Who we are

Observatory Advisory Group

Brenda Lazarus: Brenda is an Economist with FAO’s Subregional Office for Eastern Office in Nairobi, Kenya. Brenda advises on emergency needs assessments, early warning systems, and food security analysis to advance FAO’s Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) programmes in the East Africa region. She also co-leads with IGAD the regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG). In addition to her current position with FAO, Brenda has also previously worked for both WFP and FEWS NET and has extensive experience with all three agencies in setting up food security early warning systems in a variety of contexts including East and West Africa, as well as Yemen.

Elfatih Eltahir: Elfatih is H. M. King Bhumibol Professor of Hydrology and Climate, and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.His research focuses on understanding how global climate change as well as regional land use change/land cover change impact society through changes in the patterns of water availability, extreme weather, and the spread of vector-borne diseases. Together with his students, he develops sophisticated numerical models that are used for predicting such impacts at regional scales. The models are tested against satellite observations and archived data sets of hydrologic and atmospheric variables, as well as data collected in field campaigns.

Hassan Bashir: Hassan has held executive positions over the last 25 years in the insurance and technology sectors in East Africa. He is an entrepreneur with a deep interest in the linkages between research, enterprise value creation, social-economic development, and good governance. He has founded a number of startups and scaled several successful enterprises in insurance, takaful, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and tech and innovation sectors.  He is currently the Founder and Executive Director of Agent for Inclusive Insurance Development (AIID) focusing on mitigating climate risk and preparing society to deal better and sustainably with the adverse effects of climate risk.

Joy Kiiru: Joy is Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi School of Economics. She is also technical advisor for Research Institutions Strengthening (SRIA) under the Research and Innovation Systems in Africa (RISA) programme funded by the FCDO. Her research interests are in Social Protection, Trade Policy, Microfinance, Gender and Development and Food security. Joy is an expert in evaluative research, using RCTs among other evaluation methodologies. She is passionate about linking research to policy with a view to inform evidence-based policy making.   She is a nominated working group member of the African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC), which is the research and innovation body of the African Union. She was formerly part time Policy and Research Advisor for J-PAL Gender and Economic Agency Initiative.

Michael Okoti: Michael is Assistant Director at the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation. Trained in environment science, he coordines collaborative agricultural research projects within the organization and nationally. He also coordinates the KALRO Climate Change Unit. His research focuses on understanding environmentally sound practices in agriculture; analysis of natural resources conditions and trends; vulnerability and dynamism of farmers’ adaptive capacities; climate change modelling and generation of agro-advisories; strategies and measures to minimizes the negative impacts of climate change; tradeoffs between agriculture and environment; environmental impact analysis and audits. He is passionate in the climate change policy space nationally, regionally and globally, being a member of  the African Group of Negotiators in the IPCCC processes.

Nigist Biru: Nigist is Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Regional Representative for East Africa based in Nairobi. She serves as the technical and administrative head of the regional office and oversees the work of the countries in the region which are Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and Rwanda (remotely).  She provides strategic leadership in the planning and execution of technical activities in the region, including early warning analysis, livelihoods and vulnerability assessments, monitoring tools and methods development, capacity strengthening, markets and trade analysis, and network development/strengthening.  Before joining the regional office, Nigist served as the Country Representative of FEWS NET in Ethiopia and also worked for the World Food Programme as the National Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Officer in Ethiopia.