Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences initiative launches partnerships in Kenya
As Robin White and her Virginia Tech colleagues drove from the Nairobi airport to meet their new collaborators in Kenya for the first time, her training as an animal and poultry science researcher kicked in. Out the window of her taxi she saw a countryside thick with lush grass, meandering cattle, and even a cow being transported in the back of an old pickup truck.
“The recent rainy season made grass in Kenya plentiful, leading to healthy sheep, goats, beef and dairy cattle who could graze the vegetative barriers and pasturelands bordering the highway,” she told her colleagues. “Although farmer’s management and transportation strategies vary all over the world, one value is shared everywhere: farmers always care about their livestock.”
White and her colleagues were the first cohort of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Global Opportunity Initiative. The Kenya trip was the pinnacle of a year-long program in which five early-career faculty fellows participated in training on how to form global networks, map research challenges, understand the global agricultural innovation system, and successfully compete for funding.
CALS Global launched a new partnership in 2017 with the Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management (CESAAM) at Egerton University. CESAAM is a World Bank-funded African Center of Excellence with the mission to improve food security along the agricultural value chain.
During their two weeks in Kenya, the fellows networked with CESAAM faculty, developed concepts for proposals, gave presentations to departments at Egerton University, toured farms, and explored the Kenyan countryside.
“The Global Opportunity Initiative is our signature program and this first cohort of fellows really set the bar high for future fellows,” said Tom Thompson, associate dean and director of CALS Global Programs. “Before we left Blacksburg, these faculty were very well-prepared for the experience. In Kenya, they engaged fully with their new Kenyan colleagues. Our CESAAM colleagues did a great job with logistics on the ground, and we felt very supported. Productive collaborations will result from this experience”
The Kenyan scientists got as much out of the program as their Hokie counterparts.
“What excites me most about this collaboration is the genuine commitment by all. This partnership is important because it provides a strong link between developing and developed nation scientific research and capacity development,” said George Owuor, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Management in Egerton University and center leader of CESAAM. “Together, we are working on issues such as curriculum development and improvement, student and faculty exchanges, collaborative research, and joint fundraising for common interests in food security, particularly in eastern Africa. The aim of this collaboration is to forge avenues for providing sustainable solutions to food security challenges through capacity building, innovative research, and outreach.”