Interview with Florence Wesonga Owero, a livestock production specialist and an alumnus of Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences.

Our communication volunteer Thomas Bwire this week reached out to one of our alumni member from Vihiga County. Florence Wesonga Okwero is in love with matters to do with Food Security. She was excited when we reached out to her and agreed to open her professional journey to where she is now.

Ms Wesonga Okwero is a lady wearing different hats and building the nation in her respective capacity.

NAAK: Please start by telling us about your professional background

Florence Wesonga Okwero: I am Florence Wesonga Okwero, an agriculture extension officer in the Department of Agriculture, Directorate of Livestock Production, County Government of Vihiga. 

I am an alumnus of Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. I studied the Master of Management of Development; Rural Development and Food Security academic year 2015/2016.

The mandate of the directorate of livestock Production is ‘’ to promote, regulate, and facilitate Livestock Production for socio-economic development and industrialization. 

My duties entail training livestock farmers on upcoming technologies, Climate-smart Agriculture, and Market trends. 

NAAK: What other role are you playing? 

Florence Wesonga Okwero: I also support the Agri-Jobs 4 Youth Initiatives which is a programme by the German Development Cooperation (GDC) DEUTSHE ZUSAMMENARBEIT, through the Germany Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH) in partnership with the County Government of Vihiga (Department of Agriculture). 

The program focuses on empowering youths with employable skills in Agribusiness. All this has been made possible due to the skills I acquired while studying in the Netherlands.

NAAK: Did you mention that you also went back to school?

Florence Wesonga Okwero: Oh yes I did, I am currently enrolled at Makerere University, Uganda, undertaking Ph.D. studies in Agricultural and Rural Innovation. 

The skills I acquired after training in rural development have led to the contribution of knowledge in food security through a publication available at http://pubs.sciepub.com/jfs/5/5/4/index.html . 

These efforts have been successful due to a strong relationship between the VHL Alumni and the lecturers; Master of Management of Development (MOD).

NAAK: What motivates you daily?

Florence Wesonga Okwero: My motivation is to support farmers in Vihiga County and beyond to access adequate food through improved incomes for resilient livelihoods. When the farming community is resilient to changing climate and market trends, then we have a happy population that could exercise their rights to food. 

This also enables the county to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2 of the United Nation. 

I support the department and other stakeholders in ensuring the dairy sector in Vihiga County performs to its potential. 

Together we have supported dairy farmers at Vihiga Dairy Cooperative to increase production and milk value addition through the strengthening of dairy value chain nodes. The collections have risen from 400 liters per day in 2014 to 1300 liters in 2021 which translates to an increase of about 200%. 

I love being the agent of change. I lead my colleagues in focusing on improving the volumes and having an organized Dairy value Chain. 

Currently, the Cooperative is now doing milk aggregation, chilling, and processing of Mala and Yoghurt. As the department of agriculture in Vihiga County, we are looking forward to milk pasteurization in the near future.

NAAK: Do you attribute your immense contribution to your educational background?

Florence Wesonga Okwero: Definitely, having undertaken further studies in the Netherlands greatly improved my work performance. 

I am able to work and interact with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I am able to handle different work situations with ease.

I enjoy my work. 

For instance, interaction with the Dutch community while in The Netherlands helped build my confidence, and to have a focused mind. 

A visit to dairy farms in Rural De Kraats at Bennekom , Gelderland made me realize the global challenges in the dairy sector. I learned that a Dutch dairy farmer and Kenyan farmers face almost the same challenges such as changing market trends. However, In Kenya, dairy farmers are experiencing low mechanization, an unstructured market, and low yields. These are some of the notes I picked and making them a reality gradually.

What did you like most while studying in The Netherlands?

I liked the Dutch festivals such as Tulip National day and The King’s day. I enjoyed shopping

NAAK: Hey, tell us about your experience during the application process? how was it for you?

Florence Wesonga Okwero: The application process to study at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences was simple. 

I simply sent an inquiry at their information desk and they shared with me various stages of application. On getting admission; the University presented my name among the possible scholarship applicants since I had indicated to them that I could not manage to sponsor my studies in the Netherlands. 

The Application for the Orange Knowledge Scholarship procedures is simple with instructions.

I urge Kenyan young professionals, especially women to apply and study in the Netherlands. 

This is because the Dutch institutions will walk with you at every step of your studies. I believe you can grow your knowledge base, it does matter where you are, and the Dutch Orange Knowledge Program (OKP) will locate you. 

What you need to do is, first apply to your preferred learning institution, then the scholarship will follow. 

I also like the fact that Van Hall Larenstein University is still keeping in touch with its graduates which is a good initiative towards global development and personal growth. I also like the refresher courses initiatives, this ensures sustained connection and knowledge exchange across the globe.

NAAK: Any tips for potential students planning to study in The Netherlands?

Florence Wesonga Okwero: Make sure you submit your assignments in the stipulated time. Ensure to interact with the community because they are very friendly people. 

Remember to come back home and serve your community.

What else should one have in mind?

Do not set your expectations too high. Europe is just like Africa. No free money. 

You have to work. 

What a powerful end, “YOU HAVE TO WORK”

NAAK: Florence’s story comes in the wake of a recent report from The Global Unity; A hunger story The report gave Kenya a score of 23.7% which lists it among 40 countries with a serious risk of hunger.
Some 1.5 million Kenyans are facing an acute food shortage that has been exacerbated by Covid-19, climate change, and locust invasion, a new report says.

We are looking forward to your feedback, you can contact us via naakenya@gmail.com  
Enjoy!

Published by Nancy Onyango

Established in 2004, The Netherlands Alumni Association of Kenya (NAAK) is a not-for-profit, non-political, non-partisan, membership organisation for Kenyans who have participated in either short or long-term education programs in the Netherlands and have an academic background. We organize various academic and social activities, and also provide a think-tank which engages in various developmental, intellectual and scholarly projects.

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