Get to know the ECRLF Fellows: Dr. Florece Opondo

From Banker to Researcher; Dr. Florece Opondo’s humble beginning in the banking industry is an inspirational tale. No one thought she would decide on such a drastic career change after eight years in banking.

Her dislike of the routine nature of work in the banking industry coupled with the desire and passion to contribute to the creation of employment especially for young people through innovations in agriculture were the driving force behind Dr. Opondo pursuing a career in Agribusiness. 

Realising her passion in academia and research, Dr. Opondo began interacting with key players in the academia, asking key questions and looking out for opportunities to jump ship. These engagements were key in shaping and steering her towards a career in academia and research. 

Simple, perhaps it may sound, however, it took a lot of dedication and sacrifices to see her get to where she is today. The hardest was trying to gain the teaching experience which would later qualify her for a teaching position at Laikipia University. She believes that making all those sacrifices was one of the best decisions she has made in her lifetime and is grateful because it led her to Future Africa

Since joining the Future Africa through the ECRLF program, Dr. Opondo has taken all the opportunities presented to her. She has participated in workshops, seminars, trainings, interacting with other fellows as well as academics within the University of Pretoria. Her motivation for joining the fellowship was that it will help her strengthen her research skills, have access to resources, get mentorship, create long-lasting networks and gain support which she has not been able to get as an early career researcher.

Her current research aims to reveal some of the gaps that exist along the cassava value chains. She hopes that the output in the form of policy recommendations will benefit the different stakeholders within the agricultural sector and other support organizations. This will bring more insights on underutilized crops not only in Kenya but also in other African countries as well. 

Dr. Opondo would like to participate in more collaborative research through Future Africa. She also wants to formally engage in mentoring other young early career researchers back home using the skills and tools she has learnt during her time at Future Africa. She hopes she will be able to encourage more early career researchers to join the Future Africa community.

Her message to young people is that education is the most powerful weapon to solving most of Africa’s problems. Her message to the next cohort is for them to take advantage of the fellowship opportunity and focus more on the long- term benefits than short-term paybacks. Her advice is to capitalize on the available resources to develop their research skills as the University of Pretoria have enormous resources that many African Universities do not have access to.