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African Drylands Institute for Sustainability
College of Agriculture and Veterinary Science
University of Nairobi
P.O. Box 29053 00625
Nairobi , Kenya

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Dryland Communities Design Higher Education to Suit Their Development Needs

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It is rare for universities to ask poor and marginalized communities to critique and redesign their academic programs to meet their development needs. But the University of Nairobi is taking the lead. In early December, 2011, the new Centre for Sustainable Drylands Ecosystems and Societies (CSDES) based at the University of Nairobi held a workshop entitled, Dryland Community Voices: setting a joint agenda in higher education and development from the ground up. The workshop highlighted the importance of the current devolution of governance to the Kenyan counties and the opportunities to improve education in drylands through this devolution.

Community participants highlighted the importance of training students to break the dominant myths about pastoralism. Instead, students should understand the importance of larger herds as a wise drought coping strategy. Community also highlighted on the need to be mobile to maximize pastoral production, and the high value of pastoral products to Kenya’s national economy. Participants also stressed the need to have students succeed from primary to secondary to tertiary education. This would enable students succeed in local universities. All participants agreed that higher education was a key strategy to make families more resilient and able to climb out of poverty.

More than 45 representatives of dryland communities from across Kenya attended the workshop, including those from Isiolo, Loitoktok, Laikipia, Samburu, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Magadi, Narok, Kajiado, Illbisil, West pokot, Turkana, Loita, Tharaka, Kibwezi, Makueni, Tana River and Mwingi among other areas. Other stakeholders who participated in the workshop were representatives from Colorado State University, USAID, RUFORUM, Mercy Corps and Church World Service. Also present were members of the press and students from University of Nairobi.

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