Juma, Calestous

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Calestous Juma


Technology policy analyst

"Evolutionary technological change," conservation of biodiversity, biotechnology for sustainable economic development, "biodiplomacy," "ecological jurisprudence," global climate change, and the creation of a "knowledge-based economy" for Africa—these are among the concepts that Dr. Calestous Juma has developed and examined during his distinguished career in science and technology policy. From his early years as East Africa's first science and environmental journalist and founder and director the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS)—Africa's first independent think-tank—through his career with the United Nations (UN) and as a Harvard University professor, Juma's influence has been felt in Africa and around the world.

A prolific author, the major focus of Juma's research has been the interrelatedness of technological innovation, particularly biotechnology, sustainable development, and environmental protection. His research interests also include evolutionary and systems theory, institutional change, international trade, and globalization.

Founded ACTS

Calestous Juma was born on June 9, 1953, in Busia, Kenya, the son of John Juma Kwada and Clementina Okhubedo Juma. At the age of 21, Juma went to work as a schoolteacher in Mombasa, Kenya. Subsequently he became a journalist for the Nation newspaper in Nairobi and initiated the first-ever regular coverage of environmental issues in the local media. In 1979 Juma was hired as a researcher at the Environment Liaison Center (ELC) in Nairobi. There he edited the ELC's trilingual journal, Ecoforum, which was distributed globally. The publication covered issues such as food production, energy utilization, and the management of genetic resources.

Eventually Juma moved to England to pursue advanced studies. He earned his doctoral degree in science and technology policy studies in 1986 from the University of Sussex. For his dissertation Juma formulated his concept of "evolutionary technological change" to explain how cultures with different social traditions and economies adapted to new technologies.

Returning to Nairobi, Juma founded ACTS in 1988 and served as its executive director until 1995. As Africa's first non-profit research institute for examining the role of technology in development, ACTS concentrated on science, technology, and environmental policies for sustainable development.

Questioned the Patenting of Life

Juma first garnered widespread attention with his 1989 book The Gene Hunters. It was one of the first examinations of the patenting of life forms, particularly plants. Juma claimed that crop improvements made by farmers over thousands of years constituted the "heritage of humanity." He questioned the ethics of private ownership of biological specimens and collections and argued that patenting of genetic material, with royalties paid to plant breeders and geneticists, was really the work of farmers. Juma demonstrated how patenting crops had led to a loss of genetic diversity and the transfer of food production from individual farmers to large corporations.

With co-editor Vicente Sánchez, Juma coined the term "biodiplomacy" to describe a strategy for economic development that would meet global food and medical needs. Their strategy encompassed innovation, biotechnology, and trade in natural products, while maintaining biodiversity and traditional knowledge systems. In his 1996 book, In Land We Trust, Juma introduced the concept of "ecological jurisprudence" to describe the relationships between property rights and conservation. By 1990 Juma also was researching and writing about the effects of global climate change on Africa.

In 1995 Juma was named executive secretary of the 174-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Three years later he became special advisor to the Center for International Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. In 2000 he was named director of the Center's Science, Technology and Globalization Project. In 2002 Juma became professor of the practice of international development at the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA). He also held visiting appointments at the UN University in Tokyo, Japan, and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, and served as chancellor of the University of Guyana.

Coordinated UN Millennium Project Task Force

Among Juma's major concerns have been the application of modern biotechnology to the massive healthcare requirements of Africa and the development of sustainable African agriculture and industries that could compete in the global economy. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Juma launched a study of satellite technology for mapping Earth's population and natural resources. In a 2002 interview titled "What Difference Does a Summit Make?" Juma told Jeanie Barnett of the BCSIA: "Partnerships between governments, business and community are now the key to a sustainable future. No single institution will be able to solve all of the world's problems like air and water pollution, sanitation, health, and growing enough food for the burgeoning human population. Solving these problems will require the resources and technical expertise of many people in government, industry, academia and civil society." Juma also studied issues of biotechnology, sustainable development, and geographical information sciences in his committee work for the National Academy of Sciences. In 2006, he urged Kenya to develop programs in wildlife biotechnology to protect endangered species.

At a Glance …

Born Calestous Juma on June 9, 1953, in Busia, Kenya; married Alison Thornycroft Field, 1987; children: Eric Kwada Field. Education: Egoji Teachers Training College, Teachers Certificate in Science Education, 1974; University of Sussex, MS, 1983; University of Sussex, PhD, science and technology policy, 1986.

Career: Mombasa, Kenya, science teacher, 1974–78; Nation, Nairobi, science and environment journalist, 1978–79; Environment Liaison Center, Nairobi, researcher, editor, 1979–82; African Centre for Technology Studies, Nairobi, founder, executive director, 1988–95; UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Geneva, Switzerland, Montreal, Canada, executive secretary, 1995–98; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Center for International Development, special advisor, 1998–99; Harvard University, Science, Technology and Innovation Program, director, 1999–00; Harvard University, Kennedy School, research fellow, 1999–00; Harvard University, BCSIA, senior research associate, 2000–01; Harvard University, Science, Technology and Globalization Project, director, 2000–; Harvard University, international development professor, 2002–.

Selected memberships: African Union Commission and the New Partnership for Africa's Development, African Panel on Biotechnology, co-chair; Center for International Environmental Law, director; U.S. National Academy of Sciences, foreign associate, Global Challenges and Biotechnology, chair; World Academy of Art and Science, fellow; World Resources Institute, council member, director.

Awards: Pew Fellows Program, Scholars Award in Conservation and the Environment, 1991; Justinian Rweyemamu Prize for broadening Africa's knowledge base for development, 1992; UN Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement, 1993; Missouri Botanical Garden, Henry Shaw Medal, 2001.

Addresses: Office—Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Littauer356, 79 JFK St., Cambridge, MA 02138.

Juma served as co-coordinator of the UN Millennium Project's Task Force on Science, Technology and In-novation. He was lead author of the influential 2005 report Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development. In it, Juma outlined his blueprint for sustainable development in Africa, using African universities for the promotion and utilization of science and technology. In his writings, Juma called for the development of a new kind of African university, with an emphasis on community-based technological innovations and business partnerships. He has called upon the scientific community to become integrally involved in government and UN policy decisions. In addition to numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, Juma edited the International Journal of Technology and Globalization and the International Journal of Biotechnology. As of 2006, his latest book, Taming the Gene: Biotechnology in the Global Economy, was forthcoming.

In May of 2005, Juma told the Earth & Sky Radio Series: "The new vision for development is to ensure that we can advance human welfare while at the same time protecting the environment…. [N]one of this can be achieved without a renewed investment in science and technology, a better understanding of ecosystem dynamics, and new ways of designing goods and services…. [T]his places the universities in a very strategic location, institutionally, in that technical institutions will have two fundamental roles. One is generating new knowledge. And the second is serving as engines of community development in their own rights." Juma appeared particularly well poised to become a leader on these issues.

Selected writings


The Quest for Harmony: Perspectives on the New International Development Strategy, ELC, 1980.
(With David Stuckey) Power Alcohol in Kenya and Zimbabwe: A Case Study in the Transfer of a Renewable Energy Technology, United Nations, 1985.
(With Norman Clark) Long-Run Economics: An Evolutionary Approach to Economic Growth, Pinter, 1987.
Biological Diversity and Innovation: Conserving and Utilizing Genetic Resources in Kenya, ACTS, 1989.
The Gene Hunters: Biotechnology and the Scramble for Seeds, Princeton University, 1989.
(With J. B. Ojwang, eds.) Innovation and Sovereignty: The Patent Debate in African Development ACTS, 1989.
(With S. H. Ominde, eds.) A Change in the Weather: African Perspectives on Climatic Change, ACTS, 1991.
(With Vicente Sánchez, eds.) Biodiplomacy: Genetic Resources and International Relations, ACTS, 1994.
(With John Mugabe and Patricia Kameri-Mbote, eds.) Coming to Life: Biotechnology in African Economic Recovery, ACTS, Zed, 1995.
(With J. B. Ojwang, eds.) In Land We Trust: Private Property, Environment and Constitutional Change, Initiatives Publishers, Zed, 1996.
(With Karen Fang) "Bridging the Genetic Divide," in Genetically Modified Foods: Debating Biotechnology, Prometheus, 2002.
(Editor) Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa, Smith Institute, November, 2005.
(With Lee Yee-Cheong) Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development, Earthscan, 2005.


"International Ecosystem Assessment," Science, Vol. 286, October, 22, 1999, pp. 685-686.
"How Not to Save the World," New Scientist, Vol. 175, No. 2362, September 28, 2002, p. 24.
"The Way to Wealth," New Scientist, Vol. 185, No. 2482, January 15, 2005, p. 21.
"Harsh Lessons from Togo," Boston Globe, February 21, 2005.
"Biotechnology in a Globalizing World: The Coevolution of Technology and Social Institutions," Bioscience, Vol. 55, No. 3, March 2005, pp. 265-272.
(With Lee Yee-Cheong) "Reinventing Global Health: The Role of Science, Technology, and Innovation," The Lancet, Vol. 365, No. 9464, March 19-25, 2005, pp. 1105-1107.
(With Vanessa Timmer) "Taking Root: Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty Reduction Come Together in the Tropics," Environment, Vol. 47, No. 4, May 2005, pp. 24-44.
(With Allison DiSenso) "Political Parties as Tools of Democracy," Daily Nation (Kenya), January 11, 2006.


"'Satan's Drink' and a Sorry History of Global Food Fights," FT.com https://registration.ft.com/regis-tration/barrier?referer=&location=http%3A//news.ft.com/cms/s/10b5a072-9911-11da-aa99-0000779e2340.html (March 23, 2006).



Bioscience, November 1990, pp. 785-786.


"Calestous Juma," BCSIA, http://bcsia.ksg.harvard.edu/person.cfm?item_id=258 (January 24, 2006).

"Calestous Juma: Curriculum Vitae," Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, http://nutrition.tufts.edu/pdf/conferences/agri_biotech/cvjuma.pdf (March 23, 2006).

"Calestous Juma," Kennedy School of Government Faculty, http://ksgfaculty.harvard.edu/Calestous_Juma (January 26, 2006).

"Calestous Juma: What Difference Does a Summit Make?" BCSIA, http://bcsia.ksg.harvard.edu/publication.cfm?program=CORE&ctype=media_feature&item_id=303&ln=qanda&gma=49 (March 23, 2006).

"Dr. Calestous Juma, Ph.D.," Pew Fellows Directory, www.pewmarine.org/pewFellowsDirectoryTemplate.php?PEWSerialInt=3572 (March 23, 2006).

"Scientific Innovations Help Developing Nations," Earth & Sky Radio Series, www.earthsky.com/humanworld/shows.php?date=20050519 (March 23, 2006).