TRIBUTES Keen boy scout went on to be an overseas pioneer in Kenya
JOHN Wilkins was an overseas pioneer who paved the way for international development in Africa and South America.
His achievements, which earned him an OBE, have been commemorated following his death at the age of 83.
Born in Barry, John was a keen boy scout with a particular enthusiasm for canoeing and dinghy sailing.
Together with friends, one of his many adventures saw him paddle from Barry to Weston-super-Mare and back in an open boat.
In 1957, he and two other scouts made the local papers by rowing from Barry to Windsor to join the St George’s Day Scouts Parade.
One of John’s first jobs saw him working at the Goldslands Farm in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Inspired by a strong interest in farming, he went on to study at the SealeHayne Agricultural College in Devon.
In 1959, John married Janey (nee Lewis) of Ystrad Mynach, and joined the veterinary department of Kenya.
From there he became involved in a large-scale vaccination programmes against rinderpest, a serious disease of cattle.
Only 21 days after arriving in Kenya, the Welshman began running a camp preserving a cattle-free zone to contain foot-and-mouth disease.
He and his small team checked 23,000 cattle one by one before the emergency was declared over.
Together with Janey, John later went on to assist in Kenya during the 1961 pre-independence elections.
Remaining in the country after its independence, John’s main task was to breed cattle that could cope with the heat and diseases of the tropics and allow the poorest farmers to increase their incomes. The pair worked in Naivasha until 1974, alongside bringing up their three sons.
During his career John also went on to study for an MSc at Reading University before working for the British Overseas Development Administration in Bolivia for 19 years.
He was awarded an OBE in 1991 for his services to international development.
An article published in a Bolivian newspaper said about the team: “The ship was commanded by Mr Wilkins, who is undoubtedly a British gentleman, courteous and optimistic in whatever circumstances and, at the same time, profound, sharp and keen to identify the cause of any problem.”
After his retirement John returned to Reading where he became a keen gardener and member of the Bamboo Society.
A lifelong history enthusiast, he took a wealth of adult education classes and helped support Bolivian students at Reading University.