UNAFRAID OF THE FUTURE
Meet Toto Olita – Researcher. Humanitarian.Environmentalist.Global Citizen
“I consider myself a global citizen by calling. This is because our world is much connected as ever before and the challenges we face demand collaborative action. I believe in inclusion, fairness, community empowerment, social justice as well as protection and preservation of our environment.The training I received at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT)has equipped me with both technical and life skills. These skills have been instrumental in enhancing my outlook on the problems we face as a globe. Throughout my academic and professional journey, I have seen the need to use evidence-based research to guidedecision-making process and inform policy recommendations. This means that the solutions to the “wicked” problems promote resilience within our communities. My purpose is to help empower communities to utilise the available resources in the most efficient and innovative way in order to ensure enduring outcomes. I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to DeKUT family. Every person I met during my time at DeKUT has contributed to my progress and the person I am today. I am eternally grateful.”- Toto Olita
Toto Olita is our 2013 Actuarial Science Graduate. She is Curtin University’s recently recruited Postdoctoral researcher with training in Actuarial Science, Agriculture and Resource Economics. Her PhD was funded by the University of Western Australia’s Scholarship for International Research Fees and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Project Grant. Toto’s research focused on the design of environmental policy tools under risky situations.
Looking back at her PhD journey, she expresses that she was fortunate to work with a global team of experts from Australia, Canada and Germany in an International ARC project. “My PhD work explored a new solution to the obstacles that uncertainty creates for the successful implementation of certain types of nature conservation programs. Our solution was a new form of insurance that could be embedded within conservation contracts to offer income protection to private landholders. This research work was accepted for an oral presentation at the 6th World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economists, held between 25th and 29th June 2018 in Gothenburg, Sweden; a meeting held once every 4 years and attracts participants from all over the globe”- explains Toto with a sense of gratitude.
Toto’s current work within the Centre for Crop and Disease Management explores the economic impact of plant diseases on a sustainable agricultural production system. Did you know that plant diseases cause significant economic damage with a global estimate of $220 billion (Ksh 24.5trillion) losses annually according to the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO)?This highlights the importance of the work Toto and her colleagues are involved in to our global food security, more importantly now when our world is grappling with a pandemic that has sadly affected the livelihoods of many communities. “I would like to encourage everyone that the values we bring to the table contribute to the change within our communities. The contribution of each person is essential to ensure sustainable outcomes”- she adds.
Toto’s passion to ensure better lives for community members, especially those facing extreme poverty and isolation inspired her to undertake a social research project during her Master’s studies at Curtin University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Her thesis focused on housing shortage and unaffordability influencing homelessness crisis among low-income households in Australia. “I was able toanalyse wayshousing shortage can be tackled to help reduce the growing homelessness crisis in Australia.” – she adds.She also received an offer from Landgate (Valuations and Property Analytics) through iPREP WA to participate in a 6 week internship program to assess Landgate’s property valuation quality indicators and frameworks against best practice, nationally and internationally.
This lady’slife aspiration has always been to use the knowledge she acquiresto help improve the lives of people in the community. Beyond research, she serves her community in various capacities. For instance, after completing her high school, Toto became a volunteer teaching aid at St. Thomas Amagoro Secondary School (Busia County, Kenya). She saysthis opportunity gave her a platform to reach out to students who had to tackle issues such as discrimination, mental health and stigma as a result of teenage pregnancy. “I was moved by the passion of these students who had so much potential and so little support. I believe we can do something in our own little ways to reach out to so many young people who are at risk of dropping out of school due to lack of motivation, social injustices and access to basic needs.” Toto has also worked with teenage single mothers, youths affected by alcohol and drug abuse and young people experiencing homelessness and those facing the risk of homelessness. She counts herself fortunate to have had the opportunity to offer wellness workshops at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre and Warnbro High School with the Australian Red Cross “Save-a-Mate” program. She echoes the words of WangariMaathai who once said, “It’s the little things citizens do that will make the difference.”
Toto believes that change begins with each one of us and that together, we can. She wraps this up with the words of Nelson Mandela, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
As a University whose focus is mainly Research, Innovation, Technology Development and Transfer for Sustainable Development, we are proud to see the work being done in line with this out there by young people who crossed our paths as our students.
We are proud of you Dr. Toto Olita!