Six alumni students who recently graduated from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CoANRe) are back from the United States after a year of internship facilitated by the department of Horticulture.
The students participated in a competitively selected programme at The Ohio Program, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, USA. The categories for internship included: Livestock (for dairy farming), Horticulture (greenhouse production, and landscape design), Crops and Machinery (large scale farms) and Turfgrass (management of golf course maintenance and greenkeeping).
The team comprising of Jane Mwendwa, Stephen Kiplimo, Gladwell Kamau, Davis Kiptoo, Kevin Kamau, and Maureen Cherotich, narrated their experiences as well as the knowledge gained during the internship. These included working at a 2500 capacity dairy farm that employs robotic technology, preparation of some of the world’s best golf courses such as the Atlantic dunes, designing thematic gardens, specialized flower farming, driving manual tractors, among others.
To receive them at JKUAT Main campus were Prof. David Mburu, Principal CoANRe, Dr. Fredah Wanzala, former Chairperson Horticulture Department and Prof. John Bosco Mukundi, School of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences.
Commendably, some of them have started projects based on the skills acquired. Maureen Cherotich who acquired skills in areas such as harvest for commercial purposes, as well as pest and disease control, has started growing tomatoes and vegetables in Kamulu, which will provide income and contribute to food security. She is also working on establishing a pollinator garden, which will focus on specific plants that attract butterflies, bees and some birds.
Kevin Kamau also hit the ground running after jetting back. He is currently engaged in sheep farming after having learnt valuable insights on value addition at the processing industries he worked at. He intends to extend this knowledge to other farmers as this would help curb wastage of products such as milk which can be used for cheese since it has a longer shelf life.
Speaking during this enlightening engagement, Prof. Mburu lauded the team for using the opportunity to build that inner passion to engage in horticultural entrepreneurship which he said would provide employment opportunities to many. He urged them to maintain the networks developed while abroad to provide a great start to a bright future. “I am glad that you grasped the reality of an agricultural field and developed a rapport with farmers from developed nations. I am sure that the exposure you have has elevated your logic a notch higher.”
In her remarks, Dr. Fredah Wanzala, who championed this pioneer group to the US, thanked the team for coming back because this has built a good reputation for other JKUAT students wishing to intern abroad in future.
The team recommended that students need early acquaintance with the industry so as to be at par with their international peers who are already doing so. They intend to form an association that will mentor other upcoming Agricultural scientists.