UPEI awarded $500,000 in funding under new federal scholarships program

Posted: 
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Geoffrey Imathu (fourth from left), chair of the Naari Dairy, and members of the dairy, meet with Winston Johnston (third from left) of Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF), Dr. John VanLeeuwen of AVC (third from right), and Teresa and Ken Mellish of FHF.
The University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) has been awarded $500,000 from the new federal Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program for a project that aims to improve the nutrition, food security, and livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers in central Kenya.
 
One of 37 universities to be awarded funding under this first round, UPEI is partnering with PEI-based Farmers helping Farmers (FHF) and Kenyatta University, the University of Nairobi and Naari Dairy Cooperative Society in Kenya.
 
The four-year program was developed primarily by Dr. John VanLeeuwen and Dr. Jeffrey Wichtel of UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), and Teresa and Ken Mellish of FHF, with input from Dr. Jennifer Taylor and Charlene VanLeeuwen, UPEI Department of Applied Human Sciences, and Dr. Ron Macdonald, dean of the Faculty of Education.
 
Eight veterinary and six nutrition students will develop and deliver training programs in cattle health management and family nutrition in the Naari region of Kenya. Training methods will include face-to-face seminars, demonstrations, and train-the-trainer. Kitchen gardens and feeding programs will be developed at two schools twinned with Canadian schools through FHF and also on women’s farms. Since cell phones are commonly used in Kenya, the traditional training methods will be augmented by cell-phone transmission of biweekly information summaries and advice for dairy and crop producers.
 
“After successful projects with other groups over many years, FHF has begun work in new areas in rural Kenya, and the Naari Dairy has demonstrated over the last year that they would be a good partner for this project.” says FHF president Carolyn Francis.
 
“In Kenya, productive dairy farms reduce poverty and improve nutrition,” says VanLeeuwen. “Farm families in Naari want training on evidence-based best management practices for cattle health management, family nutrition, and crop risk mitigation in the face of climate change. But access to information appropriate to the context in these areas is limited.”
 
The undergraduate students from UPEI will spend three months working with farm families in the Naari area. Veterinary students Emily Egan and Krista Simonson leave for Kenya in May 2015. Nutrition students from UPEI will begin working in Kenya in the summer of 2016.
 
As well, six graduate scholars from Kenya, three of whom are veterinarians and three who work in nutrition, program evaluation, and education, will take graduate courses at UPEI, conduct research in Kenya, and return to UPEI to write and defend their theses. Their research will cover the challenges and benefits of the cell-phone-based enhancements to traditional training methods; drought-tolerant crops for human food and cattle feed; evaluation of advanced methods of improving cattle reproduction and welfare; and evaluation of the impacts of the integrated student projects.
 
Emphasis will be on practical training for both the Kenyan and Canadian students. Working directly with the Naari farmers will help UPEI students understand small-scale dairying and cropping, and addressing nutritional challenges, and time with Canadian farmers and community members will help Kenyan graduate students understand Canadian agriculture and society.
 
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Background
 
The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program, created in June 2014 in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 60-year reign, is a joint initiative of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, and Community Foundations of Canada, with financial support from the federal government, provincial governments, and the private sector. Approximately 2,000 students from Canada and other Commonwealth countries, who will be known as Queen Elizabeth scholars, will participate in internships and study opportunities in various Commonwealth countries, and international students from those countries will pursue graduate studies in Canada. For more information, visit www.queenelizabethscholars.ca/
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