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Migration: a development journey...

Grace and her good friends at the University of Reading

My name is Grace Muinga, an agricultural economist by profession. I have a Bachelors and a Master’s degree in Agriculture Economics from Egerton University in Kenya and University of Reading, UK respectively. I hail from Kenya. I have a passion for improving the food security situation in developing countries as well as reducing uncertainty and risk in the agriculture environment so as to increase investments and improve decision making. I am also keen on improving livelihoods in Kenya as well as Africa.

I am currently a Research Assistant with World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya. My previous area of research was on Market access and its impact on food security. Presently, I am part of a research team working on decision analysis-focusing on how agricultural stakeholders make key decisions in risky and uncertain environments with an aim of providing guidance in identifying high value information through Applied Information Economics (AIE).

My migration experience is more of a development journey. After completion of my Bachelor’s degree, I was privileged to find work with an NGO focused on reducing carbon emission in Kenya and Africa in general. Having worked there for a year, I got an urge to pursue my education further at a Masters level. Where to advance my degree was the main headache for a number of months. I initially settled for a local university in pursuit for knowledge not knowing that this was bound to change after a few weeks. Thereafter, I came across an opportunity to study at the University of Reading with only a few weeks left to the application deadline. It was a long shot but I took it anyway.

A month later, I received a letter confirming my acceptance to the University of Reading. This was a big surprise to me. I saw this as a chance to move out of my country in search of “greener pastures” elsewhere. It was time to move out or so I thought! I began my quest to raise enough funds for my departure and advancement of knowledge. I was excited! My main plan: never to return!

I went from friend to friend asking for support in this great endeavor, no one was spared, from the young to the old, they would all contribute. I had three months to make my move and by the time the second month was over, I still hadn’t raised enough support. All I got were rejection letters from scholarship providers. There were days of  pure discouragement, days when I would consider quitting as an option and days when quitting did not even qualify as a thought! My main goal was to move to the United Kingdom-the land of ‘milk and honey’ as I saw it to be.

A month later, having raised half the amount of my tuition fees and two months living expenditure, I set off for the long awaited journey having discarded the thought of studying in a local university. I knew I had to pull through this; of course all good things do not come easy! I studied hard to become the best and worked even harder to cater for my living expenses. This gave me a great chance to interact with both career motivated students as well as financially motivated ones. The interaction was immeasurable, far beyond my expectation.  I was enjoying every minute of my stay, my plan was on track, until something happened, an experience that would make me want to return to my home: the place I abandoned in search of better opportunities.

After six months of theory and classwork, it was time for the practical and application of knowledge. I began reading extensively in search of a relevant topic for my thesis. I would have three or four hours of sleep every day until I finally cracked it: ‘Impact of Market Access on Food Security in Ethiopia’, that was research topic and my breaking point! Day and night, I would read more and more about food security in the existing literature.

This would make me yearn to go back home learning that this was a major area necessary for the improvement of livelihoods and the best way to positively contribute to it, was to be on the ground.  I was away; I had not realized the intensity of food insecurity in developing countries until the completion of my thesis. I knew I had to return to my home, to apply the knowledge gained in the far off land and become a positive contributor to reducing food insecurity in any way possible.

My journey began with selfish ambitions to run away from the ‘not so good’ to the ‘awesome and amazing country’. This was according to my own measurements and standards. My journey however changed and formulated new goals: improving livelihoods through reducing food insecurity while being an implementer on the ground. I completed my studies having passed successfully with a distinction in my overall degree. I left the ‘land of milk and honey’ back to my home seeking to achieve my new formed goal-improving livelihoods through reduction of food insecurity.

I sought to migrate to one country not knowing I was destined to remain in my own. As a youth, I continue to move development forward and my migration experience was the eye opener I needed!

Picture: Grace and her good friends at the University of Reading