Exciting New Partnership for UPEI and Farmers Helping Farmers

An exciting new partnership between UPEI and farmers in Kenya - as Farmers Helping Farmers Celebrates 35 Years!

Farmers Helping Farmers is about to open an exciting new chapter in its ongoing relationship with the University of Prince Edward Island and farmers in Kenya.

The University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) has been awarded $500,000 from a new federal scholarship program for projects that aim to improve the nutrition, food security and livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers in central Kenya. One of 37 universities to be awarded funding under this first round, UPEI is partnering with Farmers Helping Farmers, a Canadian non-profit agency based on PEI, as well as Kenyatta University, the University of Nairobi, and Naari Dairy Cooperative Society, in Kenya.

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The four-year program was developed by Dr. John VanLeeuwen and Dr. Jeffrey Wichtel of UPEI's Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) and Teresa and Ken Mellish from Farmers Helping Farmers. Eight veterinary and six nutrition students will develop and deliver training programs in cattle health management and family nutrition in the Naari region of Kenya. Training methods will include face-to-face seminars, demonstrations, and train-the-trainer. Kitchen gardens will be developed at two schools twinned with Canadian schools through Farmers Helping Farmers and on womens' farms. Since cell phones are commonly used in Kenya, the traditional training methods will be augmented by cell-phone transmission of biweekly information summaries and advice for dairy and crop producers.

"Farmers Helping Farmers is very pleased to have these funds available to work with the dairy farming families in the Naari area," said Carolyn Francis, President of Farmers Helping Farmers.

"We have been working with the Naari dairy for over a year and the support from these funds will make a big difference in the food security of families in the area," explains Francis. "We will be working with womens' groups and two schools to improve crop production and lunch programs for the students."

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"In Kenya, productive dairy farms reduce poverty," says Dr. John VanLeeuwen. "Farm families in Naari want training on the best management practices for cattle health management and crop risk mitigation in the face of climate change."

"But access to university or college-educated animal health personnel or nutritionists is limited," explains VanLeeuwen. "Through this program, we will help small dairy farmers improve the health and welfare of their animals, increasing milk quality, productivity, and economic value at the farm gate."

The undergraduate students from UPEI will spend three months working with farm families in the Naari area. Emily Egan (Class of 2018) and Krista Simonson (Class of 2017) are the first veterinary students to participate in the program. They leave for Kenya in May.

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As well, six graduate scholars from Kenya, three of whom are veterinarians and three who work in nutrition and education, will come to UPEI where they will conduct research on various aspects of the project. One scholar will investigate the challenges and benefits of cellphone-based enhancements to traditional training methods. Two scholars in nutrition and veterinary medicine will conduct research on drought-tolerant crops for human food and cattle feed appropriate for the climate. Two will evaluate advanced methods of improving cattle reproduction and cow welfare in the Naari region. And another will conduct a formal evaluation of the impacts of the integrated scholar/intern projects. The lessons gained from the graduate scholars'  research will enhance programming in the fourth year of the project.


In all cases, emphasis will be on practical training for both Kenyan and Canadian students. Working directly with the Naari farmers will help students understand small-scale dairying and time on Canadian farms will help Kenyan students understand Canadian agriculture.

"We look forward to working with UPEI to really make a difference for the Kenyan families and for the Canadian and Kenyan scholars,"  said  Francis, of Farmers Helping Farmers. The graduate student veterinarians will be supervised by VanLeeuwen and Wichtel, and the others by Dr. Ron MacDonald, Dean of the Faculty of Education; Dr. Jennifer Taylor, chair of the Department of Applied Human Sciences, and Charlene VanLeeuwen, a lecturer in the Department of Applied Human Sciences.

Background: The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program was created in June 2014 in honour of Queen Elizabeth's 60-year reign. It's a joint initiative of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, and Community Foundations of Canada, with financial support from the federal government, provincial governments, and the private sector. Approximately 2,000 students from Canada and other Commonwealth countries, will be known as Queen Elizabeth scholars. They will participate in internships and study opportunities in various Commonwealth countries, and international students from those countries will pursue graduate studies in Canada. UPEI formalizes relationship with Farmers Helping Farmers.

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