Student - November 8, 2018

Scanning soils in Kenya

Text:
Evelien Castrop

Who? Teun Fiers, MSc student of Earth and Environment and Climate Studies
What? Internship at SoilCares
Where? Nairobi, Kenya

‘I’ve been in Nairobi for nearly five weeks now for my internship at SoilCares. Sometimes so many new things happen in a week that it’s almost impossible to keep up. My internship is with a young and growing Wageningen company that works on soil analysis using sensor technology and spectroscopy. I am taking two Master’s programmes, combining elements of the natural sciences and the social sciences. Both come into the work here.

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Good English
One of the things the company does it to analyse soils with a portable soil scanner. We have an app which is synchronized with the soil scanner and tells you what the status of your soil is, and what you should do to improve it. The social science side of my internship is about the way people deal with the technology, the dissemination of knowledge, the influence of the government and the role of SoilCares itself. The technical questions about how the soil scanner works are highly relevant to my other Master’s.

I share accommodation with two colleagues in Kikuyu, a kind of suburb of Nairobi. It looks quite rural with its dirt roads and donkey carts everywhere. To us that is strange in an urban area, but it is just the way things are still done here. Everyone speaks pretty good English, or at least good enough that I can get by everywhere. A friend of mine is doing an internship on the other side of Nairobi. It is nice to talk Dutch with each other now and then.

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Half marathon
I recently went to a Bible study group in a local community centre, as a way of meeting people. The centre is a kind of meeting place and it’s a nice way of getting to know some people. And I also ran a half marathon, and went on safari with African colleagues. Funnily enough, it was their first time to go to the national park that is right next-door to Nairobi. That’s a bit like the Dutch people who never go to the Kinderdijk or the Keukenhof until they get a visitor from abroad. I go nearly everywhere by public transport here. It’s very hectic and chaotic compared with the Netherlands, but it is also efficient. If you miss the bus here, or can’t squeeze onto it, you just take the next one in five minutes. In the Netherlands you might well have to wait half an hour.’


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