During the last decades, Chitral has undergone a remarkable transformation. The holistic approach to development pioneered in the mountainous region by the Aga Khan Development Network has lifted the inhabitants of the remote valleys out of extreme poverty.
Despite the remoteness and inaccessibility, Chitral is now proud to be one of the most educated districts in the country. The rapid improvements in quality of lives of mountain people in the Hindukush is largely due to the hardworking men and women whose emphasis on education is bearing fruits and helping the region to produce individuals who excel in diverse range of disciplines.
Zahida Bano, daughter of Faiz Ibrahim, is one such example of hardworking mountain women. Her journey from high mountains of Hindukush to Düsseldorf, Germany, is both a fascinating story of personal struggle as well as an inspiration to young girls in Chitral keen on studying natural science.
Hailing from Toq in Mastuj, Zahida Bano is seventh among nine siblings. She studied her primary education at the Aga Khan School Mastuj and secondary school certificate at the Government High School Mastuj.
As there was no higher secondary school in Mastuj region at that time, she moved to the Chitral city and did her FSc and bachelor at the Chitral College for Girls. She moved to Islamabad to pursue her master in biology from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad and obtained her master’s with excellent grades.
Later, she moved to Germany to join her spouse Ramzan Ali, a PhD candidate in Mathematics at TU-Dortmund. Ali is from Shamaran, Ghizer district of Gilgit-Baltistan. Zahida is fluent in German and recently finished her MS in Molecular Biology from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf.
Her outstanding academic performance during MS has won her a PhD fellowship in the same university starting from October 1, 2015.
Her research focuses on understanding changes at molecular level in crops such as rice and sorghum to increase crop yield through genetically modified plants. Emphasizing on the importance of her research for Pakistan, Zahida said enhancing crop yield is critical to meet the demand of rising global population especially considering that expansion of land for agriculture has reach optimal limits.
The challenge is to address feed a growing population through improved farming practices informed by latest scientific research.