If you have read the Plants and People column in the Leadership Magazine, then you know the name Richard Komakech; he likes to call himself Oteka. He is the firstborn in a family of three children; his mother was Ms. Cecilia Akullo (RIP). Komakech is from Dego-iwayo village, latanya sub-county, Aruu County, Pader district in northern Uganda. He went to Police Children’s school in Kibuli where he attended Primary 1-6. When his family moved to Gulu, he joined Gulu Public School where he sat for his Primary seven Leaving Exams in 1994.
Komakech later joined St Joseph’s College Layibi, Gulu for his “O” and “A” level. In 2003, he was admitted to National Teacher’s college Nagongera, in Tororo where he acquired a diploma in education. Komakech was not going to end with a diploma in Education; he would apply to Makerere University where he got a government scholarship to study Chemistry, Botany and Zoology which he completed in 2009.
At Makerere University, he was the overall best student in the course that year. This was a springboard to securing a highly contested scholarship to study at the prestigious University of Science and Technology (UST), Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (KIOM) campus for his master’s degree in 2018. At the same university, Komakech is finalizing his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Korean Medicine convergence.Komakech’s love for plants started at a tender age as he learnt a lot from his mother.
He got to know, which plants had sap that could be applied to fresh wounds, or which could be applied as an antidote for a bee or wasps sting! Which plants could be added to tea or taken with hot water to relieve cough or sore throat.
For Komakech, growing up was magical, greatly inspiring and triggered great curiosity in him on the uniqueness of plants. This laid a foundation for his love for science at primary school and later biology at secondary school. His affection for biology and in particular, plants became even stronger during his “O” level at St. Joseph’s college Layibi. Through the study of biology, he came to learn that without plants, there can never be life on earth; including Human life. These reasons propelled him to do Botany at university.
To be able to better understand the scientific aspects of plants such as their ecology, physiology and distribution; to find more ways how to maximally utilize the plants within one’s backyard and the wild, to make a difference in the world and to enable us to flourish in health and life; to enable us to assess the status of plants and set strategies for conservation and propagation of those that are endangered.
Growing up in a humble family in wabigalo, a Kampala city suburb, his mother laid a foundation for his childhood dream. She preached discipline and total focus for every child in the community. This made him live a life which was a couple of years ahead of his peers and it also enabled him to stand out in whatever he did. He said he wanted to be an agent of positive change in the community in whatever capacity. Komakech particularly valued efforts with spreading effects, whose overall positive impact on the population could be really huge.
He is glad that he was able to do creative activities to handle challenges and desire to improve communities and make the world a better place for everyone. Seeking out opportunities where a small amount of resource, time, or effort could create a huge positive contribution.
Before going to South Korea, Komakech was a teacher of Biology and Chemistry. Komakech taught diligently in a number of schools in Kampala notably, St. Kizito S. S Bugolobi and St. Joseph’s girls S. S. Nsambya. His knowledge and skill in Chemistry, Botany and Zoology earned him employment at the Ministry of Health Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute (NCRI) as a research officer in 2011, conducting research on natural products that could be used to prevent and treat human diseases and disorders; but most importantly, research in phytomedicine in which they correctly identify a given medicinal plant, test its quality, safety, and efficacy for use on targeted human disease condition.
Komakech says a single research outcome could have a profound effect on many lives and by applying a relatively small amount of resource on a given research; they had the opportunity to transform the lives of thousands of people throughout the World. He added that he is fortunate to be a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) student at the University of Science and Technology (UST), Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (KIOM)-South Korea.
At UST-KIOM, his PhD is on Korean Convergence Medicine major which has accorded him unparalleled educational experience in the latest advances in medical diagnosis and treatment development, together with the knowledge and understanding of both Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM), clinical medicine, and biotechnology-based medical industry, necessary to embrace the merits of TKM and contemporary medicine in a high-value healthcare service.
When he completes his PhD course, he hopes to resume work at Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute; he said it will give him the platform to use the knowledge and skills obtained through his study to bolster research in phytomedicine aimed at improving the health of the people.
In 2010, when teaching at St. Kizito S. S Bugolobi, the school won a grant from British council, Uganda under the theme “Mitigation of climate change”. As a patron of the climate change club and with his knowledge in botany, the school launched a GO GREEN campaign that led to the setting up of the school eco-centre with a number of valuable plants.
The Eco-Centre became his turning point. The love for nature at the eco-centre drove him to find a way of reaching out to more people. He added that he wanted people to know about the plants around them. How best they could utilize the plants. How the plants could improve their health. Fortunately, Leadership magazine gave him the platform to do that by giving him a column.
Komakech has for seven years helped people to learn and appreciate what plants can do for them. “It’s been a very heart-warming experience,” he added. This position of the Leadership magazine he says could be maximized in the coming years to reach a wider audience.“Plants are important to us and to know the importance of plants, including vegetables is the beginning of a good life. Let plants be our daily food, medicine, as well as utilize it to beautify and heal the environment. This is the top-secret to longevity! Let’s take it with both hands. Remember, health is wealth and in plants lie our health!” he concluded.
By Irene Lamunu
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