As young people, we normally pursue our careers with high and diverse expectations which usually arise right after we complete our studies. Unfortunately, in many cases what we perceive as a career is rarely what we get as there is a rush to get gratifying jobs as fast as possible instead of appreciating the journey of planning and building our careers to reach our goals and expectations.
That was my story until I enrolled in the YPARD’s Face to face mentorship Program. A few mistakes and some not-so-great choices led to my challenge of unemployment and so I chose to further my education. I took a Master of Science (MSc) program at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands. This particular period was arguably my greatest time to comprehending what failure and resilience mean to me. There were a lot of setbacks and idle time which easily led to lack of motivation. Fortunately, I had previously applied for the YPARD Kenya Pilot mentorship program and as fate would have it, I was selected to participate.
The YPARD orientation meeting took place in Nairobi for a couple of days. We had interesting sessions with appointed coaches from the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). It was during this training that we met for the first time as participants of the program. I was privileged to meet my mentor, Patricia Muiko. It was a very motivating session where we -the mentees were guided to draft purpose road maps for ourselves; creating a sensible systematic plans for our careers, entrepreneurial desires and education. This was coupled with a purpose statement by each mentee outlining what we were determined to achieve within twelve months. Through her mentoring, Patricia guided me and made me realize the major error I made in not having a solid plan for my career and not setting attainable time-bound goals.
I am glad I achieved most of what I set out to do because out of this, KijaniKibichi was formed. KijaniKibichi is a knowledge platform whose main aim is to fill the gap in Extension Education and Rural Advisory Services. I have a great passion for this kind of work. The networking opportunities, during and after the YPARD mentoring program have been great and endless. I even got the opportunity to make my voice heard as a young advocate for youth in agriculture in Kigali, Rwanda. This was at an agricultural experts’ meeting on agricultural transformation organized by the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) for Africa. I also attended the first African Agriculture Incubation Network (AAIN) Conference in Nairobi. It was there where I got to interact with other YPARD members in Africa and learnt about the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) from Nestor Ngouambé, the Country Representative for YPARD Cameroon. This interaction opened doors for me and in Limbe, Cameroon I made a presentation on the role youth play in agricultural transformation.
An interesting twist to the mentoring relationship with Patricia is that there was an opening at Zeitz Foundation which I applied for, was shortlisted, was interviewed and got hired. This changed the dynamics of the mentoring relationship I had with Patricia who then became my immediate supervisor. I am glad to mention that my performance at this position went well and in effect I have recently been promoted to the post of Project Manager of the Nordic Climate Facility (NCF) Project. The NCF Project basically is a project that works to mitigate climate change in Laikipia County, Kenya. This is achieved through conservation agriculture, forestry, human wildlife conflict management and rain water harvesting.
Working under my mentor has been a great experience as I have put my agronomic and organizational skills to the test. The Zeitz Foundation has a bursary program for needy bright children within the area and mentorship is part of it.
It has been a worthwhile experience mentoring the high school students. I also got a chance to represent the organization during the first national conservation agriculture conference and I was glad I got to share my views as a young agricultural professional working in the extension aspect. Working under a knowledgeable, competent and experienced individual as Patricia has been great.
Lessons I amassed from mentorship
- Accountability: Mentoring has kept me in check as I am not only accountable to myself but to my mentor and the program.
- Recommendations: I will be attending the Bicton Overseas Agricultural Trust (BOAT) course on institutional management in the UK thanks to Patricia’s recommendation (she had previously attended the course).
- Networking: I have met great individuals from different career paths. All the 30 mentors/mentees are achievers in their individual rights and it has been great interacting with them.
- Goal setting: I learned the importance of planning and setting definite, time-bound goals especially from the lessons that we got from the AWARD trainers.
Constant self-improvement: Learning and unlearning from myself and others; realizing that failure is part of the process of and success. In my opinion, this is determined by how fast you learn and move on from failure.
Picture credit: Emily Ongus