrative function in addition to teaching and research. It is not easy to reconcile this on a daily basis!

She attributes her ability to overcome these difficulties to support and inspiration from her family, along with her own resolve:

My mother and husband are my daily support. They encourage me to give the best of me in my career. I’ve had to face many challenges to be who I am today but have been able to overcome them with determination and hard work.

Read the full article on Elsevier Connect: “Finding natural solutions for devastating insects pests in West Africa“, Milly Sell, 4 October 2023.