Training on good livestock feeding practices in Baringo County - Kenya (Credit: Margaret Syomiti)
Margaret Syomiti thinks of herself as an animal welfare activist who inherited her love for livestock from her grandmother. “My grandmother was my first mentor as she lovingly tended to and protected her livestock from predators, hunger and thirst,” she beams. “Through support from USAID and AWARD, I developed practical solutions for thousands of farmers in Kenya by generating practical research products such as livestock feeding blocks packed with nutrients,” Syomiti passionately continues.
Syomiti won an AWARD Fellowship after hearing much about it from colleagues. “I was very curious about what ‘AWARD’ was; a colleague of mine kept mentioning that it would solve nearly all my problems!” recalls Syomiti with a laugh. At the time she was struggling to find finance support for her research projects on alternative feeds for calves that were being weaned from their mothers. She relied on inclusion in the research proposals of colleagues but oftentimes the funds did not reach her when the grants were awarded. Passionate about finding pragmatic solutions for African farmers, Syomiti often used her own pay to fund basic research at her institute. Once she won the AWARD Fellowship, Syomiti never looked back.
“Today, I am a transformed researcher. Being an AWARD Fellow awakened the research fire within me and exposed me to immense opportunities for networking and fundraising through the grant-winning proposal writing course. I have won a number of grants especially from USAID that are helping me develop solutions for livestock farmers who are impacted upon by climate change which reduces water and grassland availability,” confirms Syomiti.
Through AWARD and USAID, Syomiti has won a number of awards that include the “Innovator of the Month” award in December 2014, from the Colorado State University.
Syomiti greatly appreciates the opportunities offered through the AWARD Fellowship and YPARD mentorship role. “I now have global visibility. I have also published more than six scientific journal articles, and co-authored a book. These are leading references in my field. I would not have had visibility this without AWARD and USAID,” she adds.
Two of Syomiti’s research projects hold great promise. The first, the “Formulation, Testing and Commercialization of Prosopis-Based Livestock Feed Technologies in Baringo County-Kenya” is funded by USAID through its Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change, in collaboration with Colorado State University. The other is on “Evaluation of Early Calves’ Weaning Milk Replacer Diets for Smallholder Dairy Systems in Kenya; funded by the East African Agricultural Productivity Project.
Additionally, the AWARD Fellowship has allowed Syomiti to enhance her mentorship and leadership skills. Grant funding allows her to take numerous interns and young scientists under her wing, while the leadership and mentorship skills acquired help her be an effective mentor. So effective has she been that she was selected to be a Lead Mentor by the Young Professionals in Agricultural Development (YPARD) and the Colorado State University’s East Africa Targeted Investment for Research Impact (EATIRI) Program.
Syomiti is keen to show young people that ‘green collar’ jobs can be as effective and profitable as ‘white collar’ ones. She urges them to get into agribusiness since they can find practical solutions to farmers’ and consumers’ problems while being CEOs of their own companies.
For Syomiti, the future is bright as she looks forward to continuing doing what she knows and loves best: making lives better for Kenya and East Africa’s livestock through better feed alternatives.
Download: Margaret Syomiti, 2010 AWARD Fellow, Kenya