Beatrice Tuei, 43, from Kenya, is one of the PhD students involved in the FoodAfrica Programme. She’s doing her thesis in FoodAfrica WP7 about solving the problem of seasonal availability of fodder experienced by smallholder dairy farmers.
How did you get interested in agricultural research?
–In secondary school, I was good in sciences and home-economics but opted for agriculture which I considered more challenging than the former. I was inclined to animal rather than crop production informed by my childhood experiences; keeping animals was much easier and enjoyable job than the drudgery of tilling land for growing crops under the tropical scorching sun! I therefore selected animal science and commerce as courses of choice for undergraduate study in the university but qualified and secured admission at Egerton University to study a degree in animal production. My career in agriculture began upon employment in the government where I serve to date as a livestock extension specialist. I enjoyed field extension work and felt passionate about uplifting the living standards of pro poor farmers so as to restore their dignity through improved livestock production, Beatrice Tuei explains and continues: –After working many years in extension, I realized that transferring knowledge is not enough; practical skills are needed that will empower smallholder farmers to make decisions to determine their own financial independence through growth of their livestock enterprises. This marked the beginning of my journey in self improvement; I pursued a master’s degree in rural sociology and community development at the Nairobi University, I also attended several international courses.
How did you end up doing you PhD in the FoodAfrica programme?
–The year 2009 was a turning point in my life when I won a two year fellowship in a mentorship programme known as AWARD (African Women in Agriculture Research and Development) that sought to fast track the careers of African women in agricultural sciences. Through the program, I met my mentor Ramni Jamnadass, a global research leader at the World Agro-forestry Centre. She explored the possibility for me to pursue my PhD studies. Since my research focus is on agricultural innovations in general and fodder innovations in particular, she introduced me to Steven Franzel, leader of markets and extension research at ICRAF, a field which is more related to my research area. This culminated in a PhD placement at ICRAF supported by the FoodAfrica Programme. I am forever grateful to all the people who have provided financial and moral support keeping me on track in pursuing my life purpose.
What is your research about?
–My research is about solving the problem of seasonal availability of fodder experienced by smallholder dairy farmers that lowers milk productivity, incomes and nutrition in the dry season. The research seeks to assess and validate and build on innovative farmers’ initiatives in dealing with the issue, together with other stakeholders in the system. The process seeks to develop framework that is expected to be provide sustainable solution to the fodder issue in the area. It is expected that stakeholder engagement will allow for knowledge sharing, learning and designing of a framework applicable in alleviating fodder scarcity in the area.
How do you think farmers can benefit from you work now and in the future?
–The work is an important step in empowering farmers to identify opportunities and to overcome constraints in addressing fodder scarcity. They will participate in developing a framework to address the fodder issue which will be tested and modified to suit the local situation. In the future the suitable framework can be up- scaled to other areas so as to improve the innovation capacities of smallholder farmers. Benefits will include; increased milk productivity, incomes, better nutrition, improved soil futility and environmental management among the smallholder dairying community, Beatrice Tuei says.