Today I mourn the loss of an amazing man. Sesele Sokotela, or "Soks" recently passed away. Soks was a scientist at the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), and I don’t know of anyone who cared more about feeding Zambians.
Soks resisted the “brain drain” often experienced by the developing world; he chose not to go to school in Europe, because he felt his country needed him at home... and they did. Poor crop conditions and a dependence on rain-fed agriculture are huge challenges for Zambian farmers, along with climate change adaptation and mitigation. Soks attended the Natural Resources Development College in Lusaka, Zambia, developing an early interest in conservation and sustainable land management.
He was a key member of the team I worked with, and I could not be who I am today without having known him. When I began my long-term assignment in Lusaka in 2010 on the Zambia Food Security Research Project, ZARI was a key collaborating partner in assisting with research, outreach, and capacity-building services. ZARI is the largest agricultural research entity in the country, operating 10 research stations to develop and adapt crop, soil, and plant protection to provide cost-effective solutions to farmers. Soks was there from the beginning to provide expertise gained from years of working in agricultural crop sciences.
He will never get the recognition that he deserves for his important work, and he didn't want it. Yet in my mind, he will continue to be remembered as a pioneer for advancing agricultural sustainability and rural food security in Zambia. Through continued scientific research and a focus on practical solutions, others will carry his work forward, guided by his legacy.
Rest in peace, my amazing friend. I hope you know what you meant to me, and to many others. Rest in peace.