Peter Neuenschwander, IITA Scientist Emeritus, was recently elected a Fellow of the African Academy of Science. This award recognizes his scientific career and devotion to biological sciences over 40 years, most of this time in Africa.
Neuenschwander joined IITA in 1983. He was recruited as Research Coordinator for the biological control project against the cassava mealybug under Dr Hans Herren and served in this position of principal scientist for 10 years. He took over from Dr Herren as Director of the Plant Health Management Division which he led for almost another 10 years. In the now famous cassava mealybug project, for which several awards including the World Food Prize were bestowed on Dr Herren, Neuenschwander led and executed research in about 25 African countries, focusing on impact assessment while training numerous African students and scientists. The team soon expanded into similar research on the mango mealybug and other pests. Later it specialized on the biological control of floating waterweeds and brought together specialists from all over Africa to write the book Biological Control in IPM Systems in Africa, a comprehensive review of biological control efforts.
In 2003, Neuenschwander retired and was nominated as the first IITA Scientist Emeritus, with an office in IITA-Bénin where he still works part time. Apart from assisting IITA colleagues in preparing manuscripts and project proposals, Neuenschwander was involved in several consultancies including one for the African Development Bank on an IPM project for the Lake Chad Basin Commission and one for UNDP on the biological control of water hyacinth in Côte d’Ivoire. He helped reestablish the Bénin section of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with another important achievement, editing and publishing a book on endangered species for the Red List of Bénin.
In his prolific scientific career, Neuenschwander has produced 113 peer-reviewed journal articles, two books, and over 30 conference papers and training manuals. He has been a founding member of BioNET INTERNATIONAL, has received a Recognition Award from the African Association of Insect Scientists, and has been elevated to Honorary Member of the International Organization for Biological Control.
For over 15 years, Neuenschwander has been living in a small village north of Cotonou. There he has rehabilitated farmland and bush to a species-rich secondary rain forest where a rare endemic monkey roams and attracts tourists. In 2014, these 14 ha of rehabilitated forest will be handed over to IITA as part of the Biodiversity Center in Bénin for the study of interactions among biodiversity, biotic stresses, and climate change, as anchored in the new IITA strategy.