Visiting RIFA Fellow, Megan McCaghey, hit the ground running after arriving in Pretoria. During her first week in South Africa she joined members of the MPPI group in FABI conducting maize disease surveys and collecting leaf samples from small-holder farms on a 2600 km round trip across KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Megan is completing her MSc at University of California, Davis, USA, in International Agricultural Development with a focus on Plant Pathology. She is visiting FABI on a USAID funded Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA) and will remain at the University of Pretoria until mid-September. The RIFA fellowship aims to connect motivated students with unique skill sets to a network of affiliated programs and promotes global knowledge exchange. Host organizations define the available opportunities and a fellow’s collaborative work contributes to the success and sustainability of ongoing projects and programs. 

While at FABI, Megan will be assisting postgraduate students in the MPPI, Seed Science and CFPRG labs, particularly Ncobile Kunene, David Nsibo, and Katrien De Ridder. Their research projects fit very well with Megan’s interest in understanding the constraints of small-holder farmers in South Africa. Katrien is surveying for the incidence of maize foliar and cob diseases and the role of maize resistance in small-holder farms of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Ncobile and David’s projects are focused on the mating-type and genetic diversity of Cercospora zeina that causes grey leaf spot disease, a major constraint to small-holder farmers throughout Africa. Megan, who originally hails from Arkansas in the USA, says she has enjoyed her stay so far, including learning about the research occurring at FABI during Seminars. The RIFA Fellowship will provide the opportunity for continued collaborations between FABI and US Universities such as UC Davis.