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Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Fund

by Winrock International
Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Fund

Small contributions given repeatedly and consistently can add up to big change over time. Such is the case with the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Fund. Dowswell, aide-de-camp for three decades to Nobel Laureate and former Winrock board member Norman Borlaug, worked tirelessly to support smallholder farmers in Africa, particularly through agricultural extension. Launched by Winrock with initial financial support from Dowswell’s family after his death in 2011, the fund carries on Dowswell’s legacy by providing scholarships for degree training in agricultural extension, especially for women. 

Since 2013, the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Fund has awarded 89 scholarships to women in Benin, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Tanzania. To date, 69 of these scholars have graduated. The other 19 women who received funding through the program continue to make satisfactory academic progress. By the end of 2020, the program aims to extend scholarships to 100 women. 

The experience of Dowswell scholar named Lucia is typical of the program’s recipients. Lucia says her scholarship helped her “to fulfill my dreams.”

“I feel blessed to be given the opportunity,” Lucia says. “It is a prestigious honor to me. The fund helped me to pay tuition and other fees including stationery and meal expenses.”

One of the obstacles to good extension services is that those from rural backgrounds, with extensive field service, are unable to gain the educational requirements to go to universities, and thus to gain a promotion. Your support continues to make an impact by enabling these scholars to apply what they have learned to improve agricultural practices in their communities. The lessons they learn will lead to increased food production and rising incomes, and thus help to address the issues of poverty and hunger. 

Once again, our scholars have made solid progress towards earning their degrees. The highlight of this last quarter is from Miskiya, who attends university in Ethiopia.

Agriculture is the backbone of Miskiya’s country, the motor of its economy and the occupation many people depend on to survive. For these reasons, Miskiya was interested in studying agricultural extension to promote farmers’ awareness, knowledge and skills regarding agricultural development and international market orientation. Her goal was to bring innovative technology to rural farmers, fill the gaps of innovation, increase production and orient productivity towards market demand. In addition, she wants to secure professional advancement and competitiveness for her fellows in the field while improving the gender balance of participants in agriculture. The Christopher Dowswell scholarship enabled Miskiya to focus on her education.

“Scholarship is free learning,” Miskiya said. In her case, the scholarship paid for her living and research expenses, as well as her school fees. It “enabled [me] to focus on my studies and improve my performance. I am very happy by this scholarship that supports only female students to play great roles in socioeconomic changes in [this] country.”

Miskiya will graduate soon and plans pursue her master’s degree, specializing in agricultural extension.


A scholarship helped Hope attain her degree.
A scholarship helped Hope attain her degree.

Initially, Hope wanted to be a doctor. The first of eight children born in south-central Nigeria to a police officer father and trader mother, Hope applied to study medicine at the University of Benin in southeastern Nigeria, but was denied admission.

Belatedly, she turned to agriculture. By her own admission, this was an unexpected turn of events, because she’d never considered agriculture. But after speaking with people who worked in the industry, she changed her mind. “The agricultural industry is a vital key in the development of any nation,” she found, and it creates jobs for youth by supplying industries with raw materials needed for production. More than just economic development, she also found that efficient agriculture was an important tool for fighting poverty.

“Through agriculture I can be self-employed [as well as an employer] of labour… to help the unemployed people,” she said.

She studied at Edo State College of Agriculture in southeastern Nigeria from 2008-2010, receiving a diploma in agricultural technology. She furthered her studies at the Federal College of Agriculture in Akure, a city in southwestern Nigeria, graduating top of her class in 2013 with a higher national diploma. The next year she spent at a regional agricultural ministry to fulfill her one year of service with the National Youth Service Corps that is mandated by the Nigerian government.

She also successfully applied to the University of Ilorin, in southwest Nigeria, but then she had to figure out how to pay for it. That’s when she applied for and won a Christopher Dowswell Scholarship. The scholarship, primarily funded by Winrock International and the Sasakawa Africa Association, offers scholarships with the goal of increasing the number of female agricultural extensions workers.

The Dowswell scholarship covered her school expenses from 2016 to 2017, when she graduated with a bachelor of science award in agricultural extension and community development.

“The scholarship gave me great opportunity to earn diverse skills relating to agricultural extension that will serve the rural communities,” she said. Using her new skills, she intends to help farmers “learn how they can improve their farming communities and to ensure sustainability in agricultural production so as to improve their standard of living.”

In the future, she plans to educate farmers to improve their knowledge of the environment and farming, help them break cycles of poverty, and ensure the sustainability of food production through high yields in rural areas. In so doing, she follows in the footsteps of Christopher Dowswell, who believed that increasing access to new agriculture knowledge and technology can help combat child mortality, malnutrition and poverty.


When Naomi arrived in eastern Tanzania, she had one goal in her mind: to improve her professional skills.

Following Tanzania’s general presidential election in November 2015, she had left Babati in northern Tanzania, where she worked as a livestock officer. She traveled south to Morogoro, joining the Applied Agricultural Extension program at Sokoine University of Agriculture, a mid-career degree program for extension professionals.

Being female, in a new town, without any financial support except her salary, Naomi had a number of economic difficulties in her first year of studies.

“This was one of the most challenging times for me,” Naomi said. “I had no financial support. However, this did not make me lose focus. With my feet stepping on economic challenges, my mind was sharply focused on my original goal, to improve my professional skills.”

Yet it wasn’t easy. She devoted much of her time to earning enough money to live on and support her studies. An effort that was ultimately unsustainable. During her second year of study, however, Naomi received a welcome piece of news. She was awarded the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship, which covered her tuition, research, living expenses and equipment such as a computer. The scholarship enabled her to focus on learning, without the pressure of also providing for herself.

“I just cannot express my joy and gratitude for this scholarship,” Naomi said.

With the help of the scholarship and a clear goal in mind, Naomi emerged as the top student in a class of 96, earning an average GPA of 4.1 (out of five) during her three years at SUA. Last November, Naomi graduated with 77 other students. With the help of the Christopher Dowswell scholarship, she completed her goal of improving her professional skills.

“This scholarship made my dream to come true,” she said. 


Last month, a team of Winrock International staff members biked a total of 652 miles to collect donations for the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship. Launched by Winrock with initial financial support from the Dowswell family, the scholarship helps to increase the number of women in agricultural extension services in Africa. People from rural backgrounds with extensive field service are often lack the educational requirements to go to universities, barring them from promotions and holding back extension services as a whole. The scholarship financially supports African women pursuing degrees in Agricultural Extension, providing 50 percent of the estimated tuition and research support to 88 students in five African countries. By the end of next year, the fund aims to extend their scholarship to 100 women.

Winrock staff participated both in the U.S. and in the field. In Washington D.C., two Winrockers biked the Shenandoah Valley’s Alpine Loop; in Little Rock, one biked the Big Dam Bridge 100; and in Mozambique, a team of ten rode a collective 436 miles from Nampula to Mecuburi District.

Through this effort, we have already raised nearly $1,200 to support the Dowswell Scholarship -- but it's not to late to donate. Please show your support by making a donation. Together, we can make extension education more accessible and affordable for Africa’s women.


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Organization Information

Winrock International

Location: Little Rock, AR - USA
Project Leader:
Megan Davenport
Director, Events & Special Projects
Little Rock, AR United States

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