An inspirational diplomat and academic, well known for her work to reduce poverty and childhood malnutrition in her home country of Uganda, has received an honorary degree from the University of Reading.
Professor Joyce Kakuramatsi Kikafunda is the High Commissioner of Uganda to India and also spearheaded the establishment of Uganda’s first ever Department of Food Science and Technology in 1989. She was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science at a ceremony on Wednesday 19 July.
Professor Kikafunda is one of the few female professors in Uganda. She was educated at Makerere University, one of Africa’s oldest and most prestigious universities, where she graduated with a BSc in Agriculture in 1976, receiving first class honours. After further study in Canada, she went on to complete a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Reading.
Her research was primarily focused on the risk factors for childhood malnutrition in rural areas of Uganda. After she discovered poor weaning practices were largely contributing to childhood nutrition in the country, Professor Kikafunda and her team worked with mothers to explain how a better diet could improve their children’s health and weight. After word spread, her work on the project “Gender Informed Nutrition in Agriculture” contributed to a reduction of child malnutrition in the Western Region of Uganda from 21% to 11% in a period of just four years.
Professor Carol Wagstaff, Research Dean for Agriculture Food & Health at the University of Reading, said: “Joyce’s drive and determination to eradicate poverty and reduce childhood malnutrition in Uganda was instrumental in her establishing, along with colleagues, a unit of Food Science and Nutrition at Makerere University.
“The number of Ugandans studying for a degree in food and nutritional sciences has greatly increased since Joyce founded the Department more than thirty years ago, now elevated to the status of a School due to its strategic national importance. It is particularly notable how the opportunities instigated by Joyce have enabled more women of Uganda to access higher education and to be empowered by gaining a science-based degree level education.”
Professor Kikafunda’s achievements have been recognised both nationally and internationally. She was awarded the Nestle Nutrition Institute Africa Award in 2012 and became a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute based in the Philippines from 2010-2015.
In her acceptance speech, Professor Kikafunda thanked Dr Olatunde Oluwatola from Nigeria for nominating her, and the University of Reading for honouring her. She also said: “This degree is a tribute to the Girl Child, not only in Uganda but the whole of Africa.”
Between 2013-2016, Professor Kikafunda was High Commissioner of Uganda to the United Kingdom, then High Commissioner to Australia 2017-2022, and she is currently High Commissioner to India. She is also a Founder and Member of Ugandan Action for Nutrition, and is often described as the ‘mother of food science and nutrition’ in Uganda.