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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 Eager for Open and Distance Learning Program

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The Umoja Women's Group, in Archer's Post, Samburu district, was founded with the mission to improve the livelihood of its members and the Samburu community through education and women empowerment. In this way, the group helps fight the many inequalities faced by Samburu women. Samburu being a pastoral community, the level of education is very low.

With the group’s mission being education, it had never crossed their minds that drylands courses are essential to better understand their environment. Never had it crossed their minds that short courses can be brought to their door steps through the use of Open distance Learning (ODL). The lack of understanding on the vitality of dryland courses and the opportunities provided by ODL is a problem not only facing the Umoja women group but majority of the pastoral communities.

With one of the objectives of CSDES being the creation of a dryland community outreach program resulting to greater participation in higher education by pastoralists, the Centre management team while accompanied by Colorado States University counterparts visited a number of dryland areas in the country to understand some of their educational needs. Among the areas that were visited include; Kibwezi, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Kiboko Field Station, Kalama conservancy, Samburu National Reserve, Isiolo field station and Tsavo national Park.

During the stakeholders’ engagement, what came out clear is that the communities were very interested in courses tailor made to suit their needs and enable them better manage their environment. There was particular need for computer courses to improve their literacy in Information Technology so that they can take advantage of the many opportunities for development.

Eunice Mbethi a resident at Kibwezi acknowledged that the adverse weather conditions are a hindrance to their economic development. She adds that with the weather conditions the locals require best practices that can enable them survive. She identified one of the key drivers as quality education on how to realize the importance of the drylands.

“As locals we need short courses on fish farming, bee-keeping, soil and water management for instance terracing, seed management and propagation,” she said.

Eunice adds that the locals also require a short course in water shed and water management. “This should include the management of surface and underground water sources to help improve water situation in drylands,” she said.

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