Daniel Kibet ’19 of Eldoret, Kenya, has been awarded $15,000 from Earlham College to support a yearlong study of organic farming operations in east Africa.
He is the recipient of the $15,000 Andy Cecere ’45 Purpose and Passion Award, which supports a project in the tradition of the Watson Fellowship, one of the nation’s most sought after post-graduate fellowships. Cecere, who died in 2018, was an attorney and civic activist in Richmond. He was credited with fighting against racial inequity in housing and employment practices for the citizens of the city.
“I am trying to transform farming into something that is more reliable, and I think organic farming is the way to go,” says Kibet, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Global Management on May 11. “Food insecurity is a major problem in Kenya and across the region. I want to utilize this opportunity to gain a more in depth and better understanding of organic farming. I want to investigate how viable organic farming is compared to other conventional farming methods and investigate whether farmers could easily adopt to these new techniques.”
Farming is a fading vocation in his native rural Kenya. The average farmer is 62, Kibet says, and many rely on subsistence farming methods that do not yield enough food to feed their families — let alone yield surpluses that could be sold at marketplaces.
“As a result, many young people in Kenya are moving to larger urban places to look for work,” he said.
So Kibet is determined to promote an alternative reality. During the 2019-20 academic year, he will visit several organic farms in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi. In each region, he will investigate whether organic farming has led to an increase in household income for farmers and identify and evaluate the demand for organically produced products.
He will seek training from the One Acre Fund, which works with smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to generate larger gains in crop yields, to increase the likelihood of success with his project.
“Daniel’s thirst for learning and drive to find practical solutions to the problems of food insecurity represent precisely the kind of passion and leadership that this award was intended for,” says Jennifer Seely, associate professor of politics and Earlham’s Watson liaison.
“Daniel’s thirst for learning and drive to find practical solutions to the problems of food insecurity represent precisely the kind of passion and leadership that this award was intended for. — Jennifer Seely, associate professor of politics and Earlham’s Watson liaison
Kibet, who is the son of a successful farmer, has long been fascinated by leveraging agriculture as a source of promoting prosperity for rural Africans. As a high school student at the United World College in Vancouver, British Columbia, he was a member of the farming club and learned about composting and beekeeping.
At Earlham, he founded the Mashinani Farmers Initiative, a social enterprise that aims to diversify farming practices in sub-Saharan Africa and increase market access for rural farmers. His passion with this endeavor even earned him a second-place finish at a regional competition of the Hult Prize in Mexico City in the months before graduation.
“This is the next step of my journey,” Kibet said. “As a business founder for an agricultural startup intended to introduce organic farming initiatives to rural small holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, I want to utilize this opportunity to gain a more in depth and better understanding of organic farming and achieve my goals.”
Projects such as these are encouraged by Earlham’s Epic initiative. This four-year journey integrates the academic major with transformative learning experiences, including research, study abroad, internships, and leadership development, to prepare students exceptionally well for life beyond Earlham.
The Epic Advantage — the offer of up to $5,000 funding in support of an internship, research experience, or project — provides a level of support that few institutions in the country can offer.