Dr Alex Awiti
Director, East African Institute
Dr Alex Awiti was born in Kisumu, Kenya, and holds a PhD in Ecosystems Ecology from the University of Nairobi. Dr Awiti has been central to the development and initiation of the Institute. From the outset, he has brought an unparalleled commitment to, and knowledge of, the region including key issues that challenge it as well as the tremendous possibilities that exist in marshaling civil society to ensure a sustainable future for the people and the environment that houses them. Dr Awiti possesses an infectious, enthusiastic conviction regarding the pivotal role that policy analysis and development must play to realize this for East Africa.
Prior to joining AKU, Dr Awiti was a postdoctoral fellow with the Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York. For two years he worked under the mentorship of Jeffery D Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics, and the World Food Prize Laureate, Pedro A Sanchez. He has also served as Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.
Dr Awiti's research career began over 17 years ago at the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Nairobi where he has performed various roles including Regional Research Fellow; Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing Analyst; and Landscape Ecologist. He was instrumental in establishing the Spatial Decision Support Lab, providing research and technical backstopping for ICRAF’s programmes in East and South Africa. With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Dr Awiti and colleagues pioneered the application of spectroscopy for the diagnostic surveillance of soil health. His paper “Soil Condition Classification Using Infrared Spectroscopy: A Proposition for Soil Condition Assessment Along a Tropical Forest-Cropland Chronosequence, was nominated as one of the six best papers at the 2008 Pedometrics Meetings.
Dr Awiti has authored several scholarly articles and technical reports on such subjects as soil fertility, deforestation, spectroscopy, stable carbon isotopes, biodiversity and resilience, natural resources policy, poverty and rural development, climate change and education. As one of a very few resilience experts in Africa, he is a member of the Board of the prestigious Resilience Alliance, an international research organization comprised of interdisciplinary scholars who collaborate to explore the dynamics of social and ecological systems.
Dr Awiti is also the Africa Editor for Environmental Development: The Transdisciplinary Journal of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and he writes a widely-read weekly column for The Star, a Kenyan daily newspaper. His articles focus on public policy issues in education, health, agriculture, energy, water, urbanization and climate change. You can also find Dr Awiti's writings on his blog and he is active on Twitter.