Last week on Tuesday, 5th July 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu at State House, Nairobi, flagged off 100 Kenyan students who are set to travel to Israel to advance their learning in all matters Agriculture. Among them were 25 graduates from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
In less than one month, this group of determined and industrious ladies and gentlemen from JKUAT will depart the Kenyan skies, bound for Israel for an opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to further hone their skills in their various fields of expertise to equip them with the power to transform the world. The twenty five graduates are among the 4098 who recently graduated in the JKUAT’s 27th Graduation Ceremony and comprise 8 Bachelors of Science in Horticulture graduates, 8 from Bachelors of Science in Animal Health, 8 from Bachelors of Science in Land Resource Planning and Management and one from Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Engineering.
The graduates will be in Israel for a duration of one year, during which they will be engaged in a fully sponsored training, practical internship and deeper understanding of the Agricultural technologies and advancements in Israel. During this duration, the students will also be entitled to monthly stipend to sustain themselves. Perhaps you’re wondering how all this came to be. These formidable ladies and gentlemen did not just stumble on this game-changing opportunity. This has been actualized through a long-term partnership between JKUAT, particularly Faculty of Agriculture, and Agricultural institutions in Israel. Agricultural experts from Israel visited the University last month and engaged students from various departments in several intensive interview sessions to determine their suitability to attend the sponsored internship in Israel. The result was an overwhelming 25 students selected for the opportunity.
But what exactly makes this opportunity a big deal? Agriculture in Israel is a highly developed industry. The country is currently a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of Israel is not naturally conducive for agriculture. With more than half of the land area being desert, coupled with lack of water resources, the percentage of the land area that is naturally arable is nearly negligible. And naturally, agriculture would be a pipe dream in this place. But that is not the case. So how exactly has the nation managed to transform what would have only been a mirage into a mirror through which other nations can now reflect and compare their progress? This is the very objective that drives the enthusiasm that comes with the opportunity to get to study and understand this environment.
During his joint press conference with the Israeli PM, President Uhuru Kenyatta observed that the significance of Kenya’s partnership with Israel on various fronts, including agriculture, could not be overemphasized. Prime Minister Netanyahu on his side, intimated how Israel got to be where they are agriculturally. “Israel is a small country that was founded without any natural resources. The only natural resource we had was our brain and our hearts, and we’ve learnt to do more with less. We are more than happy to partner with Kenya because we know you have the same potential.” According to the premier, Israel currently doesn’t have a water shortage, but a water surplus.
Collectively, it can be said that a combination of sophisticated, applied science, rugged determination and government support have helped Israel’s farmers to modernize and adapt to changing geopolitical, market and climatic conditions, giving them a strong base to flourish in Agriculture. It is this vast experience and expertise that the JKUAT graduates hope to tap into. According to the Chairman of the Department of Land Resource Planning & Management Dr. Clifford Obiero, the opportunity is an honor and a recognition to the University’s Agricultural programmes. “The fact that they walked into our University, engaged our students and found them fit is no mean feat. This will be the third batch we’ll be sending to Israel and so far it has been bearing very good results.”
Discover JKUAT also engaged some of the graduates set to fly out to Israel on their sentiments and expectations of the internship opportunity. These are some of their sampled input;
Enos Minama- BSc. Horticulture graduate- “Israeli advancements in agricultural technology is breathtaking. I expect to learn what they do better than us yet they’re in a complete desert. This will also be a great opportunity to advance and broaden my expertise in horticulture.”
David Kamuyu- BSc. Agricultural Engineering- “First of all I’m very grateful for this opportunity to work and learn in such a dynamic environment. I am positive that we will all benefit from inter-transfer of significant and broad knowledge and skills, applicable to bring positive change in agriculture.”
Mbaabu Dolyn- BSc. Land Resource Planning & Management- “Ever since I heard of Israeli internships back when I was in Second year, I always dreamt of the day I would be given an opportunity to ace my knowledge and skills in the field of Agriculture. This will not just benefit myself, I am sure after the training, my country will never be the same again in terms of agriculture and food security. Being a lady and a youth, this training will give me the power to bring fresh infusion of innovation and talent, because right now our country needs us to embrace agriculture as a calling and a career. I am very grateful to the JKUAT fraternity and the Israeli government for this opportunity.”
Nancy Cyprian Akinyi- BSc. Horticulture- “From the moment I got confirmed for this internship, I knew my career path was going to change from a scale of 0-100. I am positive that my profession as a horticulturist is going to be viewed differently by all stakeholders. I will forever be grateful to my University JKUAT, through the Horticulture Department and to President Uhuru Kenyatta for helping enhance such great initiatives as a way of fostering our economy.”
Erum John Ewue- BSc. Horticulture- “My expectation is to acquire more knowledge and modern technology in Agriculture which I’ll bring back home to improve the production of crops in my area which is dominated largely by pastoralists. Borrowing from the experience of Israel, I know this will diversify their way of life by integrating livestock keeping and crop production.”
Cheruyot Willis Rono- BSc. Horticulture- “They say it’s not time nor opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven minutes are more than enough for others. So my belief is that this one year internship will bring unrivalled positive change in my career.”
Nyang’au M. Dennis- BSc. Horticulture- “Farming in Israel means overcoming challenges and providing solutions in climate control, soils and water supply. Getting this experience first-hand, combined with the indepth knowledge and skills gained from JKUAT, I know I will be able to tansform the agriculture industry not only in Kenya, but the world as a whole.”
As I pen off, and even as we all commend these exceptional graduates for landing this great opportunity, perhaps it’s also imperative to reflect as a country on a number of issues. The fact that agricultural production has continued to grow in Israel despite severe water and land limitations is no accident. It was the result of a unique Israeli phenomenon: the close and ongoing cooperation between researchers, extension workers, farmers and agriculture-related services and industries. Continuous, application-oriented research and development (R&D) has been carried out in the country since the beginning of the last century. Their agricultural sector today is based almost entirely on science-linked technology, with government agencies, academic institutions, industry and cooperative bodies working together to seek solutions and meet new challenges. Is this too far a dream for Kenya? I think not.