2016 Borlaug LEAP Fellow Richard Bukenya is a doctoral student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He is also Fellow with the Borlaug Higher Education for Agriculture Research and Development (BHEARD) Program. He obtained a BSc in Economics and Human Nutrition, and an MSc in Human Nutrition at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. His research aims at developing and validating a questionnaire to assess nutrition knowledge among adults in Uganda. Having the appropriate knowledge is a fundamental step in decision making and behavior change, however that knowledge is often wrongly assumed to be widely available, or misunderstood. After the questionnaire is validated and available to local institutions, it will help facilitate the development of educational programs that hire community resource persons (i.e., head teachers and health workers) to train and disseminate nutrition messages to the population. Richard believes that promoting nutrition education and healthy behaviors with adequate monitoring and evaluation strategies will have multiple benefits. His work is a step toward improving nutrition practices by identifying gaps in knowledge, improving the effectiveness of interventions, and deciphering potential associations with food utilization, a component of food security.
Richard has worked in the areas of community nutrition, education and counseling, and assessment with various organizations including Mildmay Center, the Ministry of Health Kampala, Community Action for Health, and at Makerere University in the Department of Food Technology and Human Nutrition. He wants to continue his academic and research aspirations at Makerere University. Richard views leadership as volunteering to serve others in order to shape the future, and that starts by building capacity at all levels. He is interested in empowering individuals and communities to address food and nutrition security challenges in Uganda and beyond. Richard envisions himself in the future as a competitive scholar and a leader in Global and Community Nutrition Research. He is currently a Graduate Assistant in the UIUC Nutrition department.
Richard will be mentored by Dr. Juan Andrade and Dr. Beatrice Ekesa-Onyango throughout his fellowship. Dr. Juan Andrade is an Assistant Professor of Global Nutrition at UIUC. His research has focused primarily on translating bench-top concepts into applications, technologies, and programs that will result in improved nutrition and food security among people living in low-income countries. He has developed several lines of research aimed at strengthening the agricultural continuum namely evaluation of agricultural programs, point-of-care diagnostics for micronutrient status, nutrition technologies for fortification, and internationalization of curricula through study abroad programs. Dr. Andrade will use this expertise to guide Richard’s proposed project and dissertation writing. Dr. Beatrice Ekesa-Onyango is currently at Bioversity International, where she studies and implements agrobiodiversity-based strategies for the alleviation of micronutrient and protein deficiencies among smallholder households in banana growing regions of Uganda and Tanzania. Dr. Ekesa-Onyango will provide Richard with critical mentorship and logistical support while conducting his work in Uganda. He is excited that the Borlaug LEAP Fellowship will allow him to receive hands-on training with a CGIAR mentor, something he would not have had access to without their funding and support. Richard is expected to complete his Ph.D. in 2017.