Baobab Summit: Reflections on courage, creativity and connection

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: August 28th, 2019

The 2019 Baobab Summit brought more than 250 Mastercard Foundation Scholars to Kigali, Rwanda – among them 17 EARTH University students. The themes of courage, creativity and connection attracted the young leaders of change, most of whom hail from the African continent. The shared space enabled the Scholars to strengthen their collaborative network, join forces, polish their abilities and continue empowering one another. It also served as a platform for presenting innovative social-entrepreneurship ideas and winning the funding to implement them.

Yamikani, Jireh, Esnath, Precious, Grace, Peter, Arnold and Allan participated in the Social Venture Challenge – a competition soliciting business proposals that innovatively attend to problems faced by African communities. The EARTH students’ projects were developed on campus, thanks to university resources and faculty mentorship.

In the Challenge’s final round, all of the EARTH-powered projects were still in competition – having stood out for the realistic solutions they proposed. “Seeing the interest of the judges and of the other participants was very motivating,” Jireh says. “I realized that, at EARTH, we do things differently.”

EARTH boasted the largest number of winners at the competition, thanks to projects such as sustainably producing mushrooms, raising high-protein insects for food, and starting a financial program for farmers.

For Allan and Arnold, teamwork and good preparation were key. “We realized that, by being EARTH students, we share a commitment to achieving a high standard of creativity and quality in our ideas,” Allan says. For this duo, being in sync with one another and confident to field the judges’ questions was critical to their success.

“That the judges would believe in my project – that is what motivated me to keep working and go back to my community with a real solution, to return to them all the support they have given me,” Esnath says. Recognizing that courage is fundamental to success in her mission, she is committed to returning to her home country to bravely implement effective solutions to Zimbabwe’s crippling challenges, such as food insecurity.

In the Speak your Mind competition, all Scholars interested in oral and written expression could participate. Only seven young people were selected to compete at the global event – including Sandra, an EARTH student who produces content for her vlog on YouTube. “Participating in the Baobab Summit showed me that I needed to have the courage to be myself, be fearless and live the experience of becoming an agronomist in a different way,” Sandra says.

Each year, Mastercard Foundation Scholars vote for someone to represent their delegation. This time around, they chose Tawonga. Additionally, a panel of EARTH professors judged essays to select seven students. “Baobab Summit allowed me to reflect on several parts of my life, wonder why I am here and why I do what I do,” says Brenda – one of the seven, along with Elase, Kondwani, Memory, Naomi, Yusuf and Jennifer.

For Jennifer, it was a great responsibility to represent the University as its sole Latin American delegate. “I felt honored,” Jennifer says. “I had the opportunity to share with other Mastercard Foundation Scholars about EARTH’s academic model and to understand our role as leaders of change. It requires courage to rise to the challenge of bringing new solutions to communities that need them and to seek the good in all we do.”

Once again, the hard work, leadership and talent of our outstanding students has enabled EARTH’s unique approach to global change to travel far and wide.

Picture of a group of women, smiling, inside building Picture of two men smiling, table with scale model, inside building Picture of three women, smiling, inside building

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EARTH Delegation

Yamikani Ng’ona (’19, Malawi)

Jireh Mwamukonda (’19, Malawi)

Esnath Divasoni (’19, Zimbabwe)

Precious Nemutenzi (’20, Zimbabwe)

Grace Aguti (’20, Uganda)

Peter Onyango (’20, Uganda)

Arnold Katende (’21, Uganda)

Allan Busuulwa (’21, Uganda)

Sandra Kalua (’20, Malawi)

Tawonga Zakeyu (’21, Malawi)

Brenda Bih Chi (’21, Cameroon)

Elase Nyirenda (’21, Zambia)

Kondwani Kamsikiri (’21, Zambia)

Memory Varaidzo Jinga (’19, Zimbabwe)

Naomi Fiemyah Kfu (’21, Cameroon)

Yusuf Yasin Abdirahman (’19, Somalia)

Jennifer Torres (’19, Costa Rica)

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