Dr. Margaret Onyango passed away in February 2015. During her lifetime, Dr. Onyango worked tirelessly to promote banana research and development at the smallholder level. Her passing creates an enormous gap that will be difficult to fill.
Margaret received her Borlaug LEAP Fellowship in 2006. Her mentor was Dr. Richard Manshardt of the University of Hawaii and her CGIAR mentor was Dr. Deborah Karamura of Bioversity International, Uganda. Her PhD dissertation was entitled, ‘Characterization of East African accessions of Musa AAB “apple” and Musa AA “Muraru” dessert bananas’. Following her Borlaug LEAP fellowship, Dr. Margaret Onyango received her PhD in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA in 2007.
After completing her PhD, Dr. Onyango returned to Kenya and took a position at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) where she worked until her untimely passing. She served as the country coordinator for research and management of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW). Margaret was based at KARI Kisii where she helped communities to manage BXW on farm in Ugunja, Siaya County, Malakisi, Bungoma County and Bumala, Busia County of Kenya using farmer field schools (FFS) and community task forces. Her work under the project ‘Strengthening partnerships along value chains to manage Xanthomonas wilt (Xanthomonas campestris pv musacearum) of bananas in East Africa was ranked “Best KARI Implemented Project 2012” for solving farmers’ constraints using innovative integrated and holistic approach that recognizes integration and team work across levels, disciplines and gender to increase productivity, commercialization and competitiveness of bananas.
With Margaret's passing, the development community has lost an accomplished scientist and tireless leader who was well respected by farmers, extension agents and scientists alike. She was known for her infectious smile and enthusiastic passion for her research. She will be greatly missed by the whole Borlaug LEAP family.