Life can be so full of surprising twists and turns; some big, some small. For me, I find that it is those small things that often spice life and make it more interesting and worth living. Otherwise, life would be one very big bore.
I had planned to write my life story for many years but it seemed it was never going to happen. Then Yor Oguyo happened in October 2016. It is almost as if I had been reborn. I discovered that I could tell my life story in bits when I launched my blog page and hence a new channel of communication with my fellow inhabitants of this planet. The blog is located at: www.yoroguyo.co.ke.
Yor Oguyo is a Luo phrase that translates as `the path of the butterfly’. The words were not coined by me, but one far greater than I, namely Professor Risely Odhiambo, founding Director of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), founding President of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and Third Word Academy of Sciences (TWAS) among many others. In 2003, months before his physical transition, Odhiambo said:
“..There is an impression some people have that during silence nothing is happening…
My own experience is that a great deal is happening during silence and that, in fact, it is a profound experience. A good analogy here is that of the butterfly.
Scientists who have studied the life of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly can tell you that they seem to be almost entirely different species. A caterpillar is a voracious feeder – a massive eater, eating almost continuously 24 hours a day. It eats several times its own weight in volume of food. It feeds so fast those who are studying it closely can literally see it grow in the 10 days or so that it is a caterpillar.
In contrast, a butterfly is very selective feeder, flitting from one flower to another, feeding on nectar, which in some cultures has been referred to as the food of gods…
In between these two – voracious feeder and the delicate feeder – is the pupa, the chrysalis. It is totally immobile… it does not feed at all for three or four weeks it is in that stage…
My point is that biochemically and physiologically a profound transformation is taking place during this period. The whole organism is being transformed into totally new animal. That is why in the old days people thought that a caterpillar and a butterfly were totally different animals that didn’t share anything. But now we know that it is the same animal… Transformed in the silence of the chrysalis.”
The point of my analogy is that during that silence, when you have gone inside, a transformation takes place in you, and by the time you finish the silence you are a different person – transformed profoundly.’
The ethos and philosophy of Odhiambo largely influence the blog’s rationale. Having been closely mentored by him, I found myself captivated and transformed by that thinking. Odhiambo gave so much to us all, but sadly he passed on without having published his memoirs. As I have narrated somewhere, he was a close friend of the founding father of Tanzania, the late Mwalimu Julius Kabarage Nyerere. Sadly too, Nyerere passed on without having written down his vision for pan-Africa.
In this collection of musings, JPR roams many personal landscapes from the vantage point of a significant plateau – 60 plus years of life on earth. From this position, he surveys the vista below of remembered occurrences and invites us to share the view and to follow him down an enchanted memory path.
And so, we follow him. But beware – the path twists and turns and can abruptly stop only to begin in a different place. Perhaps the fact that these musings can seem untethered to the convention – as to time, flow, place, space, and style – is what makes them interesting. After all, life has a quantum quality to it.
It is a journey of glimpses, sneak peeps, and hinted sequels. You are sometimes left asking – then what happened next and how? We smile hopefully when JPR playfully says: ‘I must tell that story someday.’
JPR is a scientist with a keen interest in the place of science, technology, and innovation (ST&I) in economic development, and the role of learning and knowledge sharing in capacity strengthening, especially in the Global South. He is an ardent lobbyist for the increased use of research evidence to inform policy, programming and practice in Africa. He graduated with a BSc. (Zoology) in 1982 from the University of Pune, and was awarded the Indian National Merit Scholarship for Science in April 1982. In 1984, he was awarded an Africa-Wide Postgraduate Research Fellowship that enabled him to undertake postgraduate research at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), New Zealand leading to his graduation with a PhD in Zoology (specializing in Entomology) from the University of Auckland in 1989.
Between June 2015 and March 2021, JPR was employed as the Project Team Leader of the East Africa Research Fund (EARF eastafricaresearchfund.org). EARF was a funding facility managed by PwC on behalf of the Department of International Development (DFID), now merged to be Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). EARF was a part of the East Africa Research and Innovation Hub (EARIH). The Fund supported FCDO country offices in eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan) to use evidence to drive development impact and value for money, linking with UK’s wider science and socioe-economic research agenda in the region. He led in the commissioning and oversaw the implementation of a total of 38 socio-economic research projects (17 regional-specific and 21 country-specific). Most of these projects generated research evidence outputs that informed both policy and practice within the eastern Africa region.
Prior to the above, JPR was Deputy Director & Head of Scientific Programmes of the Consortium for National Health Research (CNHR www.cnhrkenya.org), which was a Kenyan-based health research grantmaking organisation. In this capacity, he has built experience in the design, development and implementation of several competitive research grant schemes targeting research leaders, as well as research and teaching institutions and incorporated socio-economic components. Earlier he worked as a Senior Research Scientist and Head of the capacity strengthening programme of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE www.icipe.org), including serving as the Network Coordinator of the African Regional Postgraduate Programme in Insect Science (ARPPIS: http://www.icipe.org/capacity_building/grad), a training programme implemented in partnership with 34 African universities.
JPR’s research background has involved working with integrated multi-disciplinary research teams involved in both field and laboratory areas of scientific research. He also worked with the R&D Forum for Science-led Development in Africa (RANDFORUM) where he was actively involved in programme planning and development activities, which included negotiating agreements with governments, bilateral and multilateral institutions, coordination and planning for regional S&T Roundtables and policy-oriented Summits.
Dr. Ochieng’-Odero has undertaken consultancy work on exploring opportunities for commercialization of research outputs through science parks. He was a team member of the resource persons to the first and second Copenhagen Series of Seminars on Conditions for Social Progress where he presented two major seminal papers. He has been an active member of the Programme Monitoring Committee of the Regional Integration Research Network of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of a regional university project led by Makerere University known as Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence in East Africa (THRiVE www.thrive.or.ug) and collaborating with the National University of Rwanda, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College as well as Gulu University as well as ICIPE.
- Member of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences (KNAS, March, 2021).
- Appointed (Feb 2021-Current) member of the Advisory Committee of the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA).
- Appointed (2021-Current) as resource expert mentor under the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) MentorNet scheme.
- Appointed (2015-Current) member of the Board of Trustees of the National Research Fund (NRF www.researchfund.go.ke) whose role is to facilitate research for the advancement of science, technology and innovation in Kenya.
- Appointed external reviewer for the Journal of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO (2021-current).
- Elected (2014-Current) member of the Executive Committee of Society for the Advancement of Science in Africa (SASA http://sasascience.org). He was appointed on the Governing Council of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in February, 2018.
- Appointed (2013-2017) as a Commissioner with the Commission of University Education (CUE) of Kenya (www.cue.or.ke).
- Member of the Regional Advisory Group of the DFID-funded Knowledge Systems Innovation Project implemented by Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at the University of Greenwich in a consortium which includes the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS).
- Appointed member of the African Scientific Advisory Board (ASAB) of The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in March, 2019.
- Appointed consultant to the staff of the World Bank for an assignment with Education AFR 1 to develop a research strategy for the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund for Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET-RSIF).
- Appointed consultant by Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) to develop a comprehensive national Desert Locust Management Strategy for Kenya.
- Research Associate Associated Researcher with the Data, Measurement and Evaluation Unit of the African Population and Health Research Center; Nairobi.
- Board Member, Governing Council of Mater Misericordiae Hospital (2018-2021).
JPR has lived an active and distinguished life in the theatre where he has excelled as an actor,director and writer. Hiscreativewritinggoesasfarbackto1975 when in high school he wrote his first play, titled Me, Myself and I, which won awards at the schools drama festival and was later screened for Voice of Kenya (VOK) Television (1978) under the direction of the legendary TV Producer Mambo Hazary. In May 1984, JPR was declared the winner of the first Kenyan Radio Play “The Mad King Beggar of the Bus-Park”
The following are some of JPR’s publications in area of theatre:
(a) General literature (Published)
1991: The Mad King-Beggar of the Bus-Park. In: African Radio Plays ISBN 3-7890-2240-3. Pages 266-295.
1991: Beer. In: African Radio Plays ISBN 3-7890-2240-3. Pages 323-351
2001: Slow Down My Teacher. Acacia Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN 9966 917 22 5
2010: When it Rains…. Acacia Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN 9966 917 68 3
(b) General literature (un-published stage plays)
- Me, Myself and I (1975)
- Passion (1977),
- Thim (1978)
- Why? In the Name of God (1984)
- Kachinja (1993)
- No 15 (1993)
- Faces of the Kiwi (1987)
- The Border Post (1988)
- Who is in control here? (1989).
- Towers of Babel: The Times and Tribulations of Naliaka, the Housemaid (1995)
- The Gearbox Synchronizer (1997)
- The Night-Long Conversion of Shehu Abdin (1997)
- Hopes Aflame (1998)
- Falling into Place (1999)
- Slow down my teacher (2001)
- Unearthing the Worm (2002)
- You Gave me the Urge… (Why then deny me the performance?) (2014)
- `Master Speak! Thy Servant Heareth! (I progress)