Students Learn About Community and Sustainability in Kenya Summer Course
A Balanites Aegyptiaca tree stands tall over a Kenyan sunrise. This photo by Joanna Marzec is licensed under CC0.

Students Learn About Community and Sustainability in Kenya Summer Course

Students can earn a Permaculture Design Certificate through a three-week study abroad trip to Kenya next summer.

Holly Petrillo, course leader and associate professor of forestry, describes permaculture as a set of ethics and principles for designing sustainable living systems.

“We really like the permaculture curriculum because it integrates the natural resources and the sustainability aspect but also the community aspect,” Petrillo said.

Petrillo describes Kenya as community-oriented.

“The social component of communities is really evident in a place like Kenya and really struggling or non-existent in the U.S.” Petrillo said.

Petrillo also feels that human dependence on the environment is much more evident in a developing country like Kenya where people rely on the land for subsistence.

During the course, the group will travel to villages in various regions of Kenya to work on permaculture projects tailored to the needs of the communities. Petrillo emphasized that the class works alongside local people.

Petrillo said that one project the group completes each year is to install water catchment tanks in a village in a dry region of Kenya where water scarcity is a concern.

Depending on the village they are staying in, the class either sleeps in tents or stays in the homes of community members. During their stay, students cook and eat with community members.

Petrillo said that she is always amazed by the openness and generosity of the people they partner with. In one village, Petrillo said that each year the class has participated in a community-wide celebration including food, music and skits.

Half of the class is made up of University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students, while the other half consists of Kenyans and citizens of neighboring African countries. The class includes group work where students from the U.S. and Kenya can work together and learn from each other.

Although the course focuses on permaculture design, Petrillo emphasized that it is not just a natural resource course and encourages any major to apply. Petrillo hopes students will finish the course with greater mindfulness and sense of community.

“If people come away from the course recognizing how incredible it can be to have a strong community that would make me so happy,” Petrillo said.

Interested students are encouraged to apply for the program by Dec. 1.  Applications are available on the study abroad website. Questions regarding the course can be directed to Holly Petrillo.

Naomi Albert

Environment Editor

About Naomi Albert

Naomi Albert
I am a junior Natural Resource Planning major with a Spanish minor. I enjoy the outdoors and traveling.

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