Graduation Ceremonies

Ugandan graduate aspires to help his country

A science graduate from Uganda is hoping that his degree will help him to improve life for people in his home country, by strengthening food security.

Alex Abaca, aged 35, graduates at our winter award ceremonies on Tuesday 9 December with an MSc in Molecular Plant Sciences. He will stay on at Bath to study a PhD and his goal is to make cassava crops more sustainable.

Cassava, a root crop, deteriorates quickly after harvest and Alex wants to find ways to make it last longer and easier to transport and trade.

Alex AbacaAlex was born in Northern Uganda and as the youngest child grew up grazing the family’s cattle. When rustlers stole the herd he was able to enrol at school at the age of nine and went on to study A levels, funding his fees by making bricks, digging and fishing.

With government sponsorship he studied a BSc in Agriculture at Makerere University and then became a crop agronomist at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO).

He said: “There are very few people in Uganda who know about plant pathogens and insect identification using molecular tools, so I will share my skills with technicians under my supervision.

“My course has also taught me critical analysis and proofreading skills that I will use to increase the number of scientific publications and project proposals coming from NARO, placing Uganda on a global level.

“Giving back to the community is very important to me so I plan to run Plant Clinics and model farms for free learning in farming communities.”

Alex studied at Bath with assistance from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and support from Bath alumnus Stuart Appleton.

He said: “Financial support towards my studies has been the best gift of my life. I would like to thank the University of Bath, Stuart Appleton and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission from the bottom of my heart for tuition that neither I nor my family members could provide.

“I pledge to share my knowledge for the benefit of farmers in Uganda and anywhere God might send me. Together, we shall make the world a food secure planet and a better place for everyone.”

Alex’s PhD is to be funded by Crop Innovations, and the University. Crop Innovations is a charity based in our Department of Biology & Biochemistry and at the Warwick Crop Centre, aiming to bring cutting-edge plant research to farmers in order to help increase the value of under-utilised crops.

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