Published: January 12, 2011
CLEMSON — Clemson University and Narok University College of Kenya have entered an agreement to partner in teaching and research projects that will benefit both schools and the communities they serve.
The cooperative with Clemson University originated in the department of parks, recreation and tourism management (PRTM), where Kenyan James Nampushi, a member of the Maasai people, is a graduate student.
Associate professor Ken Backman said the two universities will collaborate in an effort that will improve teaching skills and resources for the Kenyans and create research opportunities for Clemson faculty and students.
Narok University College was established in 2007 as a campus of Moi University and separated as an independent university in 2008. It is the first university in the Maasai land, which stretches from Kenya to Tanzania. Because the school is new and the region is impoverished, their resources and experiences are thin. It is an area, however, that includes some of the best-known wildlife preserves and natural resources in the world.
“We hope to build capacity on both sides,” Backman said. “We think we can help make them a better university and a leader in resource management and give our faculty an opportunity to work in a different culture and environment.”
The Narok Principal David Serem — their equivalent of a university president — and two deans visited Clemson in May 2010. Later in the year a contingent from Clemson visited Kenya, including Larry Allen, dean of the College of Health, Education and Human Development; Brett Wright, chairman of the PRTM department; Ken and Sheila Backman of PRTM; and Bill Bowerman of the department of forestry and natural resources.
“It was an amazing experience to see how the Maasai live and how much they are connected to the land and their natural resources,” Wright said. “They are extremely open, happy, healthy people, but they’re also eager to protect the resources and thus improve their lives.”
Clemson faculty and students in collaboration with Narok University faculty are working on a five-year plan for the Maasai Mara and the Mau Forest. The forest is the watershed for the Mau River, which empties into Lake Victoria. The river’s water level has grown steadily lower over the years as land is cleared for wheat and trees are downed for charcoal.
“Even though this is an agreement initiated through PRTM, there are many opportunities for research and service throughout the university,” Backman said. “From teacher education to engineering, as well they need everything from books and computers to chemistry lab equipment.”
The next official partnership project takes place this August when Jeff Hallo of PRTM teaches a class in wildlife and resource management at Narok University College.