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By Elizabeth Muthoni Nderitu, Talloires Network Student Ambassador

I am a third year Kenyan MasterCard scholar at EARTH University in Costa Rica. My passion for agriculture and community development drew me to EARTH’s degree program in Agricultural Science and Natural Resource Management. EARTH University’s innovative educational approach prepares young people from different parts of the world  to contribute to the sustainable development of their countries and constructing a prosperous and just society. At EARTH University, my passion for community development has really grown as I have had a chance to work directly with the communities the school.

During first, second and fourth year we work with small-scale, local producers on their farms and with organized groups in sustainable community development activities. During this work experience we address problems facing the region’s inhabitants. At the same time, the community transmits to us real-world experience and provides learning opportunities for us. We also get to experience the realities of rural Costa Rica, develop new strategies, and apply what we have learned at EARTH about sustainable agriculture and rural development.

Our work experience focuses on the areas of human development, agricultural development and rural micro-businesses. In human development, we work closely with community members to address social issues such as gender inequality, unmotivated youth, poverty, teen pregnancy, and high school dropout rates. In agricultural development, we work with rural farmers to together develop new strategies to improve production and make farms more sustainable. And finally on rural micro-business, training is provided to local small business owners on ethical business development and new trends in the agribusiness or rural tourism industry.

When I attended the TNLC 2014 conference in December 2014 in Cape Town, I learned that many universities have embraced community development. That was really encouraging. The conference provided a platform whereby we shared our experiences and plans, identified ways to support each other’s work, and developed priorities for collective action.

I dream of a time when all universities around the world will embrace the communities around them and work with them to develop together. In such reality, graduates would be of value to their communities and help develop them; not rely on the limited resources of the communities, thereby spreading poverty. I aspire to go back to my country Kenya after graduation and make a positive change.