For most, graduate school means spending long hours in the library and writing papers, but, for four Horticulture Graduate Students at Texas Tech University, it also means changing lives one drop of water at a time.
As part of their thesis project, Kyle Tengler, Daniel Cunningham, Michael Kanyi and Teresia Mbogori have taken on an incredible task: fighting malnutrition and hunger in Northern Kenya by harvesting rain water.
On paper, it's an ambitious subject matter for a graduate thesis. In real life, it's an opportunity for these students to save lives.
"It's about helping people. The degree is a nice bonus and if, for whatever reason, that didn't work out, that will be okay. As long as I am helping people, I'll be happy," Tengler said.
The group of students are focusing on a region in Northwestern Kenya called Turkana. The area only averages about 7 inches of rainfall a year. The temperatures there are in the 90s year round.
"I know we've dealt with the drought here in Lubbock in recent years, and I know we've all felt hardships, but to go over there and see the hardships they deal with, it really puts things in perspective," Cunningham said.
Cunningham, Tengler, Kanyi and Mbgori have come up with an incredible mission.
"Establishing a sustainable agriculture system, to make the best use of their natural resources," Cunningham said.
Using a method called Dryland Agroecology, the students want to harvest the rainfall the Turkana regions. The long term goal is to help create healthy soil, crops and nutrition. They want to do this while reducing and reusing the waste and outputs.
It is a complex process that has required a lot of research and hard work, but the students are passionate about what they are doing.
While their goals is to earn a Master's Degree, they also want to save the lives of those in need.
"Whenever you see that kind of hunger, it's hard not to want to do something for people," Tengler said.
Through their work, the students have become finalists in a competition called the Agricultural Innovation Prize which honors projects that will have a huge impact on agriculture and food systems. Their project is one of several finalists chosen from more than 200 colleges around the world. If they win this weekend's competition, they could receive as much as $100,000 to go toward funding their project.
The students are also up for an Audience Choice Prize through the same contest. All they have to do is collect as many "Facebook likes" as possible, and they could win $15,000.