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    Chevening Scholar hones skills in bid to develop Jamaica's rural economy

    Posted 8 March 2023

    A woman - Amanda McKenzie - in front of the Harper Adams main building wearing a Jamaican scarf.

    A project management professional with a decade’s worth of experience in Jamaica has used a Chevening Scholarship to further hone her skills at Harper Adams University.

    For the last seven years, Amanda McKenzie has been involved in development work related to STEM education, programme implementation for MSMEs and community development.  

    She is also the Founder and Director of The Sustainable Livelihood Network Limited, a Non-Government Organisation, based in St Catherine.  

    The organisation provides a range of services to create a sustainable balance between people and nature, by empowering local communities to make decisions that will improve their livelihoods, through responsible management of their natural resources.

    Through her work, Amanda saw the opportunities agriculture, and the development of sustainable food chains, could make to the rural communities and people she was working with.

    She added: “Agriculture offers a strong potential for rural growth and development – however, even though agriculture is based in rural areas, that is also where we find most poverty.

    “Smallholders are the predominant producers within the agricultural sector. Quite often they operate independently, and their limited resources inhibit scaling and sustained growth.”

    Hoping to change this situation and to work with farmers to develop a more sustainable production system and improved market access, Amanda began looking at qualifications which could help her assist in the development of Jamaica’s agricultural sector.

    Her research drew her to the UK, and to Harper Adams University’s website, where she discovered an MSc in International Agri-Business and Food Chain Management, which equips  students with an advanced understanding of  global challenges and opportunities, as well the as principles and practices of modern international agri-business management. 

    Amanda said “The course at Harper Adams was one of the first I noticed – I was impressed as the University had its own, on-site farm.

    “I noticed, too, that in 2021 Harper Adams had established the School of Sustainable Food and Farming – and that was important to me in terms of food security.”

    As her attention began to turn towards studying in Shropshire at Harper Adams, Amanda recalled an advertisement she had seen for the Chevening Scholarship – a UK Government programme which provides fully-funded scholarships for people seeking to create positive change in their communities.

    She explained: “Chevening provides opportunities to refine the skills and knowledge of global leaders – they are interested in people who demonstrate a keen interest in contributing to nation-building in their country.

    “Chevening’s support ecosystem is readily available to potential scholars. There were a number of promotional events in Jamaica, where institutions and past scholars would share information about the scholarship and what it involved. The support continues throughout the study period. Past scholars can also contribute to and benefit from the global alumni community.

    “It was attractive to me, as you can study for a second master's degree under the programme. There are many alumni in Jamaica, who have impacted development in their respective fields, locally and internationally.”

    The application process was rigorous – and Amanda advises potential applicants to allow themselves enough time to make sure their submissions are of the highest quality.

    However, she was successful and was one of 16 Jamaicans to secure a scholarship in 2022 – and, with it, her place at Harper Adams.

    She moved to Shropshire to begin her course at the start of the autumn term, and has now settled into life on campus.

    She added: “The experience has been great so far – I chose Harper Adams as it was in the countryside. I followed the University and the Students’ Union on social media, and I had looked at Societies, so I had an idea of what to expect. I have had very helpful housemates and my classmates have been very helpful as well.

    "The cultural diversity within and outside the academic spaces is enriching and has made the experience more valuable.”

    Naomi Rayner, Head of the Scholarships Unit, said: “Every year Chevening supports the best and brightest from across the world to study at the UK’s top universities.

    "Chevening scholars are selected for their leadership potential, and for the positive change they want to lead in their home country. It’s a highly competitive programme, and every scholar has already distinguished themselves as a young leader in their field.

    “On International Women’s Day, we are proud to celebrate the achievements of female Chevening scholars, like Amanda, and to support them in their journey to becoming the next generation of global future leaders.”

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