Kenya Believe I’m in Africa? Summer’s PIPS at Pwani University
My flight landed in the second largest town, Mombasa, and I took to the busy roads for the final leg of my journey along the coast to Kilifi. This journey was lined with palm trees and these bizarre looking upside down trees called baobabs.
As I arrived in Kilifi a sense of tranquility transcended upon me as I viewed icey blue waters ruffling on the surface accompanied by the sounds of Piki Pikis (motorbike taxis) and Tuk Tuks weaving along the roads. Already, I felt at home.
Kilifi Farmers Unravelling the Blockades to Agricultural Development
Kenya’s economy is dominated by agriculture and employs 70% of growing population. Yet productivity stagnates due to poor yields, highlighting opportunities for growth in this sector. The government have also recognised the importance and capability of improved productivity in agriculture and, thus, have made it central to the Kenya Vision 2030 (Kenya’s development programme).
My project aimed to empower Kilifi youth farmers, through an exchange of knowledge, to overcome productivity barriers. To achieve this, I carried out primary research and employed multiple participatory methods. I designed a survey that was distributed throughout Kilifi County, collected responses and analysed the data to produce some preliminary results.
To follow up this data in more depth, I organised and ran a focus group utilising participatory methods such as resource mapping, and cause and effect diagrams. This enabled farmers to identify challenges, link cause and effect, and provided a discussion platform for possible adaptation of practices and practical innovations. Thus, this provided more clarity on challenges and how the farmers wanted to approach them.
Furthermore, this event created a platform for Kilifi youth farmers and researchers at Pwani University to interact with each other, form and discuss ideas, as well as easily share information. This created essential opportunities for Kilifi farmers and provided Pwani University researchers an opportunity to interact with the farmers to validate their research.
On a final note, my data has since been presented at national conferences and is being used for grant applications.
I also carried out farm visits within a project ran by Pwani University researchers where communities of farmers identified problems they had control over and then picked one to tackle. We facilitated them using a scientific approach to compare different farming methods and how to accurately record the data to analyse which method gave the best yields.
AfriPlantSci Summer School
I was involved in running AfriPlantSci, a two-week intensive course building African capacity to tackle African plant health challenges. The cohort was made up of 23 excellent participants selected from over 600 applications across Africa.
I was involved in preparing and assisting in practical sessions as well as facilitating workshops, chairing guest lectures, and leading social events.
The flexibility of my PIPS also gave me the opportunity to give a guest lecture on carrying out primary research for Pwani students, be part of mock interview panels for Job Skills workshops, be on a panel at the Student Symposium on Career Advice, write grant applications, and I got to visit different institutes in Kenya to gain a greater understanding of the current research and the equipment available.
Doing my PIPS in Kilifi gave me the opportunity not only to build on my soft skills but to experience the rich culture Kenya has to offer. I would thoroughly encourage more students to explore Kenya, whilst expanding their skills and assisting capacity building programs.
I would like to thank all those involved in organising my trip and my supervisors Zoë and Chris for their encouragement to go.
I am very thankful for the involvement of the youth farmers in Kilifi county without whom my project wouldn’t have been possible. Also I am very appreciative of all the support and guidance with my project from Nicholas, Geoffrey, Mounde, and various other Pwani staff for I really wouldn’t have seen the successes I did without you all.
A special thanks to Santie and Rose not only for their continuous support with my project but also for inviting me into their lives and making my experience in Kilifi so special.
Finally I would like to thank Davies and the other PIPS students: Connor, Isabel, Danny, James, and Hans for sharing in this adventure with me.
My PIPS experience was really made by the beauty of Kenya and all the amazing people around me, especially the residents who welcomed me into their homes and lives.