Lekumok Kironyi grew up in the village of Arash, Loliondo, located in the picturesque wooded acacia forest bordering Serengeti National Park. His family belongs to the Maasai tribe and are pastoralists, relying on livestock for their livelihood. Back in 2000, Lekumok had just completed his Standard 7 exam. For most youth in the village of Arash, this is where their education ended but Lekumok had hopes of pursuing a secondary education. Following his academic performance on the national exam, Lekumok earned a scholarship from UCRT and The Dorobo Fund for Tanzania and was able to do just that. Fast forward two decades and Lekumok is months away from obtaining dual PhD’s in Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, focusing on rural and urban transformation from the University of Copenhagen and Sokoine University.
While there is no required field of study for scholarship awardees at UCRT, the hope is that these individuals will use their opportunity to help improve the lives of others in their communities. We sat down with Lekumok to find how the educational sponsorship from UCRT changed his life and how he plans to put his education to use to help his community.
Lekumok’s educational sponsorship began in Form 1. He goes on to share that support from UCRT went beyond school fees. “The Staff of UCRT have been like guardians to me. Throughout my education they reached into their own pocket to help me with pocket money to help with transport, school supplies and other things I needed for school.”
After completing his secondary education and earning an undergraduate degree at Sokoine University with the help of UCRT, Lekumok secured a scholarship to pursue his Masters in Botswana. From there, he earned a spot at University of Copenhagen where he’s been studying the last four years. While Lekumok is a full time academic these days, he still maintains close ties to his roots, returning home to Loliondo to herd his livestock when time permits.
“My work and my research is focused on tapping the economic potential of animal husbandry and livestock. I believe there is a bright future in pastoralism if a few key issues are addressed. You must have secure land that is reliable, you must have land use plans in place, and the capacity of communities must be built.”
Lekumok serves as a mentor for many young pastoralists pursuing higher education across the world. Obtainning a degree at a large university, sometimes in other parts of the world, can seem quite daunting, especially when you come from a small pastoralist village in Loliondo. Lekumok has helped six individuals obtain degrees, including five Maasai pastoralists – three of which now hold Master’s degrees. He shared “Education is about unlocking the potential of individuals, helping them see the world in a new way.” For someone like him, it has meant he can pursue something his deeply passionate about and use those tools to make a difference for pastoralists across Tanzania.
After completing his Ph.D., Lekumok plans to join the faculty at Mwalimu Nyerere University where he will teach, research and consult on issues pertaining to agricultural economics here in Tanzania.