Oluwatoba Omotilewa joins the Borlaug LEAP fellowship in Spring 2016 from Nigeria and is currently attending Purdue University where he is pursuing a PhD in Agricultural Economics. He is interested in the adoption and impacts of improved storage technology among smallholder households in Uganda. With the understanding that increasing productivity without proper post-harvest management will also increase losses, he hopes to extend his findings to his country of Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) at large. While he began his graduate studies in geomatics engineering and remote sensing, with the intent of helping find and clean up oil spills in Nigeria, he soon realized that he could make an even greater difference by turning his attention to development work. Using sound technical knowledge and empirical approaches he is currently developing, Oluwatoba is hoping to see food insecurity and poverty reduced among smallholder farmers through a combination of increased productivity and reduction of post‐harvest losses.
Oluwatoba is committed to making an impact in a country where poverty and hunger are still widespread. As a student at Purdue, he has had the opportunity to work as the Managing Editor of the Journal of Terrestrial Observation (JTO). On the Purdue Terrestrial Observatory (PTO) website he used data gathered from remote sensing projects to help educate K-12 students about remote sensing of vegetation and how it can help with conservation and other environmental issues. He is proud to be able to contribute to the education of young students. He has also contributed to capacity development through training of extension staff and farmers in Uganda and Ethiopia. He eventually wants to affect change in Nigeria and surrounding region at the policy level and challenge others to do the same as young leaders in their country. He looks forward to participating in the Borlaug LEAP fellowship, which will help give him the skills to be able to accomplish these goals.
While with Borlaug LEAP, Oluwatoba will have the privilege of working with his US mentor, Dr. Jacob Ricker-Gilbert and his CGIAR mentor Dr. John Herbert Ainembabazi. Dr. Ricker-Gilbert is an assistant professor in the Purdue Department of Agricultural Economics, whose work in multiple countries deals with post-harvest and storage issues. Dr. Ricker-Gilbert will continue his work with Oluwatoba as his advisor and mentor, guiding him on how to compile survey data and approach his dissertation writing, including research framework and design. Dr. Ainembabazi, an Agricultural Economist the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Uganda, will be supervising Oluwatoba’s fieldwork and data collection, working with him to use best practices in research methodology. This hands-on approach will allow Oluwatoba to get vital real-world experience in development work. Oluwatoba is on track to receive his PhD in Summer 2017.