Kimani Chege’s love of writing began in a remote village in Nyandarua county, Kenya. On Friday afternoons, he and his siblings would race along the grassy road the moment they spotted their father, returning from his job in the big city, laden with groceries and a newspaper. “While my siblings, who were bigger, would snatch the shopping … everyone knew the newspaper was mine.”
Even at that age, Chege said, he “took a deep interest in how different journalists would present their stories.” He was sure never to miss a day of high school, lest he fail to get his hands on the library’s copy of the local daily.
Though often seen with his nose in the paper, Chege’s ears were still atuned to the unique, and often untold desires of his community. He remembers villagers dreaming of good roads to transport produce to market, cattle breeds that could withstand Foot and Mouth disease, or drugs to ward off malaria. “I knew there was need for someone to tell the story of the plight of rural villages … so it was natural that I reported on modern technologies that help farmers,” he said.
Chege became an editor for TechNews Africa, a science and technology monthly centered in Kenya. He also freelanced for the web-based publication Science Development Network on issues relevant to rural development: disease, environmental conservation and the role of mobile phones. It was from that vantage point that Chege discovered KSJ.
“KSJ was special to me. It opened my mind to think global rather than local,” he said. He particularly enjoyed being exposed to new fields in science that had never previously caught his eye: neuroscience, geology, stem cell research. “Having gotten hold of these areas, it helps me write with authority,” he said.
Now in Nairobi, Kenya, Chege still writes at every opportunity, but he also works as a consultant in science and development communication. However, he is most passionate about passing on what he learned to the next generation of writers, which he does for an organization called Media for Environment Science Health and Agriculture.
“I mentor up and coming journalists with an interest in reporting on science, helping them focus on the basics,” he said. In so doing, he is ensuring that a new wave of reporters continue telling the stories of science and development about which he cares so deeply.