Susan Ikerra (Tanzania)
Address: ARI Mlingano, P O Box 5088, Tanga, Tanzania
Position: Principal Agricultural Research Officer (since 2000)
1. When did you decide to study soil science?
In 1977 I decided to to study soil science when I was doing my BSc. at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro Tanzania . The reason for studing soil science was my expectation that I would get a good salary given the fact that there were few soil scientists in the country. The second reason was my high academic capacity in science subjects particularily soil microbiology and soil chemistry.
2. Who has been your most influential teacher?
Prof. Salema Manase currently working with the IAEA in Vienna . He was my supervisor for my first special project which was in the field of soil microbiology. I managed to get upper second with honors degree because of his mentoring and hard working nature. He always encouraged me to work hard and gave me very good grades.
3. What do you find most exciting about soil science?
Soil science is the backbone for agricultural production which is a backbone to most economies in third world. The latter is highly influenced by what type of soil and soil management practices. When I work with farmers the most important questions they ask are how to improve their degraded soils so that they get higher yields to feed their kids. It is not always easy to answer such questions until I analyse the soils. Doing soil analysis has always been my hobby although some people find this boring. Once the results are out I rush back to the farmers fields to correct the problem. This also makes me happy and gives me job satisfaction.
4. How would you stimulate teenagers and young graduates to study soil science?
If I had authority I would pay soil scientists reasonable salaries and provide most conducive working environments so that young scientists become attracted to this field of study. I would also change the teaching methodology so that it becomes less complicated. If I were a university Profs. I would motivate and inspirer students instead of trying to prove to them that soil science is complicated and those who have graduated in this field are very intelligent. I would recognize and reward all the small success that teenagers and young graduates are making. I am planning to conduct a role modeling event in one of the girls secondary schools that will encourage students to opt for science subjects.
5. How do you see the future of soil science?
The future of soil science is endangered (in Tanzania ) because most young scientists don't opt for this field. The reasons being: Profs at universities making it look complicated and having most students failing, having soil scientists receiving very low salaries (<500 US $/months), scientists working in remote areas and even less marketable. People in other soft sciences get 10 times better salaries than soil scientists. A few competent soil scientists run away for better pastures in other fields. Many soil scientists are now bankers!