Colorado State University signed an International Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) with Kenya’s University of Nairobi to collaborate on research, education and outreach programs that focus on sustaining Kenya’s dryland ecosystems and societies.
The University of Nairobi is a research university with six colleges spanning from veterinary sciences and engineering to humanities. The university is a leader in the study of Kenyan drylands. It is also home to the Wangari Maathai Institute of Peace and the Environment Studies, established by the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Wangari Maathai.
Through joint funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the partnership provides the framework for the creation of a Centre for Sustainable Dryland Ecosystems and Societies at the University of Nairobi. The center’s work will focus on addressing critical issues of marginalized pastoral communities in Kenya’s drylands by linking dryland research, higher education and communities. Additionally, the center will train and support graduate students who will design their research with and for those pastoral communities in Kenya and beyond.
The faculty of this center will develop new and future-oriented curriculum to train students how to add value to drylands products, create sustainable business opportunities, and use the best of science to support sustainable development. Most importantly, the center will bring in new students from drylands so that marginalized communities develop strong, transformative leaders who will contribute to appropriate development for their own communities.
Two grants that were awarded to CSU researchers by the National Science Foundation also benefit from the new IMOU. One is led by CSU researcher Randall Boone on wildlife migrations and landscape fragmentation with part of the funding directed toward graduate student fellowships at the University of Nairobi. The second grant, led by CSU researcher Gillian Bowser to create a Global Research Network on Women and Sustainability, is supporting women pastoral students.
Highlights of the IMOU include:
- Creating a Centre for Sustainable Dryland Ecosystems and Societies at the University of Nairobi and strengthening of the existing African Ecosystems and Societies Program at CSU’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in the Warner College of Natural Resources.
- Developing linked programs of education, co-development of online courses, and co-teaching short courses including a field course in African dryland ecosystems and societies.
- Conducting joint workshops on dryland issues in Kenya, particularly soliciting help from pastoral communities.
- Devising new ways for pastoralists to access higher education in Kenya, which is a key strategy in making families more resilient and able to climb out of poverty.
- Establishing a doctoral and graduate fellowship program at the University of Nairobi to provide seed grants to students to strengthen their engagement and service learning with local communities in drylands.
- Launching an undergraduate internship program at the University of Nairobi to provide practical experience for undergraduates in careers in African drylands.
- Supporting cross-cultural research on the impacts of climate change for gender roles within the framework of Global Research Network on Women and Sustainability, and mentoring women pursuing careers in science.
“These joint programs will allow our students to become more effective leaders as they graduate and contribute to the development of our world. The IMOU will help expand the reach of both institutions and allow them both to have greater impact on policy, development and sustainability in their home countries,” said Robin Reid, director of CSU’s Center for Collaborative Conservation.
The formal IMOU builds on a long history of joint research and education between CSU and University of Nairobi and sets the stage for further partnership activities between the universities, particularly with CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, College of Business and Warner College of Natural Resources.