Kenya: From school meals recipient to presidential fellow

África/Kenya/17 Julio 2016/Fuente:Wfp /Autor:Salma Bahramy

Resumen: Cada año, cerca de 50.000 personas que aplican a la Beca Mandela Washington – el programa insignia de la Iniciativa de jóvenes líderes africanos del presidente estadounidense, Barack Obama, la cuál permite a los jóvenes a través de cursos académicos, la formación de liderazgo y trabajo en red. Los solicitantes fueron un total de 1.000 destacados líderes jóvenes de África subsahariana son seleccionados para recibir capacitación para el desarrollo profesional en varias universidades en los EE.UU.

Salma Bahramy — Each year, nearly 50,000 people apply to the Mandela Washington Fellowship – the flagship program of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. Out of the applicants, 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa are selected to receive professional development training at various universities across the U.S.

One such young person is 28-year-old Peter Mumo. This month, Peter will leave Nairobi, Kenya, for Des Moines, Iowa, to take part in a six-week business and entrepreneurship training hosted by Drake University. Following the academic component of the fellowship, Peter and the rest of the fellows will visit Washington for a three-day summit featuring a town hall with President Obama. Peter will have the opportunity to learn from and engage with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

But Peter’s life didn’t start out so promising. He grew up in Makueni County, an impoverished area in eastern Kenya, where drought and subsequent hunger plagued him and his family. Erratic rainfall resulting in crop failures created a dire situation for Peter’s family. They lacked food, clothing, adequate shelter, and access to clean water, among other things.

«Going to school on an empty stomach was the norm for me. I would get sick often. Playing with other kids wasn’t enjoyable for me because I was always emaciated. My siblings and friends were not spared either,» says Peter.

Years of hunger affected Peter’s immune system and his ability to learn in class. Normal childhood illnesses would routinely land Peter in hospitals. Concentrating on school lessons proved virtually impossible on an empty stomach.

But one year, when Peter was nine, things took a turn for the better when WFP introduced its school meals program. Peter and his classmates began receiving breakfast meals and snacks to take home. Peter’s health began to improve and knowing he’d have a meal waiting for him at school allowed him to focus on his studies. Over the years, Peter shot to the top of his class and eventually earned an engineering degree from Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya.

After graduation, Peter began working in the agricultural industry in Nairobi where he learned of the challenges faced by many of the country’s farmers. While agriculture is the most important economic activity in Kenya, only about 20% of the land is suitable for farming. Improving resilience to climate change and using technology to improve farming systems would help make Kenya’s agricultural sector more viable.

Peter decided to join those fixing the gaps in Kenya’s agricultural sector. He spearheaded programs that improved water harvesting and storage systems so farmers could have water reserves when rainfall was low. He developed an information support service to help connect farmers across Kenya to optimize productivity. Peter is currently developing a web-based application that will improve access to these services.

«When I was in need someone stepped up and made a significant difference not just for me, but for my entire community. I never dreamed that I’d be in a position to help others one day,» says Peter.

The Mandela Fellows are selected for their accomplishments in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. For Peter Mumo, this is just the beginning.

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