Miranda Mlilo's summer experience on a Kenyan Farm

Image Credit: Miranda Mlilo

February 1, 2017

This story originally appeared in IPAN's February 2017 newsletter:

Environmental Science and Policy (ENSP) student Miranda Mlilo spent 3 weeks in Kenya in August 2016, where she met university environmental studies’ students and spoke at a local government meeting on a waste disposal site.    

The trip came about when her mother, Dr. Nadine Sahyoun, participated in a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment at Machakos University College.  Miranda saw this as an opportunity to gain an international perspective on environmental issues and to see how the community and government interact to solve problems.  Miranda has not declared an ENSP concentration yet, but is interested in politics and policy. 

Miranda was based at Machakos, where she and environmental studies’ students exchanged information on their studies, starting an environmental club, and ways to engage the community.  Miranda is a member of the UMD Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) and used some SSC projects as examples of projects they could do.  She suggested the Kenyan students start a recycling program and plant trees, projects that would have a broader  appeal because they do not require a special skill. They could also serve to educate the community about conservation and health benefits.

She also was invited to speak at a meeting between students and a local government official.  Dr. Julius Nzeve, the dean of the Machakos environmental sciences department, arranged the meeting and asked Miranda to speak about her experience in Kenya. The Machakos students talked about their visit to a local landfill where hazardous and non-hazardous waste is mixed together.  They saw polluted water seeping from the site.  Miranda said “this effects the community because farmers irrigate their farms with dirty water that has the potential to poison crops that are then distributed all over Machakos and Nairobi.”

During the meeting, several students told of the deaths of their animals due to the quality of the land the animals graze on.  The loss greatly effects the families’ income and ability to support themselves.  The Machakos students suggested the local government establish a sanitary landfill and asked for the surrounding water and soil to be tested. At the end of the meeting, Miranda shared her thoughts on the community working with the government to solve these issues.   She said “people can only get so far without the proper aid. For example, the students showed interest in a recycling process, and the local government seemed to agree. That desire cannot be fulfilled without a proper recycling system set in place, and then a community outreach education on what it would entail.”

Experiential learning is an important part of a UMD education and Miranda was able to transfer her education lessons outside the classroom.