Sharing skills, building livelihoods: Kenyan trainers teach Ugandan youths about hay baling

John Thumbi never thought he would be an international trainer.  Raised in Mweiga, Central Kenya by his grandparents, John grew up with little money and distinctly inauspicious prospects.  He did not complete secondary school, and—as a young adult—had no marketable skill.  In 2009, however, John discovered the Children and Youth Empowerment Center (CYEC), a non-profit community organization in Nyeri, Kenya connected to Penn State University (PSU), where he took carpentry classes.  When he completed, he says “The director told me not to go home—I could start a youth group at CYEC.” Zawadi Youth Enterprise was born out of the entrepreneurial aspirations and abilities of young CYEC alumni, existing to provide training and entrepreneurial opportunities to young people. Zawadi ventures include tailoring, chickens, bee keeping, gardening, and zero-grazing dairy goats. One of Zawadi Youth’s most successful ventures, though, is hay baling.  Dr. Sjoerd Duiker, an associate professor of soil management and extension specialist at PSU, introduced innovative and yet affordable technologies to mow grass and bale hay to the Zawadi Youth in December of 2011. John and two other young people from Zawadi marketed their newly learned skills to local farmers. Cattle are often undernourished in East Africa, and nutritious hay can greatly improve their health and milk production.  Despite numerous challenges, by 2012 the hay baling initiative had become a viable, rapidly growing business, allowing John and his friends to make their own income. Sjoerd Duiker met Michael Kansiime, head of the Secretariat at AFRISA (African Institute for Strategic Animal Resource Services and Development), a center at Makerere University in Uganda, at the 2012 Africa Collaboration Colloquium held at PSU in August 2012. The Colloquium—hosted by PSU and the Global Knowledge Initiative—offered a prize of $20,000 for an innovation that would be implemented by teams made up of African and US-based collaborators.  After meeting at the Colloquium, PSU Soil Research Laboratory manager Dr. Ephraim Govere kept in touch with Kansiime, and soon approached Duiker about the possibility of collaborating with […]

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