Hi, my name is Kanta and I had the privilege of being sponsored by the Tokyo Chuo Rotary Club in Japan to study for a master’s in Food Security at the University of Reading. My primary interest is in improving rural food security by integrating smallholder farmers to the market.
My interest in food security first started in my first year of undergrad when I volunteered at a local NGO in rural Ghana. There, not only did I experience hunger myself, I encountered a very ironical and disturbing phenomenon, those who were growing food were those who were most hungry.
Determined to make an impact in the lives of farmers, during my four years in undergrad, I interned at various food related organizations including the World Food Programme and an agribusiness startup based in Thailand, only to be disheartened by the limitations imposed on these organizations. While humanitarian agencies’ dependence on grants inhibited the sustainability of their projects, private enterprises were equally constrained, as achieving profit was in many cases incompatible with delivering positive impact on the poorest farmers.
Believing however that there is a way to incorporate smallholder farmers to markets in a way that is mutually beneficial for both producers and companies, I further explored this theme at Reading. With the help of my supervisor (and an occasional break at the pub) I somehow completed my thesis, and luckily, was also able to land a position with Ernst and Young, where I hope to bring positive impact to smallholder farmers through business.
Being a Rotary Scholar is however not just about studying. It is about meeting new people, inspiring them, and being inspired. I was invited to give talks to different clubs, both in Reading and elsewhere, where I not only met one of the most engaging audiences in my life (daunting at times, but encouraging in most case), but was also truly inspired by the passionate talks given by my fellow scholars. It really made me think… ah I really want to be like them and made me more motivated.
Finally, being a Rotary scholar is about being a part of a family. Rotarians are all very friendly and keen to know more about you, and they will not hesitate to invite you to their house, whether for a cup of tea or a Sunday roast. I myself was invited by several generous Rotarians and spent great time with them. My host from Easthampstead Rotary Club was especially kind, and I spent time with him and his family in numerous occasions including during Christmas and Easter. Universities in the UK are quite intensive, and students are likely to be stressed especially before exams and due dates, but I suggest taking a time off and visiting a Rotarian’s home when invited, for I assure you, you will be surprised how tasty British food can be.