Kenya is a center of Rutgers’ scholarly and institutional activity in Africa. One unique initiative of international scope within the country is the Koobi Fora Field School, a collaborative project between the National Museums of Kenya and some of Rutgers’ internationally acclaimed paleoanthropologists. Koobi Fora is located in an arid region, in the middle of nowhere, yet it is the epicenter of paleoanthropology research as its volcanic sediments have yielded some of the most important hominid fossils. The area is a destination for budding archeologists and prehistoric buffs, and the school is the world’s preeminent field-based program in paleoanthropology, training numerous students in paleonanthropological fieldwork. Hands-on courses at Koobi Fora Field School give students an opportunity to learn the basics of paleoanthropological fieldwork with some instruction in primatology.
A related program is the Primatology, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Field School. Students participating in this four-week program study indigenous animals and their habitats in the Laikipia Plateau region of central Kenya, including Mugie Ranch and the Tana River Primate National Reserve on the coast. It is a collaborative research and training project between Rutgers, the National Museums of Kenya, and Kenya Wildlife Services. Rutgers’ institutional connections to Kenya also include a general exchange program with the University of Nairobi.
In addition to these student programs, Rutgers faculty conduct a broad array of other research in Kenya. This includes studies on: the interplay between language, ideology, and the law; the impact of increasing economic and political volatility of Kenyan family life; the language of text messaging; and the discourse politics of Muslim women’s leadership. Meanwhile, graduate students have been active in researching topics such as the role that international wildlife priorities play on wildlife management and conservation in Kenya, and the relationship between globalization and biofuels.
Rutgers’ involvement in Kenya is deepened by the research of faculty and graduate students in two sister nations, Tanzania and Uganda, which are fellow members of the East Africa Community (EAC). Research in these two countries, including anthropological work among Maasai pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, the study of Tanzania’s political ecology, and research on cotton production in Tanzania, is relevant to Kenya because of important demographic cross border affinities, ecological similarities, and historical interconnections.
Rutgers undergraduate students are making significant impact in Kenya outside of the classroom. Engineers Without Borders (EWB) -Rutgers University uses a multidisciplinary approach in information gathering toward creating a new water system to improve the quality of the community’s water supply. It is committed to providing the people of Kolunje with clean water. Through the Kolunje Water Project, EWB employs a system of drilled wells, storage tanks, and taps, so that sanitary water can be supplied consistently. Clean reliable taps of water will improve community living conditions by allowing citizens to focus on more productive activities while minimizing suffering and medical expense due to waterborne disease.