Professor Abukutsa Mary Oyiela Onyango

LifeStyleBiographyProfessor Abukutsa Mary Oyiela Onyango
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Professor Abukutsa Mary Oyiela Onyango was born on 20th February 1959 in a
small village called Ematsuli, in Emuhaya Division,in larger Kakamega District in
Western Province, Kenya. She is the third born in a family of eight children of a
renown educator, the late Mr. Enos Abukutsa Masele (Papa) and Mama Rosebella
Amumbwe Abukutsa, a dedicated, housewife. Her father believed in equal
opportunities for girls and boys. Prof Abukutsa attributes her success in academia
to the encouragement and support she received from her late father who was her
mentor, and the care and love from her mother. At a very early age these dedicated
parents instilled in her a strong sense of Love, Hard work, Integrity, Excellence,
Discipline, Honesty, Timeliness, Cleanliness, Organization, Freedom from debts,
Commitment, Independence, Peace, Generosity and Hospitality, most of all, they
taught her to love God. She was baptized at Ilungu Seventh Day Adventist church
in August, 1975 by Pastor Washington Buka. Prof Abukutsa was very fond of her
late father, so much so that she wishes that he had lived long enough to witness
this occasion, however his legacy lives on, in her. Professor Abukutsa wedded Prof
J.C Onyango at Bondo CPK church on 3rd April 1987, and they were blessed with
two boys Douglas Ochieng’ and Anthony Okelo. Following the principles of hard
work, honesty and a desire to excel, the boys have risen from the small Maseno
Mixed Primary School in a rural set up to National Schools (Starehe Boys Centre
and Maseno School) and to reputable National (JKUAT, Kenya) and International
(Williams College, USA) Universities.
Education and Career Development
Prof Abukutsa grew up in a rural setting and went to Ematsuli Primary School in
Emuhaya, between 1966 and 1972 and later proceeded to Bunyore Girls High
School where she studied between 1973 and 1976 obtaining EACE, certificate
with First Division. She was then admitted to Ng’iya Girls High School in 1977 for
Advanced level studies in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics where she obtained
EAACE certificate with three very good principals, that qualified her to study
medicine, her father’s wish, but she preferred Agriculture as she already had a
vision to unravel the secret behind African indigenous vegetables she had survived
on due to allergy to animal protein. She graduated with honours from University
of Nairobi with a BSc in Agriculture in 1983. She worked as a District Horticultural

officer in Kisii district for two years before University of Nairobi sponsored her
for a Masters in Agronomy which she completed in record time of two years and
graduated in 1988. After completing her Masters she held several positions in
the Ministry of agriculture that included; Technical information disseminator at
Agricultural Information Centre, as Horticultural Export Produce Inspector at Jomo
Kenyatta International Airport and at the Ministry Headquarters Kilimo house as
the officer in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation of the Food situation in the
country and advising the office of the president on a monthly basis. In 1990 she
joined Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology as a Junior Research
Fellow in the Division of Research Production and Extension where she started
her work on African Indigenous Vegetables. She moved to Maseno University as
a lecturer in 1992 and in the same year she won a Joint Japanese World Bank
Graduate Scholarship Program (JJWBP) Scholarship to undertake a Doctorate
degree at the University of London-Wye College., U.K. Prof Abukutsa had wished
to continue her research on African Indigenous Vegetables but she was advised by
her supervisor to change as these were considered as “weeds” so she had to shelf
her childhood dream and settle on Onions. She again completed her doctorate
studies in record time of three years from November 1992 to November 1995
and returned to Maseno University where she was promoted to Senior Lecturer
in 1997 and as Associate Professor in 2003. In December 2007, she took up an
appointment as Professor of Horticulture, Department of Horticulture at The Jomo
Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Professor Abukutsa has had a distinguished career in University teaching, research,
administration and leadership. She steadily and competitively rose up academic
ranks from Junior research fellow in, 1990 to lecturer, 1992 to Senior Lecturer,
in 1997, became Associate Professor in 2003 and Full Professor of Horticulture
in December, 2007. She has been instrumental in programme development, she
developed the Horticulture programme at Maseno University in 1996-1997, and
has been instrumental in including African indigenous Vegetables in the BSc and
MSc Programmes at Maseno University and JKUAT. She has served diligently as
an external examiner for University of Nairobi, Moi University, Egerton University
and Kenyatta University for their undergraduate and post graduate programmes
and theses. She serves as a reviewer of several high profile scientific journals most
of which are open access journals.


Professor Abukutsa was in 1999, appointed as the first coordinator at the Centre
of Research in Natural sciences and Technological Development at Maseno
University, a position she held till 2003, when she was appointed Dean Faculty of
Science a post she held for two years. In 2006 she was appointed Director, School
of Graduate Studies at Maseno University a post she held till she moved to Jomo

Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. At JKUAT she was in November
2008 appointed coordinator of JKUAT Resources Mobilization Team
Research and Scholarly work
Prof Abukutsa has been a prolific scholar and researcher and an effective educator,
imparting knowledge and skills to both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
She has successfully supervised 55 BSc, 15 MSc and 5 PhD students (candidates).
Prof Abukutsa is an active researcher in several programs: She has worked as a
researcher in NERICA-rice research initiative promoted by Japanese International
Cooperation Agency (JICA) and AICAD on NERICA rice adaptability trials in Kenya,
Agronomy, physiology and cropping systems of traditional rain fed rice in the Lake
Victoria region. This research initiative working with Ministry of Agriculture and
KEPHIS has released three NERICA rice varieties, Nerica1, Nerica 4 and Nerica11,
to farmers in Kenya. She was involved in conservation of endangered species
and biodiversity research where she was a co-researcher in the establishment of
Botanic Garden, Glass house and herbarium at Maseno University. This project
was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research,
under the BIOTA-East Africa, E12 project 2001-2012, on vegetation, regeneration
and ethno-Botany of East African Mountain Forests. Currently 20% of the plants
conserved at the garden are African indigenous vegetables a contribution from
Professor Abukutsa. She has conducted extensive and pioneering research on
African indigenous vegetables that has contributed to them being recognized
by funding agencies, policy makers, educators, health workers, nutritionists and
supermarkets and five star hotels and hospitals raising their status from weeds to
internationally recognized vegetables. Her work has identified several indigenous
vegetables with high nutrition and economic potentials.
Professor Abukutsa’s outstanding research work is evidenced by her numerous
publications, 30 papers in refereed journals, 40 in refereed scientific conference
proceedings and contribution to five book chapters and one University level
Book. She initiated the African Indigenous Vegetable Research working group in
1991 at JKUAT and in 1996 at Maseno University. In this initiative Prof Abukutsa,
as Principal Investigator has successfully developed and implemented over 15
multidisciplinary research projects and attracted funds from reputable National,
Regional and International funding agencies. The funding agencies include, Jomo
Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology’s Research Production and
Extension [RPE] funds, Maseno University’s Institute of Research and Postgraduate
Studies [IRPS] African Highland Initiative [AHI], SIDA-SAREC through IPGRI
now Bioversity International. Lake Victoria Research Initiative, [VicRes, SIDA-

SAREC,IUCEA] Project, International Foundation for science [IFS], European
Commission [EU] and Commission for Higher Education [CHE] as the major
ones.
Awards and Recognitions
Besides, Prof Abukutsa has won several Awards and Recognitions for her scholarly
work, the most notable ones include:
Recognition to showcase of her research on indigenous vegetables to US Secretary
of State, Hillary Clinton on 5th August 2009 at NARL-KARI during her visit to
Kenya;
Recognition by African Union for winning First Prize and RUFORUM trophy for
Africa wide CTA/FARA/ ATPS/RUFORUM/ NEPAD/AGRA Young Professionals and
Women scientist Research Competition in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 2009
The CGIAR Science Award for Outstanding Communications by the Consultative
Group in Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in 2007 for the work done by the “Team
members of the African Leafy Vegetable Project”
American Ambassador’s Girl-child School Calendar project in 2006 as a role
model from Nyanza Province
The Rockefeller Gender and Diversity mentoring program (FELLOWSHIP) 2005-
2007;
An Award of the International Scientist of the year 2002 by International
Biographical centre, Cambridge, England.
Awarded Certificate of Excellence in recognition of outstanding Performance at
the Sixth KARI Scientific Conference for Second best overall presentation (NonKARI Scientist) in Nairobi 1999.
Prof Abukutsa’s Mission Statement Reads as follows:
“I am committed to Live, Learn and Provide Excellent Service with Integrity, Love, Joy,
Kindness, Humility and Honesty so that I am Optimally used for Worthy Purposes in
the Community and Leave a Legacy”

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