The power of joy and African-led food security; a tribute to Dr. Washington O. Ochola PhD.

It is with great sadness that Africa Lead begins our April 2019 update with the news of the untimely passing on of one of Kenya’s great countrymen and champions of food security, Dr. Washington O. Ochola, PhD. Dr. Ochola who was Africa Lead’s former Policy & Capacity Building Specialist, died this past weekend of natural causes.

Dr. Ochola, who was known widely across Africa’s food security policy circles, was a central part of Africa Lead’s work in Kenya, East Africa, and across the continent for nearly four years. Washington, as many knew him, held a PhD in sustainable agriculture and rural development from the Agricultural University of Athens. His PhD work was on indicator-based land quality assessment for Kenya, coupled with land and water hazard systems design using GIS-based ICT protocols. He also held a MSc in Agricultural Systems Management from South China Agricultural University and a First Class Honours BSc degree in Agricultural Education and Extension from Egerton University in Kenya.

Washington was known by anyone who encountered him for his effervescent smile and joyous manner in which he worked. He was infectiously passionate about food security in Africa. Whether it was in meetings, consultations or high-level negotiations, Washington was an exemplary leader and facilitator of people.

Above: Dr. Washington Ochola (second from left) stands with his Africa Lead colleagues (left to right) Laura Chao, Dorcas Mwakoi, and Josephine Olwal who all helped to support the launch of the Agricultural Council of Kenya (AgCK) Strategic Plan in 2016.

Much like the legacy of his work, Washington remained an important part of the Africa Lead family, having played a formative role in our work to advance African-led agricultural transformation. Prior to leaving Africa Lead in 2018 to take on consulting work, Washington authored a blog post on Feed the Future’s Agrilinks website entitled Strengthening the foundation for food security in Kenya outlining the importance of USAID and Africa Lead’s work to support Institutional Architecture processes around Africa.

At the end of the post he left us with a positive view on the future of Kenya’s agriculture, after having facilitated the Institutional Architecture process in the country, “it’s clear the foundation for success is getting stronger by the day.”

Washington more than anybody knew that Africa’s agricultural transformation would not and will not happen without the immense strength of individuals who lead with conviction and humility. On his own, he was the pure definition of this kind of “Champion for Change”. We’re tremendously sad to lose him and for the loss his family is experiencing.

What we are emboldened by is the intangible and remarkable impact Washington had on citizens of the world from almost everywhere, of all ages and backgrounds to advance our common agenda of food security for Africans, by Africans. It is our hope that you take up his mantle when doing your work; spread his infectious smile and passion to everyone you meet. It is with joy that we will make our greatest progress together, for that as Washington shared with us, is the greatest foundation for success.

– Steve Smith, Chief of Party, Africa Lead

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