This is our sixth alumni story and we are making good progress with our alumni story segment. Yes, we are getting global recognition as members are sharing their amazing journeys from academic to professional work.
This weekly project helps curate stories of incredible, inspiring, powerhouse men and women.
Today, we feature Ir Buoga, Jared Omondi. Jared is currently the Delivery Director, President’s Delivery Unit (PDU) in the Executive Office of the President, Kenya.
He is also an alumnus of the ITC Faculty, University of Twente.
With #AlumnistoryKe our plan is to help members hoot their trumpet.
This is key because we want to change mindsets, inspire and challenge others that indeed Kenyans are capable of doing great things in an excellent way.
Water and Climate at ITC, University of Twente, The Netherlands
Small Vital Steps and Actions that Make a Difference
Am neither a good story teller nor a writer, but I will try.
I will start my story by acknowledging that studying abroad and especially in the Netherlands through the Dutch Government Scholarship (OKP, formerly NUFFIC) that I was a beneficiary o, is one of the best experiences one would ever have. But, how did the journey begin?
My desire to follow my passion in natural sciences began at a tender age. This was exhibited by my stellar performance in the sciences and geography coupled with practical engagement in nature oriented field activities, exhibitions, presentations and studies. Maseno School was my high school where I took part in Science Congress competitions and progressed until the National stage, the science congress platform inspired me to pursue natural resources management.
From Maseno School, I joined Egerton University, Njoro Main Campus to study Natural Resources Management in August 2002. Egerton University shaped my life and worldview about conservation and management of natural resources.
I joined the Youth Wildlife and Environmental Movement (YWEM) Egerton Chapter in first year. There was an election for YWEM leadership during the same semester in the month of October, occasioned by vacation of office by senior leaders who were due for graduation later in the year.
I vied for the post of Deputy Director and won. During our tenure, we revamped the movement to greater heights. I led in organizing the annual Youth Environment Symposium (YES) where we invited high profile guests from UNEP, Government Agencies and Departments to speak to members.
I coordinated and rallied students to participate in the Annual Egerton University conservation week. The annual conservation week was a very spectacular event for the University. It brought all stakeholders in efforts to conserve Mau Forest. It gave me a chance to interact with many dignitaries across the globe who joined the annual event.
The then University Vice Chancellor Prof Ezra Maritim was very supportive of the program and exposed us to numerous partners both in the private sector and academia. When I was later elected as the Director of theYWEM, it was a norm that the VC would rely on our input when planning and executing environmental and natural resources management activities in the school.
I led the student team to the Annual East African Environment Network (EAEN) Conference for four consecutive years among other notable events and activities. I led a comprehensive tree name tagging ever done in the University.
My aspiration to reach out to many youths and prospective students to join Natural Science courses inspired me to register Tembea Youth Centre for Sustainable Development community organization in Siaya, my home District in April 2003, while I was a second year student.
The organization that would later be my employer after my graduation in 2007. For close to a decade it played a significant role in incubating and nurturing skills, innovation towards conservation. My first experience and interaction with Geoinformation Science (GIS) and Remote Sensing came about when I learnt about the GIS Day during the long holidays of May – Dec 2004.
I was invited as a Director of my young organization by Ugunja Community Resource Centre (UCRC) to a meeting to coordinate and host the Nov 2004 GIS Day. I took a lot of interest in the application during the period. We were led by one illustrious lady called M’Lis FLin from Australia who had come to volunteer with UCRC at the time. She was so passionate about GIS, she was inducted in GIS and RS.
I found out that GIS was very instrumental in the course I was following at the University. She inspired me and gave me inspiration to follow the dream of applying GIS and RS in natural resources management.
Geoinformation Science and Remote Sensing Inclusion Drive
In Jan 2005 when we resumed our studies, I was burning with passion to share with my student colleagues and our YWEM patron and faculty dean Prof Lelo about GIS. My first stop was at Prof Lelo’s office. I impressed on him how important GIS and RS is very essential for our class and our course. I shared with him the CDs with demos showing how to manipulate geographical data and its application in natural resources management. In short, we needed a course unit on GIS and Remote Sensing to be included as one of the units to be taught to us.
I shared the materials and information with my colleague students to get enough support over the same. It wasn’t an easy process to quickly accommodate our class to be taught by Dr. Onyando, who was from the Faculty of Engineering. As a cohort, we did not succeed to get the unit considered. But I am to report that out of the pressure and efforts, subsequent cohorts benefited.
However, at a personal level, I became a private student of Dr. Onyando, who took me through the basics of geoinformation science and earth observations. It is Dr. Onyando and later Dr. Ogola who taught us photogrammetry that first mentioned to us about ITC Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Earth Observations, The Netherlands.
During the course, I shared my predicaments with the Course Director – Dr. Rozemeijer, Nico, a jovial fellow. He encouraged me to try again and gave me some insights. The NUFFIC had just opened the system for applications running through to 15th March 2013 at the time. On this last stab, I was placed on a provisional list of prospective scholarship recipients. I was so excited when a confirmation came in July 2013, that I had been selected.
Life at ITC and ITC Hotel
Life at ITC, the Netherlands is amazing in all dynamics. Rigorous academic program. Lovely people. Delicious food. People riding bicycles. A host of international students. Seasoned lecturers and professors from all Ivy League Universities and Institutions – that come adorned in a cocktail of characters and personalities – lovely, humble, compassionate, enthusiastic and strict in the same measure.
As a Kenyan student, you enter the academic theatre and you encounter rigor, and you fall in love. Indeed we absorbed from the best. The Core module is a precursor as to whether you shall stay or take the next plane back home. After classes, we retreat back to the ITC Hotel. My room, the 118 on 1 floor was the debriefing space. At room 118, all Kenyan Students of our time would converge, to wine and dine. Life was good
We toured Europe, the same way we traverse our counties here at home. If you didn’t visit Germany for shopping, and Belgium for a tour, then you missed a lot.
Professional Training and Guidance
One very important nugget, an ITC Student and more so a Dutch Scholarship recipient receives the best professional and technical guidance and training. We got the best. Our university introduced us to an array of global programs to choose from during thesis writing. During our time, I had the privilege of doing my research under the Mau Mara Serengeti (MaMaSe) Sustainable Water Initiative project.
Whereas some of my colleagues chose other programs, I chose MaMaSe to appreciate homegrown approaches and scientific application of GIS and RS in our rangelands of protected areas and conservancies. My thesis on “Quantifying Spatio-Temporal Drivers of Rangelands conditions in the Maasai Mara” is available at the ITC Master Thesis central depository for reference.
Back home and opportunities
Upon return in March 2015, my desire was to put my professional skills into practice. I must appreciate and acknowledge the effort that Dutch Embassy in Kenya has made to her NUFFIC recipients Alumni network. As the current Chairman of Kenya ITC Alumni Association, I must point out that the regular networking cocktail dinners that bring former colleagues and new graduates provides wonderful opportunities of connection and job placements. Opportunities and linkages are shared that keep the Community of Practice strong and vibrant.
Professionally, I have had the honor to support as a consultant to European Union Funded Projects in the rangelands under various organizations in the region and across Africa. I serve in School Boards and offer my professional services through Leaf Magnet Research and Development Ltd. I currently serve as a Director, Deliver President’s Delivery Unit in the Executive Office of the President.
I must thank great people that inspired my story as I might have inadvertently left out some crucial bits that have shaped my career trajectory.