It is with a huge sense of sadness we share the news that our BRECcIA project colleague and friend Professor John Obiri (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya) passed away on Friday 29th January 2021. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family, colleagues and friends at this time.
John had an enthusiastic character and generous spirit, which you could not fail to like; a character borne out of passion, a sense of caring for others and a desire to be inclusive and consider others.
Professor Jadu Dash (University of Southampton) recalls the first time he met John at a Newton funded workshop in Kisumu in 2017 where he showed his “great intellectual ability and willingness to give something back to society”. This meeting proved to be the start of a fruitful partnership and was the catalyst for his involvement in BRECcIA.
John was passionate about science and the development of others as well. He led the BRECcIA team at MMUST, where he was instrumental in hiring their first ever post-doc, and also advocated for the development of a formal research management structure within MMUST. He rallied the MMUST research management staff with great success to partake in the institutional capacity building activities arranged as part of BRECcIA.
John and his colleagues at MMUST hosted the BRECcIA Annual Research Meeting in July 2018 in Kisumu, where his hospitable nature and passion for life shone brightly. His desire for the team to see and experience the local area where he lived and worked, as well as experience much of the Kenyan culture was evident. A stand-out memory for everyone at that workshop was John’s ability to rouse the team – primarily through active, on your feet engagement. The variety of claps he could lead us in not only galvanised us as a team but reinvigorated our daily meetings – alongside bringing joy and laughter to us all. Clapping is now a regular BRECcIA activity that brings us all together and will be one of John’s many legacies.
His passion for the scientific disciplines of natural resource management, conflict/disaster risk reduction and environmental conservation in Africa has been key in leading research projects within BRECcIA, with a particular focus on the investigation on the spread and impact of invasive vegetation species in Kenya, and further afield in Malawi too. John’s leadership on these projects and enabling of collaborations across institutions and countries embodies the spirit of the BRECcIA project.
It is an understatement to say that John will be greatly missed. Many of us will not be able to put into words the shock and sorrow at hearing of his passing. We pray for comfort and peace for those who know and loved him, and for strength for those closest to him during the coming days, weeks and months. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered!
Our BRECcIA colleagues would like to mark and celebrate the life of such a kind and inspirational team member, and will ensure we do so soon.