James Akoko is an Animal Health Specialist, with 10 years of experience in a research setting at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). He began his carrier as an Animal Health Technician (essentially an extension service provider in animal health), having undertaken a Diploma in Animal Health at Egerton University in Kenya, focused on retailing animal health products in the private sector. He started working at ILRI in 2006 as an animal health technician, based in the field in western Kenya and funded by two successive Wellcome Trust projects. While working, he registered for and successfully completed online certificate training in Global Health Leadership and Management, as well as a Diploma in Project Management. Later, he joined the ESEI Urban Zoo programme, still as an ILRI staff member, and was appointed as a field coordinator, a post that involved both management and technical responsibilities. While in this position, the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health funded his registration on the University of Edinburgh online part time Masters of Science (MSc) in International Animal Health, which required studying in the evenings after a busy working day. Exposure to day-to-day epidemiological work and mentorship from colleagues across the Urban Zoo project contributed to his successful completion of the course, after 3 years.
James has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and control of neglected zoonotic diseases using One Health Approach. As a result, he investigated the prevalence and risk factors for porcine cysticercosis in urban Nairobi as his Masters research project (part of the value chain studies of the Urban Zoo programme). He later successfully won a highly prized scholarship to join the African Science Partnership for Intervention Research Excellence (Afrique One-ASPIRE) programme, a Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS) scheme funded by the Wellcome Trust and African Academy of Sciences, where he is currently a first year PhD student investigating the genetic diversity of Brucella species in livestock, people, and wild animals. His project aims to establish the molecular diversity and transmission dynamics of this bacterium in sub-Saharan Africa. Most recently, he was successful in winning an Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund fellowship to undertake part of his PhD at the ILRI-BeCA Hub in Nairobi.