Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Distinguished Alumni

Anita Pauwels

Anita Burgtorf Pauwels - 1987

The Peace Corps recently announced that Anita Burgtorf Pauwels received the 1987 John F. Kennedy Volunteers of the Year award.  Mrs. Pauwels’ work has so impressed Peace Corps officials that they chose her from among 6,000 people as one of the three 1987 John F. Kennedy Volunteers of the Year, the organization’s highest award.  The awards were presented to the three volunteers by Vice President George Bush in a White House ceremony. 

Anita, of Shattuck, Oklahoma and Fort Worth, Texas, serves a Fisheries Peace Corps Volunteer in the landlocked African nation of Burundi.  Pauwels, and her husband James, were selected as two of the first six Peace Corps Volunteers to begin the Burundi Inland Fisheries Project, the breeding and cultivation of fish in man-made ponds. 

With the second highest population density in Africa and 95% of its population in rural areas, the introduction lf fish culture will improve the nutritional status of the rural population and increase the income of small farmers via sales of their fish harvest.  Pauwels provides extension support to five of the nine communes in the Ngozi province with 51 active ponds.  Her responsibilities include pond construction, stocking, management, and harvesting fish, as well as introducing modern fish culture techniques to both rural farmers and local leaders. 

Pauwels’ additional activities related to her project include the adaptation and illustration of a fish booklet, in both French and Kirundi; the creation of materials and forms for use by farmers to ensure accurate record-keeping of production and progress; and a fish farmer exchange program to encourage information and idea exchange.  In addition to her fisheries projects, Pauwels has also designed, funded, and implemented two secondary projects.  A rabbit-raising project has generated income for local farmers and encouraged integrated agriculture, and a spring capment project has brought portable water to a community of 500 people. 

Currently, Pauwels and her husband are conduction a feasibility study for the installation of a hydraulic ram which could bring water, for the first time, to 3,000 families.  A five-month training course followed their signing up.  The two learned French and Kirundi, a native dialect.  They also learned how to build and run fish farms.  Statistics on Burundi, a country the size of Maryland that is located on Lake Tanganyika, are grim.  It is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, where malnutrition and disease kill about 14 of every 100 children before their first birthday and where incomes average $275 a year. 

By teaching farmers in rural areas to raise their own fish in small ponds, the Pauwels hope to help them provide a steady source of protein.  The couple has helped stock 78 ponds, and 76 more are under construction—about 10 times the number of ponds other volunteers have been able to build in a two year period.  Mrs. Pauwels, also an artist, designed a picture book showing the need for fish ponds and simple methods for their construction. 

Anita Burgtorf Pauwels is a graduate of Shattuck High School and received her Biology and Chemistry degrees in 1973 from Southwestern.  Her husband, James, received his degree in engineering from Purdue University.  He is on sabbatical leave from General Dynamics in Fort Worth.