“Thank you for a unique learning opportunity.”

Alex Abaca’s goal is to improve food security at home by making cassava crops more sustainable. In 2014, with assistance from the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission and Bath alumnus Stuart Appleton, he graduated with an MSc in Molecular Plant Sciences.

Alex tells his story: “I was born in 1979 in Kioga County, Northern Uganda. My father had seven wives and because I am the last born of 38 children, my task was to graze our cattle. It was not until rustlers took away all our cattle that I managed to enroll in primary one class aged nine. Between attending secondary school and taking my A levels, I had to spend several years making bricks, digging and fishing to earn money for my fees. With all these struggles, I was still the best in my class. By saving some money from teaching I sat my A level examinations, and was admitted to study BSc Agriculture at Makerere University with government sponsorship, which I completed in 2008. Following this I joined the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) as a Crop Agronomist and that is where I stayed until coming to Bath.

Amidst all this, I married my wife Margret in the year 2010. We have three lovely children (two girls and a boy). Margret studied BA Urban and Regional planning but with such a high unemployment rate in Uganda, she is keeping our children at home with no job. I am the only bread winner in my house. God should keep them safe in my absence until I return to continue supporting them again.

Sharing my knowledge to improve food security

My real interest is agricultural science which I can use to improve life for people in Uganda. I am researching on cassava, the most commonly grown food and considered a poor man’s crop, which grows and stores its roots under the ground. The problem is that after harvest, it only lasts for a few days before it goes bad through Post-harvest Physiological Deterioration (PPD). I am working hard to finding ways to make it last longer and make it easier to transport, trade and keep this valuable food crop.

23 Alex Abaca with cassavaI am the only graduate in my family and I plan to be the first ever PhD holder in my sub county.There are very few people in Uganda who know about plant pathogens and insect identification using molecular tools. Upon successful completion of my course, my country will benefit from my experience, which I will share with technicians directly under my supervision. In addition, this course has taught me critical analysis and proofreading skills that I will use to increase the number of scientific publications and project proposals coming from NARO, placing Uganda at a global level. Giving back to the community is very important to me so I plan to run Plant Clinics and model farms for free learning in farming communities. I believe strongly that God will provide me with the resource to undertake this mission.”


Thank you for a unique learning opportunity

“Living independently in a developed country has taught me a lot of new skills, including using automation (from using a library card as a door key, to elevators in supermarkets and book borrowing in the library), understanding real English language, interacting with students from different countries, time management, personal development and travelling by rail and road. I have also cherished and copied the politeness of the English people; this will be instrumental in bringing up my children.

Financial support towards my studies has been the best gift of my life. I would like to thank the University of Bath, Stuart Appleton and the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Commission from the bottom of my heart for tuition that neither I nor my family members could provide. I pledge to complete this course successfully and share my knowledge for the benefit of farmers in Uganda and anywhere God might send me. Together, we shall make the world a food secure planet and a better place for everyone.”

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