It is with great sadness that the United Nations University announces the death of Dr (Prof.) Augustine Uzo Mokwunye, who passed away on Friday, 11 December 2020, at the age of 78. Dr Mokwunye served as Director of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) for eight years, from 1996‒2004.
Augustine Uze Mokwunye was born in Onicha-Ugbo, Nigeria, on December 24, 1941, the second-oldest of four children of father Mokwunye Biosah (Baba) and mother Kafuekwu Mokwunye. Growing up, he helped out on his family’s farm and worked odd jobs while attending school. Based on his work ethic and overall excellence in academic and extracurricular activities, he was selected as one of six students, nationally, to receive a full government scholarship to attend Edo College (High School).
In 1963, he was awarded a USAID full scholarship to continue his education in the USA, where he earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science with honors degrees in inorganic chemistry from Ohio State University. He then went on to complete his PhD at the University of Illinois. It was during this period that he met and married his wife, Elaine (née Graham), started a family.
In 1972, Dr Mokwunye returned to Nigeria where he became the Head of the Soil Science Department at the Institute of Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University. In 1979 he and his family moved to Florence, Alabama, where he joined the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). Soon thereafter, he helped establish IFDC Africa (Togo) where, as a division head and eventually Director, he blazed a trail for commercializing industry-grade fertilizers and capacity building among small-hold farmers.
In 1996, he was appointed Director of UNU-INRA. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors at ICRISAT (India), a research centre of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and as Chairman of the Committee of Board of Chairs at CGIAR.
Dr Mokwunye is survived by his wife, four children, and six grandchildren. A memorial service was held on 19 December 2020 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Florence, Alabama.