Catherine Carlton (MAIEP ’12) studied modern history at Stanford University. After finishing her undergraduate degree, she served in the Peace Corps in Zambia for two years working in the public health sector as an HIV volunteer. “I thought I might go on to a career in public health, but while in Africa I discovered that it all boils down to how we treat the environment,” she says in a Skype conversation from a renovated barn in Malawi that serves as the headquarters of the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology.
Catherine is the director of communications and programs for this non-profit organization, which focuses on inspiring behavior change and training farmers in Malawi, a country with extreme levels of deforestation and sustained issues of malnutrition. She says her undergraduate studies and Peace Corps experience came together perfectly at the International Environmental Policy program at the Monterey Institute. “I was drawn to the field, and agriculture specifically, because it joins two issues that I am passionate about, human development and protecting the environment.”
Searching for an internship that would give her hands-on farming experience, Catherine traveled to Malawi to work with Kusamala after graduating from MIIS in the spring of 2012. “Permaculture is a type of agriculture that tries to mimic natural ecosystems,” she says and explains that permaculture is really a way of thinking that involves ethical consideration, diversification of crops and eco-building. Before long, Catherine had risen to a position of leadership designing and implementing a successful program that involves hiring and training locals to build mini-demonstrations around their homes.
“The IEP coursework gave me a strong background and understanding of environmental issues,” Catherine says of her MIIS education, adding that it was very valuable to be able to add coursework in development such as the Development Project Management Institute and a grant-writing class with Professor Alfredo Ortiz. “I find myself using practical references to those classes regularly.” A California native, Catherine hopes to return to the Bay Area when her two-year contract is up at the end of the year to apply her skills and knowledge to sustainable agricultural issues back home.
Catherine also recently co-authored an article about permaculture in Malawi that was published by The Guardian.