Paul Onyango


From Ann Shriver (former IIFET/NAAFE Executive Director):

I am extremely saddened to share news of the untimely passing of our friend Paul Onyango. He returned recently from cancer treatments in India to spend his last days with his beloved family—his wife Perpetua, and sons Bill, Nelson, Samuel and Michael.


Svein Jentoft, Paul’s major professor, has written a moving tribute to Paul here: But I wanted to add a few words from my own experience and IIFET’s perspective.


Paul was a positive force who changed my life, and, though you may not be aware of it, he changed yours, too. He and I first began corresponding by email when he was working in Mwanza, Tanzania in the 1990s. I was excited to have “met” (through email) a Tanzanian colleague and we had fun discussing Swahili proverbs. We also shared dreams about the potential for an IIFET conference in Africa. In those days it seemed like a fun idea with a likelihood approaching zero of amounting to anything.


Fast forward to 2009-2010, and suddenly we were in the midst of real discussions about an IIFET conference in Tanzania. The stars aligned when Rebecca Metzner was President of IIFET, as East Africa was part of her assigned responsibility for FAO. Hillary Egna of the (then) Aquaculture CRSP came forward with critical early support, Paul brought together University of Dar es Salaam administrators and fisheries economists including Razack Lokina, and suddenly it was happening.


Though the number of supporters and “co-dreamers” in the IIFET 2012 project eventually became large and diverse, Paul was truly at the center of it all. It was his unflagging positive energy, good humor and quiet determination which surmounted every challenge to our ultimate success.


When I think of Paul, the term “grace” comes to mind. A gracious person makes you glad you asked. I am so glad we asked Paul to bring us all to Africa, guide us through our experience, make it fun and make it real. If you learned something new in 2012 (as I suspect we all did), you have Paul Onyango to thank.    


Another word central to Paul’s being is integrity. He knew the right thing to do, and to the best of his ability, he always did that thing.


In addition to serving as the force majeure behind IIFET 2012 TZ, Paul served on the IIFET Executive Committee from 2014-2018. True to form, he took his role to heart and worked hard to continue to expand access to IIFET’s benefits, throughout Africa.


Paul Onyango left us way too early. I will miss his kind smile, his positive outlook, his grace and his wisdom.


Safari njema, Paul.