Alumnus takes Nebraska community development experience to Zimbabwe

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Alumnus takes Nebraska community development experience to Zimbabwe

At the Office of Global Engagement, we work to help support, coordinate and illuminate the international activities of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In this guest post, we feature an interview from the Rural Futures Institute, where they share the story of Briely Kuhudzai, an alumnus of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources' applied science master's program in community development. As part of his graduate work, Kuhudzai completed a serviceship in Cozad, Nebraska. Read on to hear about how his Nebraska experience impacted his work and life in Zimbabwe. 

Welcome to Bold Voices, our segment with rock star students from the University of Nebraska, who are making a difference in rural.

Katelyn Ideus: It’s Katelyn, producer of the Rural Futures podcast, and with me today is Briley Kuhudzai, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate, and Rural Futures Institute Serviceship alum. Briley, thank you for joining us!

Kuhudzai: I’m joining you from the airport, our international airport here outside Harare, Zimbabwe, and I had to come here because this is where I could get the best Internet connection. It was either this, or getting some data on my cell phone and climbing a rock out at the farm.

Ideus: So Briley, we want to give our guests a little bit of insight into who you are.

Kuhudzai: I would refer to myself as an entrepreneur, an innovator, community development-infused formal entrepreneurship, social enterprise, essentially. 

Ideus: Explain your home there in Zimbabwe.

Kuhudzai: I’m on a small plot of land, I call it the farm, but if you think about it from a Nebraska context, you’ll be misled. The core part of it is just 20 hectares, which is about 50, 60 acres. We have cattle, goats, and sheep, and our goal is to raise the livestock, butcher them ourselves, and market directly to the customer. If you think of it kind of like a safari, savanna setting, so plenty of grass that browny, goldy grass that when you picture when you think of Africa, we have that, but all the wildlife and stuff is in a national park, so we don’t have those. We have these beautiful granite, big rocks, that stick out of the ground in all sorts of places, and people that have crops have to farm around them. They’re not going anywhere. But they’re great to climb, they’re great for kids, and they’re great for catching cell phone signal. And it takes me about 30 or 40 minutes to get into town from where I am.

Ideus: You have to tell us your story...how you ended up at the University of Nebraska, and then what brought you home?

Kuhudzai: I left Zimbabwe just wanting to go to college, and it happened to be that this college in Michigan gave me the biggest scholarship, that’s how I ended up there. Then I met with a Lexington native at a student conference in D.C., and he basically said that he was prepared to hire me with no farming experience whatsoever. And I jumped at the opportunity, and that was my taste of agriculture. That was my first taste of rural, because I grew up in an urban setting. And it was a steep learning curve. After about six or eight months I was trying to get it, and kind of just fell in love with it. While I was doing it, started thinking about doing a master’s degree, met up with Tom Field of the Engler Program, and he recommended master’s in community development, because I had future plans of going back to Zimbabwe, and as you know, in Zimbabwe, we have a variety of economic and social problems, and I wanted to play my part.

Ideus: What value has your University of Nebraska experience and your Rural Futures Institute experience, what value has that brought you in building your life in Zimbabwe?

Kuhudzai: Definitely, if you think about Africa, and you think about less economically developed, or developing countries, or whatever the case may be, you kind of think that Africa’s a few steps behind. And we know in terms of technology, or the amount of value added for agricultural, we might be a few steps behind in that regard, but in terms of the people, and in terms of the community, and in terms of the coming together that’s needed to bear the community, we’re not so different, and RFI really helped me dig into that. RFI allowed me to put into practice all of the things that I was learning in my Community Development program. The Community Development program itself gave me tools to understand the dynamics of a community, be it rural or otherwise, and how it’s functioning, I would say that that’s culminating and understanding that we’re not so different, and we all just need to tie our shoelaces and get to work.

Ideus: What types of experiences do you suggest that they embrace as a student?

Kuhudzai: Meet someone who is not like you. Sit down, and have a good conversation, a good experience, with someone who’s not like you, and talk about everything. Meet someone whose ideas and experiences are different from you, and engage them. It’ll make you that much of a better person if you can, maybe not understand them, but appreciate where they’re coming from. The ability to appreciate someone and respect someone that is not like you, is crucial in this global society we’re developing where the world is just getting smaller.

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Kuhudzayi’s interview makes up the “Bold Voices” student segment of Episode 14, which features Howard Liu, M.D., Interim Chair of Psychiatry and Director of the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. With host Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., RFI Interim Executive Director and Chief Futurist, Dr. Liu addresses the critical area of mental health care access for rural communities and mental health self-care.

Audio, guest biography and episode transcript available at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/episode-14-psychiatrist-howard-liu-intersects-mental-health-workforce-access/.

About the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska

The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska leverages the talents and research-based expertise from across the NU system on behalf of rural communities in Nebraska, the U.S. and around the world. Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, RFI encourages bold and futuristic approaches to address rural issues and opportunities. It works collaboratively with education, business, community, non-profit, government and foundation partners to empower rural communities and their leaders.

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