Calestous Juma was born on the 9th day in June 1953 in Kenya. He spent his childhood days living on the Kenyan shores of Lake Victoria, close to the Ugandan border. He received early education as one of the pioneer students at the formerly called Port Victoria Secondary school which is now known as the John Osogo Secondary school.
Early Life Of Calestous Juma
At the age of nine, there was an overflow of water in his village which led to a flood and shortage of food in the entire community. That was what gave him his first innovation experience. His father, John Juma who was a carpenter, traveled to Uganda in search of a solution to the shortage of food in the community.
John returned with cassava, the introduction of which attracted displaced animals looking for food and habitat. Those animals destroyed the remaining crops in the village. It was the first time cassava was been brought into the community. As a result of the destruction, the introduction of cassava was rejected by the elders of the village.
In a debate that followed, John Juma won and cassava has since then been an important important crop in the community. The cassava experience made little Calestous Juma develop interest in technology innovation, as well as in the environment and agriculture.
Money was a major problem in his family as they were unable to fund his academic bills. This led him to take his first job which was as a school teacher faraway in Mombasa, on Kenya’s east coast. After closing hours in the afternoon, he would write letters to Daily news publications, detailing events happening around. Due to his unique and promising way of writing, he was hired by Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, making him the first African Journalist writing science and environment with the outfit.
He also became a researcher and an editor with the tri-lingual quarterly magazine, Ecoforum, and worked with Nairobi-based Environment Liaison Centre International. He obtained his masters degree in Technology and Industrialization and a Doctorate degree in Science and Technology Policy from the science Policy research unit at the Sussex University UK.
Calestous Juma founded the African Centre for Technology studies (ACTS) in 1988, the first organization of its kind in the continent. ACTS is a policy research institution designed to advance research on technology in development.
He became a Professor of the practice of international development and director of the Belfer Center’s Science Technology and Global Project. He was also a teacher at Harvard Kennedy School.
Professor Calestous Juma was a prolific writer and a fervent user of social media, especially Twitter. He focused on how Africa could use available technologies to progress and achieve positive results in areas like health, energy, education, transportation and agriculture.
He was a passionate advocate for entrepreneurship and progress but he didn’t relent in advocacy, being a firm proponent of the position that Africa will not develop without creating the right policies or setting up the important infrastructures.
Awards And Honours
Among awards and honours bestowed on him are, Pew Scholars award in conservation and the Environment in 1991, Justinian Rweyemamu prize 1992, Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environment Achievement, United Nations Environment Programme 1993, Henry Shaw Medal 2001, Doctor of science (Honorary) at McGill University Canada 2013. He was among 100 most influential Africans put together by the New African Magazine in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He was listed in the inaugural list of 2017 Most Reputable people on Earth.
Prof. Calestous Juma, the African icon and mentor, passed away on Friday 16th of December 2017 after a two-year long battle with cancer.