Coming to America in Support of Africa
Aug 31, 2017
By Nyasha Mudukuti: Chikombedzi, Zimbabwe
I’m coming to America.
Actually, I’ve already arrived—I got here in the middle of August—and I’ve come twice before, leaving my farm in Zimbabwe and flying across the ocean to meet other farmers and share my story.
This time, however, I’m going to stay for more than a few days. I’ll take a break from growing sorghum and spend the next two years earning a master’s degree in plant breeding, genetics, and biotechnology from Michigan State University.
My goal is to get an education that will help me improve African agriculture, presently dominated by smallholder farmers who produce about 80 percent of the food that our fellow Africans eat. In my village—it’s called Chikombedzi—women do most of the hard work in the fields, planting and weeding and harvesting to produce for themselves, their families, and maybe a little bit extra.
The work is difficult—and it’s made more difficult by a lack of access to the tools and technologies that Americans and others take for granted. As a result, they earn a pittance: Less than $2 per day.
Even in my sub-Saharan village, that’s not enough to make a decent living.
My hope is to help them do better. I’m going to devote my life to this mission.
I’m blessed to have the opportunity. It began three years ago, when I joined the Global Farmer Network and visited Iowa for the World Food Prize. I met renowned scholars from prestigious institutions and became determined to discover a way to learn from them and advance my education.
After returning to Zimbabwe, I continued to participate in GFN activities and wrote a column on my country’s anti-GMO attitudes, which are so strong that not only are farmers banned from planting GMO crops but the government also has blocked the importation of GMOs from international food-aid programs that seek to alleviate suffering caused by drought.
The Wall Street Journal published the column. It caught the eye of Robin Buell, a professor of plant biology at Michigan State. She connected me with the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, which recognizes academic achievement and a commitment to Africa.
So this fall, I’ll be a scholarship student in East Lansing. I’ll work in state-of-the-art labs and greenhouses as well as on farms. Maybe I’ll even have a chance to attend my first game of American football—and…