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About the Professional Fellows Program

The Advancing Women Agribusiness Entrepreneurs and Innovators Professional Fellows Program hosted at Michigan State University (MSU) connects Ugandan, Tanzanian and Kenyan agribusiness professionals and entrepreneurs with their counterparts in Michigan for knowledge exchange and capacity building. The program strengthens visiting fellows’ skills in agro-entrepreneurship and agri-food system innovation, and addresses issues of women’s economic empowerment.

The Influencers

The first cohort, composed of 10 women and one man, arrived at MSU in May. They are a varied group of agribusiness influencers with a range of expertise; fellows include a citrus farmer, a potato chip producer, a lecturer and researcher at Gulu University, the founder of Yatta Beekeepers, an agribusiness accountant, the founder of a demonstration farm called iAgriBiz Africa, a local poultry producer, an agricultural extension organizer and youth representative, a food training officer with the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, a leader in innovative dryland farming, and a traveling business development trainer.

Experiential Learning

The fully funded U.S. program includes:

  • Professional internships with Michigan organizations,
  • Seminars and trainings with professionals from Michigan State University and external partners,
  • Field trips to urban farms, food hubs and related centers throughout Michigan, and
  • Participation in the Professional Fellows Congress, held in Washington, D.C. and attended by cohorts placed at other U.S. institutions.

While in Michigan, fellows stay at a nearby hotel for the bulk of their visit, then spend the last week with a local host family. Based on the fellows’ program goals and business interests, MSU matches each individual with an appropriate internship. The hosts for this cohort include the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Swallowtail Farm, Bee Wise Farms, Michigan Farmers Market Association, Allen Neighborhood Center, and the MSU Product Center.

In addition to gaining on-the-job experience via their internships and weekly field trips, fellows receive training from MSU faculty and staff and external partners. Topics covered include marketing, policy making, leadership, finance, business model development and scaling, gender issues in the agri-food systems, and others. Thematic areas of focus are (1) innovation and entrepreneurship, (2) gender in agri-food systems, (3) personal development and success, and (4) finance, marketing and governance.

Throughout their stay, fellows engage in a group project that they will present at the Fellows Congress during the program’s final week. Collaborating with each other, fellows are deepening their relationships, strengthening their leadership skills and utilizing multimedia resources to develop a video that captures their individual and collective experiences. Fellows will also discuss how they affected the local community and how they will apply their new knowledge to benefit their home communities.

View the Spring 2018 program schedule.

Host Organizations to Visit East Africa

For the first cohort, the exchange continues into early 2019. Two trips abroad will give representatives of the Michigan host organizations and internship sites the opportunity to visit fellows in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The first trip is scheduled for August, and will include staff from Bee Wise Farms, Michigan Food and Farming Systems, the MSU Product Center and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Other hosts will visit East Africa in January or February of 2019.

This multi-country exchange enables capacity building, knowledge transfer, idea generation, and networking opportunities that will serve the fellows and their home communities, while also strengthening Michigan’s business and academic leaders’ understanding of challenges, gender constraints, and other issues in various African food systems.

The Program Continues

A second cohort will bring another dozen fellows to campus in October 2018. The group will participate in similar activities and outings. Policy makers, women entrepreneurs, ministry employees, academic staff and those working on civil society or NGO programs from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are encouraged to apply.

The Advancing Young Women Professional Fellows Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Professional Fellows Division and administered by MSU (U.S.), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), University of Nairobi (Kenya), and Kyambogo University (Uganda).

Supporting units and centers within MSU include the Alliance for African Partnership, Center for Gender in a Global Context, Center for the Advancement of International Development, and the Center for Global Connections in Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.

In addition to the internship hosts and additional MSU units, the program’s external partners include Kalamazoo Community College Food Hub, TuBer Marketing LLC, Acorn Leadership Consulting, Michigan Food and Farming Systems and its’ project, WIA Farm Development Center.