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Rwandan students partake in UNL program

June 7, 2017 GMT

In Nebraska, agriculture is the cornerstone of the economy. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is preparing students from abroad to improve agriculture in their countries as well.

UNL’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has selected 50 Rwandan students to participate in the CASNR Undergraduate Scholarship Program (CUSP) for the fall 2017 term. Ten will be working in North Platte this summer at the West Central Research and Extension Center and living on the Mid-Plains Community College campus.

“The university received a grant from an anonymous donor to educate 180 students from Rwanda with four-year degrees,” said Extension Director Kelly Bruns said. “We had a test run with seven students (previously). This will be the first large group to go back and apply what they’ve learned here.”

CUSP students will pursue a bachelor of science degree in integrated science. According to UNL’s website, the areas of study are aligned with areas of need as identified by the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

The 10 students in North Platte are studying subjects including entomology and irrigation. They are Bonheur Ndayishimiye, Christian Dukunde, Jean D’Amour Ndatira, Jefferson Habanineza, Lambertine Niyomwungeri, Odile Umuhoza, Oscaline Usanase, Prossy Umutoni, Raissa Urujeni and Vanessa Nkesha.

“Nearly 80 percent of Rwandans work in agriculture,” Ndatira said. “I thought, ‘What can I do?’ ”

The reasons they are interested in agriculture are as varied as their areas of study.

For example, Usanase is studying entomology. By identifying insect species and their effects on crops, farmers can know “which ones we want in the field and which are harmful,” she said.

Habanineza, who is studying biochemistry, said most cattle in Rwanda are dairy cows. By learning and applying more effective and more focused breeding practices, he would like to develop a stronger beef cattle industry in the African country.

Because Umuhoza is from an arid region, she is most interested in irrigation practices and improving the systems used in Rwanda. Urujeni is focusing on the importance of measuring moisture and water content of soil.

But all of them hope to bring skills back to Rwanda to help its ag industry grow. Ndayishimiye would like to improve the production of agricultural machines when he returns. Niyomwungeri wants to directly connect farmers to the markets that buy their products to increase their profits. Urujeni plans to develop and install effective irrigation systems and sensors.

Another big thing these students will bring back with them is the desire and ability to engage others with an interest in ag.

Education is paramount, Nkesha said: “The most useful lesson (for me) is teaching others new skills and how to apply them.”

Dukunde said it’s especially important to change Rwandan youths’ impression of the industry.

“Rwanda needs to produce more,” he said. “We need to promote this industry.”