Early life and education
Nakalembe entered the environmental science field by chance, as she missed her first preference sports science course when she was enrolling for her undergraduate program at Makerere University early in 2002.
Being unable to afford self-sponsorship at Makerere University, Nakalembe decided to settle for a new course at the time of environmental science. The new course, combined with a number of short courses she took in Information and Communication Technologies, formed her first knowledge in remote sensing. in 2007, Nakalembe received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences from Makerere University.
After Nakalembe finished her undergraduate studies, she applied and received a partial scholarship for the master’s program in Geography and Environmental engineering at the Johns Hopkins University. In 2009, Nakalembe completed the program and received her Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Nakalembe received her Ph.D in Geographical Science at the University of Maryland under the supervision of Chris Justice. Her doctoral research aimed to highlight the consequences of drought on land use and on the lives of North Eastern Ugandans. It also, was the first step in forming the basis of the remote sensing element of the Disaster Risk Financing Project which has supported over 75,000 households in the region since initial scaleup in 2017 and saving the Uganda government resources that would otherwise go towards emergency assistance.
She is the Africa Program Director in the NASA Harvest Program and is known for her work using remote sensing and machine learning technology supporting the development of agriculture and food security across Africa. She pioneered the remote sensing by unmanned aerial vehicles in surveying refugee settlements and landslide mapping in Uganda. She has conducted research in remote sensing of drought, agriculture, and leading the integration of earth observations in agricultural monitoring of small holder agriculture in multiple countries.
Nakalembe organizes and leads training on remote sensing tools and data, works with national ministries on their agricultural decision-making processes, and heads initiatives to prevent potentially disastrous impacts of crop failure.
Honors and awards
In 2020, she shared the Africa Food Prize (AFP) with Dr. André Bationo from Burkina Faso. Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the AFP Committee, stated “We need innovative Africans like Dr. Bationo and Dr. Nakalembe to demonstrate the potential of new knowledge and technology together with practical technologies that help improve the value proposition for farmers. These two are indeed exceptional Africans.”
She was a 2020 UMD Research Excellence Honoree
She was featured in the 2020 Women and GIS, Volume 2: Stars of Spatial Science ESRI Press book.