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Nathan Winter Visits Kenya

By Nathan Winter 
January 11, 2018


A Catholic priest from Kisii, Kenya visited Minnesota in the summer of 2017. His visit was a part of a mission to encourage efforts to support a village near the city of Kisii, Kenya. Damaris, who moved from Kenya to Minnesota, invited him. Damaris, along with her siblings and mother, had been working closely with the Berquist Foundation to help the village out financially. Through this work, the connection was made with the priest.

The priest found out I worked in agriculture for the University of Minnesota Extension and suggested I visit Kenya. At the time, I laughed off the idea of traveling to Kenya since it would be well out of my comfort zone.

Butch and Karen, a retired farm couple from Hutchinson, were planning to travel to Kenya with Damaris in November of 2017. Butch and Karen convinced their daughter, Anissa, to go along. They asked if I wanted to go as well. I thought about this idea for a while and told them I would see if there was any Extension related work in Kenya. I visited with John Vreyens, Extension Director of Global Initiatives. He said the University of Minnesota Extension had a partnership with Kisii University. Extension faculty have traveled to Kenya to educate women farmers. Because of these connections, there was support for me to visit Kisii University.

Knowledge Exchange

I visited Kisii University a number of times and the reception was welcoming. I toured the campus and a government research farm. I was the featured speaker at a forum one afternoon. My talk highlighted Minnesota Agriculture and Extension’s role in agriculture research and education. The room had around 20 people in the seats at the beginning and by the end, the room was overflowing with 60 people. I might have been trending on social media because all of the students wanted to take a picture with me after the presentation.

I also had the opportunity to see the how Books for Africa (St. Paul, Minnesota) benefit students in Kenya.

Sharing and Learning in the Village

Our Minnesota delegation shared our talents and learned the culture of the villagers in Kisii. One day, we fetched water with the women of the village. We experienced how far they had to walk to get their daily water supply.
Anissa is a physician’s assistant and spent much of her time visiting with people about their health and taking vitals. Karen helped get the sewing center set up. She was the main person communicating with the Kenya delegation regarding planning.

Butch and I helped build shelves for the village library. I called our shelf making an art project. There was not a straight or consistently sized piece of lumber to work with and the lumber was extremely wet.

My other time in the village was spent educating about business plans for the village owned posho mill (corn milling machine), the sewing center, phone charging stations, and a potential well construction.

Take-Aways

This trip to Kenya was an enlightening experience both personal and professionally. I learned a lot about the culture of the villagers. I saw where the country is currently at in development. Technologies exist but the infrastructure to make them efficient doesn’t’. As I taught students at the Kisii University, built shelves for the library and educating on business plans, I used my Extension skills to deliver practical solutions by engaging Kenyans to build a better future. 



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