Gandura Omar Abagandura

Gandura Omar Abagandura is a last semester doctoral student from Albida city, Libya. Abagandura is studying Plant and Environmental Sciences, more specifically the relationship between soils, water and plants.

Abagandura has given numerous presentations highlighting her research and work at Clemson, which has received many praise. With one paper published, three currently under consideration, and three more about to be submitted within the next couple weeks, Gandura has been quite successful in her research endeavors. 

gandura omar

Get to know Gandura and her efforts to aid the developing agriculture sector in Libya through soil degradation and self-sustaining practices.

How has your experience working/studying in this field helped you achieve your academic goals?

Conducting research in this area of science is exciting to me. Enjoying what you do makes it easy to obtain your related goal(s). In this case, obtaining my PhD.

Why is this field (or research) important to you? And what made you want to get involved in it?

Libya currently imports most of its food. There has been little development on determining challenges and finding solutions for increasing agricultural production. I am from Libya and want to help my country become more self-sustaining.

What is the overall goal of your research/study and how will you able to achieve it?

The overall goal of my research is to identify how to assist the growth of Libya’s agricultural sector. Achieving this was a multi-step process. First, we did a thorough review of Libyan agriculture which identified challenges and needs. The outcomes of this review drove the rest of the research. One of the most evident needs was how to identify soil degradation occurrence and type. This lead to developing a database of all current soil data available for Libya. Then we used spatial analysis and regression models to predict the soil degradation occurrence and type. What was also evident was the lack of rainfall, the drought-like nature of the soils, and the type of soil degradation influence on water infiltration. Although it is not as extreme as in Libya, many of these issues are of similar concern in South Carolina. This led to the testing of different soil conditioners to help combat these three issues.

Have you faced any obstacles academically or in your research? How did you overcome them?

Managing my time efficiently has been the greatest challenge in my study. I have found it difficult to balance my duties as a parent and as a student. I have worked to overcome my obstacles by creating weekly mini-goals leading me to accomplish one of my major goals for each year. 

What would you say is your biggest take-away from your research/studies?

I have found two big take-away results from my research. First, the model we developed in which the occurrence and type of soil degradation can be identified will be of great assistance in determining which lands are the best for agricultural procedures, and for determining best management strategies for those areas. The model was built for Libya, but could be easily adapted for other North African countries. The second take-away is that the soil surfactants can help keep nitrogen in the soil and reduce nitrogen from leaking. We found that more nitrogen is taken up by the plant, leading to better plant growth, and subsequently less nitrogen lost as a potential contaminant to the surrounding environment.

What are your future goals/aspirations?

It is my intention to apply this knowledge when I return to Libya to assist the country in becoming more self-sustaining, and hopefully develop an agricultural export sector. Libya is in chaos due to recent political unrest, but I am hopeful it will end in the near future. I am proud to be Libyan and want to help my country become a place in which people can feed themselves and therefore enhance their quality of life.

Quote from advisor: "Gandura is a dedicated student. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow into the inquisitive, driven scientist she is today. We both feel strongly that that the work she has completed at Clemson will assist Libya in becoming more self-sustaining as it faces the many challenges of building crop production for its citizens and for export,” says Dara Park, Associate Professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Science. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.