James Thomas, an experienced committed and innovative development consultant lost his life in the terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi on September 21st 2013.
James will be remembered for his active role in development throughout the apartheid era in South Africa, leading many non-profit initiatives at the time. James was the creative brainchild behind many successful initiatives, ranging from the development of entrepreneurial training tools now used in over 45 countries to the support of South Africa’s most successful youth choir. James touched the hearts and souls of all those he has worked with, from country leaders through to local taxi drivers. He was a dedicated husband to his wife Colleen, and an inspirational father to his two beloved daughters, Julie and Sarah, and his beloved foster son, Sipho.
James was in Kenya at the time, representing EVI in a market development program in Kenya. James was advising the programme in a number of key ways. In particular he had been mentoring the project team to design innovative approaches to improve access to agricultural inputs and extension services.
His approach was to help transform the way in which agricultural dealers engage with farmers by bundling together services such as increased access to crop services, financial products and agronomic practice. This has allowed agricultural dealers to offer a stronger and more effective service to the rural communities they serve.
The impact of James’s approach has already been felt by thousands of small holder farmers in the Nyanza and Eastern Provinces of Kenya with increasing evidence of uptake and interest in more marginal and arid areas of Northern Kenya. James’s target beneficiaries – in this, as in other projects throughout his career – were small scale farmers and micro-entrepreneurs, as well as the business people who manage to exist at the extreme margins of agricultural market systems in Kenya.
Through EVI, James was involved in helping to launch an ambitious initiative to reach hundreds of thousands of youth through multimedia “edu-tainment” channels focusing on business and entrepreneurialism in a range of agricultural sectors and in areas of significant youth unemployment. Using radio, web and SMS technology James was involved in pumping new types of information into the market to help those at the margins to compete, to succeed and to create wealth.
James was committed to the continent he lived and worked in and he inspired those that worked with him.