Spotlight On: Professor Ruth Oniang'o
Oniang'o is the first professor of nutrition in Kenya1, and has since contributed greatly to the development and education of agriculture and nutrition. AJFAND, a peer reviewed journal, provides information and research on food and nutrition, as well as agriculture and food security. Oniang’o started AJFAND in 2001 out of her interest in providing a journal that focuses on development issues, the environment, as well as health and sanitation.1 She continues to write the Editorials for each issue of the journal and brings up important topics central to the discussion of sustainability and nutrition in Africa.
Oniang'o pursued her education in both the U.S. and Kenya.2 She received her Bachelor’s of Science and Masters of Science in Food Science and Nutrition from Washington State University before earning her PhD from University of Nairobi.3
She later became the Professor of Food Science and Nutrition at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology in Nairobi, where she also founded the graduate studies program in Food Science and Nutrition. She has also advised the Food and Nutrition programs at other universities such as University of Namibia and University of Zimbabwe.4
As the founder and first executive director of the Rural Outreach Program (ROP), she has helped the livelihood of numerous families in Kenya through educating them and their farming communities.1 This non-profit organization was founded in 1993.
Oniang'o is also an advocate of women's health care and child & youth nutrition. She has worked with UN organizations such as UNICEF5 and attended international summits such as World Nutrition Conference (1992), the World Food Summit (1996), and congresses such as those of International Union of Nutritional Sciences, International Union of Food Science and Technology, and Crop Science.
Oniang'o's work continues to be recognized around the world. She has won numerous achievements and awards such as the Silver Star medal (1995) and Woman of the Year (2000).4
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Oniang'o on open access and working with Bioline:
Bioline: What is the history of AJFAND?
Ruth Oniang'o: AJFAND stands for African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development. It started in 2001 as AJFNS (African Journal of Food and Nutritional Sciences. With AJFNS as a title and focus, we were not getting enough relevant articles. Yet, other authors in related fields were sending in their articles while others wrote to inquire about the journal and whether they could submit a manuscript for consideration.
Bioline: How and when did Bioline become involved?
Ruth Oniang'o: After 3 issues, the name changed and we also converted to an online version. Just before converting to online publishing, Dr. Leslie Chan visited Nairobi to participate in a 3-day forum for academic journal editors and administrators. That is when I first met him.
At that forum, more than 30 journals were represented. Here I announced that our journal was going online right away. I believe ours was the very first journal to embrace web publishing. I told them: Either we embrace the technology or close shop. Most of the other participants were not sure about that move. Soon after, Dr. Chan introduced Bioline to me and we joined right away.
Bioline: How has Bioline contributed to AJFAND's visbility?
Ruth Oniang'o: Joining the Bioline fraternity was really fortuitous. It gave us international visibility and recognition. It was able to provide a quality assurance mechanism while allowing us to maintaining our independence. I have been able to visit Bioline offices on a visit to the University of Toronto.
Bioline: What has your experience been like working with Bioline?
Ruth Oniang'o: We have had a smooth, cordial and respectful relationship. Bioline received our announcement when we publish just like anyone else, Bioline then checks the issue thoroughly and points out any anomalies, and then posts on its own website and announces.
Our association with Bioline has been most welcome and useful in a number of ways:
- Helping to link all the journals from different parts of the world they are able to understand the unique challenges faced by journals based in developing countries;
- Providing extremely useful quality assurance services;
- Keeping us abreast of what is happening globally in the publishing world;
- Organizing or linking us to training opportunities; and
- Giving us monthly alerts on how our journal is doing in terms of visits to the website.
Ruth Oniang'o: Open access is affordable as far as production costs. The reach is far without having to use an expensive and limiting postal service. Also, the journal virtually markets itself and reaches easily and for free to those who are targeted.
Bioline: Has the open access environment changed for AJFAND? If so, how?
Ruth Oniang'o: We started off as open access and have preferred to remain that way. Raising funds is not easy. But we try. Open access has worked well for us.
Bioline: What kinds of open access developments do you see in the future for AJFAND?
Ruth Oniang'o: We are soon getting into e-book publishing and would also like to diversify what we publish.
For more information on African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, as well as issues from 2002 and beyond, go to: http://www.bioline.org.br/nd
1. Honorable Professor, founder and first Executive Director of Rural Outreach Program (ROP) and consultant. International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change.
2. AJFAND Online CVs Posting template - CV-Ruth Oniang'o.pdf. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development.
3. Food Hero Series: Ruth Oniang'o, Kenya's Voice for Nutrition. The Food Think Tank.
4. Profile: Professor Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o. Abeingo Community Network.
5. Ruth Oniang'o. World public Health Nutrition Association.