Well to me Professor Odhiambo was a
visionary African agricultural scientist and entomologist, who was way
ahead of its time in terms of thinking about bringing African research to the
continent, building really world-class institutes in Africa to address African
scientific problems and he’s just set the scene for a lot of world-class
research to be happening in Africa by Africans and so he’s an inspiration to me. He’s well known within the scientific community
for establishing icipe in Kenya, which is a leading world centre for entomology and insect research not just
in Africa but in the world. He also helped establish the Kenyan Academy
of Sciences, the National Academy, he was a pioneer in terms of
helping to establish a pan-African: African Academy of Sciences.
He built departments in Kenya and institutions, he taught, he wrote
children’s books. I mean his work and his legacy was really
just so broad and so impactful today. Africa had so many pests that were devastating crops in Africa
and pesticides would work but it would also kill non-pests as well and he
felt that the use of chemicals wasn’t really the right thing to do in
terms of preserving the environment and so he set up icipe as a way of finding
out how biological control could be used for addressing insects and pests. For
example he realised that there was an infestation of moth larvae
on maize in Kenya, he ended up importing wasps from Pakistan,
Pakistani bred wasps to Kenya to actually release them onto the maize farms and
astonishingly the larvae were able to be reduced by 50% without
the need for chemicals and that was a breakthrough and really an
example to showcase to his colleagues. I work for the Cambridge-Africa
programme and was involved in helping to set it up. We just celebrated
our 10th anniversary and really I think what we take from what Odhiambo
did as a Cambridge scholar who went back to Africa and built these amazing
research institutes across the continent, is that we are here aspiring to carry
on what he did. We recognise how difficult it must have been to do this
as an African in Cambridge to go back to Africa and try and convince governments
and people to listen to him but we feel that he’s done such a great job of
starting the conversation that we can come in take off where he left things
and really build on on the capacity strengthening and the progression of
African research by Africans the he started started here in Cambridge. What we do is look at the breadth
of expertise and resources and knowledge in Cambridge and
see how can we make that available to our African colleagues in
developing African countries based on what they perceived to be their needs,
so the needs assessment is conducted in Africa by African researchers and what
we do in Cambridge through Cambridge-Africa is to try and help address those needs
of filling the gaps that our African colleagues have identified by finding the right
people in Cambridge to match to the African researchers and their needs and to
help build those long-term relationships. It’s not been easy but I think we’ve
managed to convince and convert a lot of people in Cambridge to
become African enthusiasts and to engage and it’s really great that we now have
more than 150 projects, more than 200 researchers in Cambridge buying in and
being involved enthusiastically with the kind of research collaboration and
capacity-building activities that Odhiambo would have wanted to see Cambridge
involved in if he were alive today.