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Alex O.

Awiti is a Fellow at The Earth Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the School
of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Awiti belongs to a new generation of African scientists and intellectuals with a passionate
commitment to finding innovative, locally evolved approaches that enhance Africa’s
adaptive capacity and harness opportunities for the continent’s development through
enterprise, civic renewal, and appropriate science and technology.

His work at The Earth Institute focuses on understanding the interactions between
agricultural/pastoral systems and the soil-and-vegetation based ecosystem services. Awiti
has devoted a significant part of his fellowship in Africa testing and refining the use of
remote sensing techniques for rapid characterization and analysis of soil and vegetation
resources in the Millennium Villages. These techniques are cutting edge in the field of
soil science and agronomy. The techniques have enabled the rapid and inexpensive
mapping of soil carbon, soil nitrogen, soil and a host of other essential elements that limit
agricultural productivity in Africa. In the pastoral systems, he has refined a protocol that
utilizes a combination of very high spatial and temporal resolution satellite imagery, near
infrared reflectance spectroscopy and ecological surveys, to characterize grazing patterns
and assess land degradation. He is also part of a team at The Earth Institute that is
working on climate risk management for smallholder farmers in Africa.

He is an advocate for a new deal for African agriculture which links rural farmers with
technology, inputs, market information, financial services, efficient water management,
weather forecast, while maintaining environmental sustainability. Awiti is author of
several scholarly articles on soil fertility, deforestation, and natural resources policy. He
is a regular contributor to and reviewer for several international journals in the fields of
soil science, agriculture and environment. He writes and maintains an active blog on the
foremost global issues of food, agriculture, climate, water, political economy, energy and
emerging infectious diseases. He is also a regular Op-ed contributor to leading Kenyan
newspapers on issues of poverty, environment, governance and public policy.

Awiti has been in the forefront articulating in a dispassionate way, the links between poor
governance, poverty, disease, low human capacity, climate change, low food production,
poor infrastructure, environmental degradation and the appalling economic development
outcomes in Africa. He has spoken on the state of Africa at numerous forums at
Columbia University and also at the Annual Spring Meeting of Members and Trustees of
The Institute of Current World Affairs in 2007. More recently he gave a brown bag
seminar at the Berger Group in Washington DC.

Prior to joining Columbia Dr. Awiti worked for eight years at the World Agroforestry
Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi as an Associate Landscape Ecologist with research
responsibilities in Eastern and Central Africa and Madagascar. While at ICRAF he
played a leading role in the design of the first World Bank funded project on payments
for environmental services in Africa. A native of Kenya, Awiti received his PhD degree
at the University of Nairobi.