Dr. Esther Ngumbi is one of Kenya's brightest scientists who graduated from Auburn University in Alabama, USA, with a PhD in Entomology. Passionate about education, Dr. Ngumbi has served as a mentor with the Clinton Global University Initiative and the MasterCard Foundation. She also established the Dr. Ndumi Faulu Academy in her home country, Kenya, to ensure that every child has a solid chance at getting a quality education.
"My research is on beneficial soil bacteria. I am specifically working with plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria. These bacteria occur naturally in the soil. The cool thing about them is that they form mutual beneficial associations with plants such as maize, tomatoes and peppers. Some of the benefits they are associated with include making soils more fertile and fending off plant stressors such as insects and diseases.
Beneficial soil bacteria enable plants to better tolerate extreme temperature fluctuations and other challenges that come with a changing climate. Furthermore, they help plants grow better thus boosting crop yields. My research is about understanding the mechanisms by which these soil bacteria impart all these benefits to plants.
For farmers struggling to adapt to climate change, especially small-scale farmers with limited resources, an increase in yield can open fresh opportunities for the simple reason that crop sales generate cash, including money that can be invested in a range of "climate-smart" farming techniques that further conserve water and soil, and sustainably increase production on small plots of land.
As concerns about food security increase with the global temperatures, beneficial soil bacteria could be the next key tool for food security, helping farmers around the world conserve water, increase yields and improve nutrition under the changing climate."