From local vet to international livestock consultant
Over 80 percent of Uganda’s population live in rural areas, with agriculture providing a livelihood for 72 percent of the economically active population. 23 percent of Uganda’s gross domestic product originates from agriculture, making it a major contributor to poverty reduction.
Born in Akaoidebe, north Uganda, Paul Opio saw the struggle that his local community faced as a result of insufficient food security and poor animal production on a daily basis, and was determined to make a difference. Through work placements, education and a scholarship from the Marshal Papworth Fund, he now advises the government on livestock issues and is able to share his experience and knowledge and make a real impact.
Paul’s first university degree was in veterinary medicine and upon completion he trained farmers in poultry production in his home region of Lango.. Alongside his training, Paul worked for an Italian organisation in Karamoja, managing a large veterinary laboratory as part of a project to control and prevent disease in livestock.
He then worked for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for four years before he applied and was accepted onto the Marshal Papworth scholarship programme. The scholarship enabled him to travel to the UK to study for an MSc in Animal Production and Nutrition, at Writtle College in Essex.
Paul said: “I had trained as a vet in Uganda and I faced problems working with livestock disease daily. On most occasions treatment was provided and the animals would recover, however farmers found they were not getting the best out of their livestock. I wanted to do something more than simply treat the livestock; I wanted to understand how to increase yields from animals.”
Uganda’s economy is extremely how to climate sensitive and livestock production contributes greatly to the country’s food security. The general livestock population has increased at a rate of around four percent from 2001 to 2009.
Paul commented: “Receiving a scholarship to study in the UK was a turning point in my career; achieving my Masters qualification gave me valuable knowledge and skills that I could then share with communities in my own country, helping to improve the livestock development of Uganda as a whole.”
Paul is now a qualified veterinary surgeon and currently works as a livestock specialist for FAO, which is working to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, by reducing rural poverty and increasing and improving the provision of goods and services from agriculture.
Paul added: “My biggest achievement since returning home has been facilitating the creation of a regional livestock and pastoralism working group, which meets bi-monthly to discuss key issues and provides advice on the latest developments within agriculture across Eastern Africa.
“My life has really changed because of the Marshal Papworth scholarship and I will never forget it. The scholarship has enabled me to work with people in some of the worst affected areas of the country, helping to build a sustainable future for their communities.”
The Marshal Papworth Fund is wholly managed by the East of England Agricultural Society and has helped to improve the lives of over one hundred and twenty students from developing countries. To help many more students like Paul, the Fund relies on donations. To find out more and to make a donation contact Sandra Lauridsen on 01733 363514 or email email@example.com for more information.