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East Africa IRES #4: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) visit

Post by Hollie Skibstead, 2015-16 EA-IRES Fellow

World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), Global and East African Headquarters

Today (June 10th, 2015), on our last day in Nairobi before going to Samburu, we had the opportunity to visit the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF). I’ve had some knowledge about the kinds of research that ICRAF is doing here in Kenya for a couple of years, so I was especially excited to visit with the researchers there. I first learned about ICRAF in 2014, when I served as a summer intern with the USDA-ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Oklahoma. As an intern, I was fortunate to work with Dr. Daniel Moriasi on a research project that studied reservoir sedimentation for several sites within an Oklahoma watershed.  Daniel is a research hydrologist who also happens to have grown up in Kenya. At the time, the project that I was involved with was working towards a collaboration with ICRAF to share methods from the project for a similar project in Kenya and in other parts of Africa.


Hollie Skibstead (middle) with her mentors Daniel Moriasi (left) and Alan Verser (right)

This past semester, while the rest of the EA-IRES Fellows and I were getting ready to go to Kenya, I reached out to Daniel for comments and recommendations for my individual research proposal. During that exchange, Daniel informed me that Alan Verser, a field technician for the USDA ARS GRL, and himself would have the chance to travel to Kenya to meet with ICRAF and would be doing so the same week that our group would be spending our first week in Nairobi! Knowing that the project I’d been so invested in had reached this stage was incredibly exciting, and since Daniel has always been such an extraordinary mentor and friend, I knew that I had to try to connect him with our group for a possible meeting in Kenya at the World Agroforestry Center. Soon after, I connected him with Stacy about the possibility of a meeting and they took it from there!

So, after almost two years after my first day as a USDA intern, a lot of hard work and several thousand miles later, the EA-IRES Fellows made to trip from Wildebeest Ecolodge to the World Agroforestry Center. We were given a tour of the soil and plant diagnostics lab within ICRAF and a brief meeting for the research project between ICRAF researchers and the USDA ARS GRL in Oklahoma. Within the lab, we learned about the types of research and equipment that ICRAF uses to complete analysis of soil samples for soil health, physical properties such as particle size and soil type, and nutrient uptake of soil and plants. All of these labs are contributing to universal data sharing databases as well as the Africa Soil Information Service (AFSIS). ICRAF collaborates with organizations throughout the world (including the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at CSU, where Stacy Lynn is a research scientist), and by sharing their results and knowledge, ICRAF is helping farmers, researchers, and others to improve understanding of crop responses to certain soil parameters and how to treat soils to improve crop production, soil health, as well as the health of overlying ecosystems and the lives of both animals and humans who rely on the numerous and diverse services that those ecosystems provide. Visiting ICRAF also left me with a lot to consider as I think about the rest of my undergraduate career and future graduate work. In addition, being able to connect one of my most valued mentors to the work that I have begun at Colorado State is really exciting. You really never know when you will come across an opportunity to connect two parts of your world that you hadn’t even considered before!

For more information on CSU’s EA-IRES program and our affiliated faculty and partners, or to find an application for the 2016-17 program (due July 1, 2016!!), please visit our website at, and please continue to follow us here through the summer of 2016!

See our past posts here:  #East Africa IRES 3, #2, #1

Jump to East Africa IRES #5!