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Emerging Motswana scholar in top academic competition

Tebogo Leepile
Tebogo Leepile, a final year PhD Candidate in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems has been selected to represent the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, at this year's 3MT Western Regional competition. 

Sixteen university representatives will take the stage this Thursday, May 13th to summarise their years of research within three minutes. The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an internationally recognised research communication and presentation competition. Developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, the 3MT challenges thesis-based graduate students to deliver an effective and compelling description and significance of their work in three minutes or less to a non-specialist audience. To date, the competition is held in 900 universities across more than 85 countries worldwide.

 The University of British Columbia (UBC), one of Canada’s top institutions of higher learning, was among the first to host this exciting event in 2011. Tebby’s journey started in February when she competed in the first heats and successfully progressed through the different stages. In the end, in March, 10 finalists took the virtual stage in an event with record-breaking attendance where she was selected the overall winner for her engaging and illuminating presentation entitled 'MyData_MyVoice: Prevalence of Anemia among San Women and Young Children in Rural Botswana'. This year, there were over 100 participants from across different disciplines, including medicine, engineering, forestry, microbiology, archeology, psychology, and others.

An emerging food systems scholar, Leepile’s work is situated at the intersections of food systems and nutrition health. Specifically, she is interested in the role of communities in building resilient, inclusive, and sustainable food systems (cultivated and wild) that can sustain livelihoods and health (both human and planetary). For her doctoral studies, Leepile investigated the level of household food security and the nutritional status of San women and young children. Moreover, she is exploring the potential integration and utilisation of Indigenous knowledge in food insecurity and malnutrition mitigation strategies.

Her efforts have been recognised through several awards, including the prestigious IDRC doctoral research award. The IDRC doctoral research award is an annual competition that supports selected 20 PhD students across all Canadian Universities to undertake research in the Global South to improve lives and livelihoods. Following yearlong fieldwork in the Ghanzi District, the project was further awarded the UBC Partnership Recognition Fund. In partnership with the Ghanzi District communities and leaders, Leepile and her research team held a very successful malnutrition awareness campaign themed '2019 Ghanzi District Child Malnutrition Awareness Walk' to sensitise the community members and

policymakers about the prevalence and impacts of child malnutrition. Recently, she was awarded first prize for her research presentation at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute’s 2021 Global Health Conference. Next on Leepile’s virtual itinerary is to present her ground-breaking research at the American Nutrition Society for Nutrition’s Nutrition 2021 Live Conference in June. Speaking from her Vancouver base, she expressed that 2021 is an exciting year for food systems and nutrition as all eyes are set on the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit in September and the Tokyo Nutrition For Growth Summit in December.

At her institution, Leepile has established herself as a passionate, visionary, and versatile student leader. Among others, she co-founded the Liu Institute Network for Africa (LINA) with another PhD student. According to her, the LINA exists to amplify the African voice in UBC and across Canada to shape the African narrative. Since its inception, the LINA has created multiple dialogue platforms on a wide array of development issues. Last year, she ideated and led a four-part webinar series on “COVID-19 and Africa” to discuss its impacts on health, food systems and nutrition health, and other sectors. Following that, she co-hosted another webinar, “Reclaiming Food Sovereignty in Africa Post-COVID-19” in collaboration with the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems. Currently, she is also involved in organizing another ongoing webinar series (a collaboration between LINA and UBC Collective for Gender+ in Research), aimed at spotlighting and celebrating African female leadership and its crucial role in advancing development in the continent and beyond.

Leepile posits that as a country, our experience with COVID-19 and the lessons learnt, has inadvertently created a unique springboard to inform change and accelerate growth in our food systems. She suggests that Botswana needs more responsive, inclusive, equitable, climate-smart, and nutrition-specific and sensitive food systems that recognise and elevate the people’s voice to foster food security and food sovereignty. However, she is confident about our future primarily because of the increasing youth and women’s participation in agriculture and integration of technology.

To hear Tebby’s presentation, join the Canada Western Regional 3MT Competition on May 13 at 9pm and show your support through the People’s Choice Vote. Create an account in Hopin to register. Watch UBC Final 3MT Video


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