JKUAT Benefits from Sakura Science Exchange Program

JKUAT Benefits from Sakura Science Exchange Program

In a bid to merge African potential with Japanese scientific technology towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Utsunomiya University, Japan, embarked on a collaborative initiative known as the Sakura Science Program.

According to the Project Coordinator, Ms. Naomi Chelimo from the Department of Horticulture and Food Security, the partnership that commenced in March 2021 has been marked by active engagement between the two institutions including 6 other universities from Africa.

Under the theme, Programme for Developing Human Resource to Contribute to SDGs by Merging African Potential and Japanese Scientific Technology, the program aims to nurture individuals capable of fostering joint activities between Africa and Japan.

Underpinning this collaborative effort are four pillars. The first was compulsory intensive lectures which provided students with essential credits, paving the way for international exchange programs, specialized subjects, field surveys, and internships.

Francis Kanga (right) an Extension Officer from Gatundu, Kiambu County demonstrates tea plucking to students from Utsonomiya University

The second was a series of web symposiums addressing pertinent social topics have also been held annually since 2021. These symposiums served as platforms for discussing vital social topics, open to faculty members and students from all participating universities, with a focus on modern African societies and SDGs to complement the compulsory courses.

 JKUAT faculty members Prof. Nelson Ojijo (Food Science), Prof. John Wesonga, (Horticulture and Food Security) Dr. Robert Mbeche (Agriculture Resource Economics) and Dr. Isaac Osuga and Dr Mathew Gicheha (both from Animal Science) actively contributed to these lectures, hence knowledge exchange.

The program also includes joint student summits organized by a student committee comprising representatives from each university. These summits have provided a forum for collaborative exchange and knowledge sharing. The best presenters have been duly recognized, and the summit proceedings published, further enriching academic discourse.

Beyond these events, the partnership has also witnessed significant gestures of goodwill, such as book donations to JKUAT’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (COANRE) in 2023 symbolizing the commitment to shared learning.

In addition to these virtual engagements, the Sakura Science Program has facilitated physical exchanges of students and staff between JKUAT and Utsunomiya University. These exchanges, which began in 2023, have seen academics and students from both institutions immersing themselves in diverse cultural and academic experiences, fostering deeper collaboration and understanding.

Utsonomiya team at Solfruit Kenya to learn about Avocado processing and export

In March 2024, 9 students from JKUAT together with Ms. Chelimo visited Utsonomiya University where they had an opportunity to interact with research facilities such as the genetic analysis equipment at the Center for Bioscience Research and Education, and the Experimental Forest attached to the School of Agriculture, among others which enriched their experiential learning.

During the visit Ms. Fatma Omar, an MSc Biotechnology student was awarded the prize for the best presentation at the “Student Summit 2024” based on her MSc project.

Victor Rotich, an MSc Animal Nutrition student says, “The experience in Utsunomiya was wonderful.  I obtained a blend of cultural and educational exposure. The Japanese culture was amazing and attractive. We visited some of the shrines together with cooking and enjoying some of the best dishes.

He adds, “On the educational side, it was of great impact to me as I gain more experience on my research interests which include RNA and DNA extraction, PCR and Gel electrophoresis for quantifying gene expression. Special thanks to Sakura science program, JKUAT – COANRE, and UUA.”

The visit to Japan was preceded by one by students and faculty from Utsonomiya to JKUAT where they learnt about tea and fruit processing and exports especially avocado, and interacted with lab facilities and experts at College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (COANRE) as well as livestock farms.

As the project culminates in 2024, the Sakura Science Program continues to blossom as a testament to the power of international collaboration in nurturing future leaders in sustainable development and cooperation.

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