Celebrating the Contributions of Women in Science at Kyeema:
Kyeema’s Journey of Empowerment and Impact
Women from around the world make significant contributions across all fields of science; and it is particularly fitting that we here at Kyeema take time to celebrate those achievements. Kyeema has been driven over the past 20 years by women committed to the pursuit and application of scientific knowledge to assist marginalized communities and their environments.
Founded to promote animal health and welfare as integral to human health and prosperity, Kyeema was formed by a group of Australian veterinary and agricultural scientists who wanted to promote a model of sustainable Newcastle disease (ND) control for village chickens kept by rural families globally. ND, which is endemic across Asia and Africa, kills 50-100% of chickens every time there is an outbreak, destroying the economic and food security of entire communities and contributing to the seasonal struggle with crop food shortages.
A Look at Kyeema’s Pioneering Women
Dr Robyn Alders AO and Celia Grenning were pivotal in the establishment of the organisation and are involved to this day. Until recently Robyn, a celebrated veterinary scientist, was Chair of the Kyeema Board and she now remains a Board Member of the organisation in a technical advisory role. Throughout the years, Robyn has worked closely with small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and Australia as a veterinarian, researcher and fellow farmer, with an emphasis on the development of sustainable infectious disease control in animals in rural communities and regenerative agriculture to support improved food and nutrition security for all.
Celia, an agricultural scientist and international development practitioner, led the organisation as a volunteer CEO since inception in November 2003 until her retirement in May 2022. She continues to give her time as a Board Member and Finance Manager. Celia has been a career advocate for rural women and has worked tirelessly to expand Kyeema projects to communities throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific, with a focus on female headed, resource-poor households through improving the health and productivity of their household chickens. This, at the most practical everyday level, enables access to better income generation, food and nutrition security, healthcare and education for women and their families.
Celia Grenning (left) and Robyn Alders (right) attending a program meeting in Africa.
Dra Rosa Costa, another veterinarian, is a Kyeema Board Member, and our regional lead in Africa, based in Mozambique. She has worked with Kyeema since its inception and is a pivotal player in our programmatic reach in Africa. There is probably not a veterinary scientist in Mozambique who has not been taught, mentored, or inspired by Dra Rosa. With a specialist training in veterinary pathology and central laboratory management, Rosa has worked with government, civil society and private industry to empower animal health professionals and improve the lives of smallholder farmers across Africa.
The story of her career progression in the aftermath of Mozambique independence from the Portuguese in 1975 is intriguing and exemplifies how women in science have worked tirelessly, with passion and dedication, taking risks and overcoming great challenges to make things happen and create a difference in their field.
Rosa Costa with a technical resource for improved village chicken keeping and sustainable Newcastle disease control.
Mary Young (bottom, 4th from right) and Bethelehem Zewde (bottom far left), the Kyeema Ethiopia Director, at the African Union-Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre (AU-PANVAC).
Veterinarian Dr Mary Young, a senior technical advisor for Kyeema, has played an important role in the field of veterinary vaccine development and supply chain management. With a deep understanding of the challenges faced in delivering vaccines to remote and rural areas, she has dedicated her career to building quality and sustainable approaches. Her work with governments across Asia and Africa has been instrumental in establishing vaccine production facilities that have improved access to animal vaccines. But her impact goes beyond just production. Dr Young in addition to Dr Alders and Dr Costa also supported the development of the first veterinary cold chain manual with the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR). It aims to support practitioners to deliver safe and efficacious livestock vaccines to the most challenging environments and is used to promote best practice. Mary remains an invaluable resource to the Kyeema technical team, providing technical support and acting as a mentor to our staff in-country. Through her guidance and support, she is helping to build capacity and strengthen the team’s approach to vaccine distribution and supply chain management. Her career long work to improve livestock vaccine access and efficacy is a testament to her dedication and expertise in this field.
Dr Eliza Smith is a highly skilled and versatile member of the Kyeema team – with us since 2015. She is a trained veterinarian with a strong foundation in ecological science. She brings a wealth of expertise and experience to her role as technical lead, where she provides guidance across a range of projects.
With a focus on applied research, project coordination, and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL), Dr Smith has worked in the international development sector across Africa and the Pacific over the last 10 years. She has worked in ‘livestock for development’, veterinary public health/’One Health’, and more recently, nature-based solutions to address the impacts of climate change.
Dr Smith’s unique combination of skills and experience make her an asset to Kyeema and the communities it serves. Her dedication to improving the lives of marginalized communities connected intrinsically to environment, and her passion for science make her a valuable leader in the field.
Throughout the years, Kyeema has been driven by women committed to the pursuit and application of scientific knowledge to assist marginalized communities. These women, who bring a strong foundation of evidence-base practice to their work, have dedicated their careers to improving the health and prosperity of communities and environments throughout the world.
Eliza Smith with a village elder in Uganda learning about local medicinal plants used for treating livestock.
Thanks to them all, Kyeema evolved from having a unique focus on development of sustainable infectious disease control in village poultry in rural areas, to a broader support for improved food and nutrition security, truly locally led marine resource management, and the establishment of regenerative agriculture for sustainable livelihoods, especially for women.
Kyeema looks to put its funding where our values are by working towards greater opportunities for women in scientific research, professional development, and advancement. As an organization, we are committed to addressing gender bias and discrimination by promoting diversity and inclusion, and by implementing policies and programs that support women in science and technology careers. Our goal is to encourage and empower young girls and women to pursue education in science fields, by providing access to resources, role models, and opportunities that inspire and support them on their journey.
To kickstart our countdown to the Kyeema 20th Anniversary in November 2023, over the next month we will be showcasing some of this work.
We hope you follow along and enjoy.