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Teaching and Learning in Africa

While Norfolk County resident Amanda Dooney went to Africa to teach agriculture, the experience ended up being a learning experience as well

Amanda runs Suncrest Orchards outside of Simcoe with her husband Hayden and also teaches part-time in the agriculture-business management program at Fanshawe College. When she received an e-mail last summer from Fanshawe saying Fanshawe Global was looking for people to assist with curriculum development in Kenya, Dooney jumped at the chance. “I saw that and thought I love meeting new people, I love education and I love travelling,” she said.

After applying and an online interview, Dooney was off to Kenya. She ended up in the Kaimosi region and worked with Friends College Kaimosi from Nov. 12 to 28.

The Kaimosi area is hilly and diverse in the crops grown.

“It reminded me a lot of Norfolk because they have a diversity of livestock and crops there,” she said.

Dooney said the area was green and lush with a good amount of agriculture. Crops grown include tea, maize, beans, tomatoes, onions, bananas, passion fruit, mangoes, goats, chicken and cattle. The goals and cattle are used both for milk and dairy.

“It’s a rural area so each person has their own little garden and have a goat, cattle or chickens to sustain themselves,” she said, adding it was similar to rural Ontario 100 years ago.

The big difference though is the farms are fragmented and anywhere from a quarter acre to five acres.

“Over the years, as the population grows and families grow, they divided them up,” she said.

“You wouldn’t see large farms like here unless it’s a large tea farm owned by a corporation.”

As a result, a lot of the farmers have off-farm jobs.

Those who raise livestock have only a small number of animals and take them to the local butcher shop for processing.

There is no mechanism in dealing with crops.

“Pretty much everything is done by hand – hand hoed, hand harvested,” Dooney explained. “Tractors are really expensive and there aren’t a lot available.”

Friends College has been around a long time and recently received accreditation. There was also a recent addition of agriculture courses, for which Dooney was assisting with curriculum development.

“Their big push is to have what they teach accredited by their government,” she said.

The curriculum offered at the college varied, as it does in Ontario. IT varied from teaching artisan business operators how to better raise their livestock or crops up to management level courses for people who could work for the corporate farms.

This course is part of how the Kenyan government is addressing what they found was a shortfall. About 20 years ago, there was a push for students to go to university and get a degree. Then, a huge gap began to appear in that people were needed to work in the trades, and in agriculture.

“The government is investing in youth,” Dooney said. “They are encouraging people to work in these trades, in agriculture, in hopes there is more secure employment.”

In particular to agriculture, people enrolled in the agriculture course are learning to provide for their families.

“We need more young people involved in agriculture, in Canada or Kenya,” Dooney said.

She learned a lot from the people she worked with in Kenya, being impressed with how resourceful they are and how they can make do without having a lot.

“It’s really admirable what they can accomplish there.”

Dooney said the trip gave her an opportunity to work with people, share knowledge and skills to lift each other up.

“It’s definitely a life-changing experience,” she said. “I really fell in love with Kenya. I loved the landscape and I loved the people – they have such big hearts.”

She is already planning a return trip.


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