Amna Eltigani is a postdoc at the Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ). Originally from Sudan, she researches biomass-based negative emission technologies. She explains in this portrait why she likes living in Germany and what she appreciates about the conditions for young researchers here.
Amna Eltigani has been living in Berlin for five years now – and is still just as enthusiastic as she was at the start: "The city is so alive! There are so many museums, theatres and cinemas that there is always something to do. And the restaurant scene is so diverse that you have the entire world in one place." In the past few years Eltigani has always taken part in Berlin's "Carnival of Cultures" festival and the city's marathon, too.
The bioeconomist from Sudan found a flat in the heart of the city, with views of the television tower and the River Spree. It only takes her 45 minutes by regional train to travel from there to the Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ) in the small Brandenburg town of Grossbeeren. This is where she wrote her dissertation and in July 2020 took up a postdoc position in an international collaborative project funded by the Swedish research council (Formas). The objective of the project is to research biomass-based negative emission technologies. By conducting field studies in the Karagwe region in Tanzania, Eltigani wants to find out to what extent small farmers benefit if they use ovens to produce biochar. Extremely rich in carbon, biochar is produced when biomass is burnt in the almost complete absence of oxygen. When the biochar is worked into the soil, it not only removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere but also improves the soil. "I am investigating exactly how biochar affects soil fertility and plant growth", explains Amna Eltigani.
International cooperation, interdisciplinary projects
In this collaborative project, the IGZ is working together with Linköping University and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, as well as with the University of Dar es Salam in Tanzania. Though Amna Eltigani is researching from the techno-economic perspective, the social and ethical dimensions of the new technologies are also being explored within the project. Amna Eltigani is familiar with this kind of interdisciplinary collaboration: "Interdisciplinarity plays an important role at the IGZ, which is why I already had the opportunity as a doctoral student to exchange ideas and experience with different departments." For her dissertation on agriculture, she studied how specific types of soil fungi can help make plants such as sorghum and okra more resistant to drought. "These crops are grown in areas of Sudan that traditionally get plenty of rainfall – yet climate change means that there is less and less rain", she explains.