Tribute to Professor Lusato Kurwijila

By Amos Omore

Professor Lusato Kurwijila died Sunday 8 August 2021 in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Few scientists from ILRI’s partner organizations have had as close and continuous a collaboration with ILRI than the late Professor Lusato Kurwijila of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania.


Professor Lusato Kurwijila
Professor Lusato Kurwijila, or 'Prof' as he was affectionately known to hundreds of his students and colleagues. (Credit: ILRI/Mercy Becon)

Born in 1950, Professor Kurwijila received his BSc in agriculture in 1976 (University of Dar es Salaam), MSc in food science & technology in 1980 (University of Nairobi) and Doctor of Science in dairy technology in 1986 (Institute of Technology, ETH-Zürich). His CV attests to a very active and productive professional life, collaborating with many local and international livestock research and development organizations. 

Early in his career, while serving as a lecturer at SUA, Kurwijila also regularly offered his services to teach short courses to participants from across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) on milk handling and processing and at ILCA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between 1988-1993.

I first met ‘Prof’, as we fondly called him, in 1997 during my first assignment at ILRI. I collaborated with him and others in Tanzania to conduct an appraisal of the dairy sector. This collaboration was immediately followed by another study to improve market mechanisms, efficiency, processing, and public health risks in peri-urban dairy product markets in Tanzania and Ghana (1999-2002), during which Kurwijila served as the team leader for Tanzania. Several additional collaborations followed.

For one year between 2004-2005, Kurwijila spent a very productive sabbatical as visiting scientist at ILRI, Addis Ababa, which also allowed him to briefly join his wife, Rosebud, then serving as Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union based in Ethiopia. He used the period to contribute to several ILRI publications and training manuals for small-scale dairy value chain actors. The manuals are still in wide use today. They were part of a process of dairy-policy rationalization and harmonization by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and dairy boards across the region, and were translated into local languages such as Kiswahili and others. 

Between 2008-2011, Professor Kurwijila was the national coordinator for Tanzania in a regional research effort dubbed 'Safe Food, Fair Food' that generated lots of evidence for improving safety in informal milk markets. 

Kurwijila was also a key collaborator for the longest period during the implementation of the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Livestock in Tanzania from 2012 to date. The CRP is referred to locally as Maziwa Zaidi (Swahili for ‘more milk’), given the focus on research for smallholder dairy development. Professor Kurwijila served as the national coordinator for a core project under the program between 2012-2016, as well as an advisor to the interim secretariat of Tanzania Dairy Development Forum (DDF).

Between 2006 and 2011, ILRI supported a project led by Professor Kurwijila that investigated market opportunities for value added dairy and meat products in the East and Central African Region under the auspices of ASARECA involving Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Southern Sudan.

Tom Randolph, Director of the Livestock CRP, remembers doing a mission to Ireland with Prof: 'What a wonderful person! Not only a sharp intellect, knowledgeable and always positive, he was genuinely friendly, warm and always with a good story to tell! His leadership in dairy research in Tanzania and the continent was critical to our work.'

Kurwijila remained active in retirement over the last few years as a part-time tutor at SUA besides continuing to actively participate in CRP Livestock and other research for development activities whenever called upon to do so.

‘Prof will be remembered as a respected figure on dairy matters in Tanzania and across SSA,' said his colleague and long-time friend Amos Omore, a leader of the Tanzania dairy value chain under the Livestock CRP.

‘Kurwijila was a pillar in CGIAR collaborative livestock research for development who applied his knowledge and experience in a charming manner. His passion for promoting research into use and communicating the same very charmingly will be remembered by many. He was a great soul to be with! I carry forward memories of collaboration and friendship for over two decades that will last forever.’