The ANLP Game Drive: Discovering Self with Nature

By Muzafaru Ssenyondo        

Sunday 13 March 2022

It was a Friday afternoon when the ANLP delegates went for a game drive in the wilderness of Elgro River Lodge. The game reserve is located on the banks of the Vaal river, occupying over a thousand hectares of land with variety of wild animals. The game reserve has variety of wildlife ranging from the giraffes, zebras, impala and the wild beasts.

Standing on top of the hills, viewing the rivers flowing, was a moment for me to connect with nature, while reflecting on self! I reflected on my past and the future, identified the things I value in life and those that define me. This moment felt refreshing, calm and I was able to talk to myself without external interference of work demands, family requests and all sorts of distraction.

“The game drive was very special to me, since the African sunset has a special place in my heart”, says Inarie, one of the ANLP delegates.

According to science, natural environments have two major benefits for our emotions. Firstly, being connected to nature can lead to stress reduction and mood improvement. Research studies have found a correlation between exposure to natural stimuli, stress and anger reduction, and improvement in self-reported psychological well-being and mental health. It is therefore clear that the environment we live in plays an important role in our emotional state and overall level of happiness.

Connecting with nature: the takeaway

Developing a connection with nature can only benefit us, but how can we achieve this in a world that is increasingly disconnected from it? We don’t need to isolate and live in the mountains in order to appreciate and connect with nature; but we can easily enjoy nature by trying out the following…

  • Taking a walk through parks and gardens
  • Organizing a picnic, or try to meet others outdoors whenever possible
  • Taking up gardening or kitchen garden
  • Growing your own herbs or vegetable patch
  • Getting started with birdwatching
  • Going on a hiking or camping holiday

In life, its often important to connect with nature and reflect. There is healing and refreshment of mind when you connect with nature. To the extent possible, always try to cultivate the natural inclination humans feel towards nature in all its manifestations and let the therapeutic effect of nature improve the quality and enjoyment of your life. Much appreciation goes to the ANLP organizers for having such a therapeutic activity being part of the program.

The network café

Mercy Mvurya

Saturday 12 March 2022

Have you ever approached someone, introduced yourself and started a conversation only to run out of words after a few minutes? Are you familiar with the resulting awkwardness? Well, you are not alone. Many people find themselves in this situation. It takes courage to approach someone and start a conversation and sustaining it requires mastery of small talk.

Networking with fellow professionals is important for growth and development in various parts of our lives including career and requires the ability to approach people and start the relevant conversations.  It must be intentional, and one cannot just sit at a corner and hope someone will approach them.

To help develop this skill ANLP participants were introduced to ‘network café’. This involved pairing up with a fellow participant, discussing a given topic and then moving on to another participant and starting a discussion on yet a different topic as guided by the facilitators. Conversations were estimated to take 10 minutes. As you can imagine, it seemed difficult at first. Perhaps a little uncomfortable. I found myself wondering if I would sustain the talks and then quickly remembered that everyone was probably feeling the same way. It’s a familiar feeling but we had already interacted for a few days, so it was less intense than when you must approach total strangers. The conversations went well. Participants engaged in different topics and as it got easier with time, when the time was up, we still wanted to continue with the talks.

Networking is an important skill for leaders. To be effective, leaders need the input of other professionals, and they can get this by forming mutually beneficial relationships. Networking opportunities present themselves in various platforms such as conferences, workshops, trainings, and meetings. In a room full of strangers, it takes boldness to approach someone and start a conversation and when you feel like just sitting in a corner and saying nothing, it may calm your nerves to remind yourself that the other people are probably feeling the same. Be optimistic about it but should you find yourself in the earlier described scenario; if the silence becomes awkward and things don’t turn out as planned, make sure to have an exit strategy. Excuse yourself to get a cup of coffee, glass of water or any other creative tricks you may have up your sleeves. Take a deep breathe, smile, and give it a shot again with the next person.

Communication skills in leadership

By Chinwe Ezeife

Friday 11 March 2022

It is at the heart of ANLP that each Leader must communicate well because leadership communication remains the secret to organizational success, yet for most leaders, this is a significant blind spot that distracts relationships, makes goals harder to achieve, limits advancement, opportunity and impedes overall organizational and personal success.

In the words of Katie, “Over time, we see that many participants benefit from receiving feedback to make clear concise and convincing PowerPoint presentations”. The importance of effective visual aids to complement the presentation was emphasized because according to Katie, nutrition is all about change and this change cannot be achieved without effective communication. She highlighted that it is part of our human nature to read into our actions based on our perceptions. As we know, “actions speak louder than words” so we are encouraged to communicate, and it is my wish for every leader to get good at it. This informed the ANLP’s decision to pay attention to communication as an enabler to strategic thinking and effective leadership

It is at the heart of ANLP that each Leader must communicate well because leadership communication remains the secret to organizational success, yet for most leaders, this is a significant blind spot that distracts relationships, makes goals harder to achieve, limits advancement, opportunity and impedes overall organizational and personal success.

In the words of Katie, “Over time, we see that many participants benefit from receiving feedback to make clear concise and convincing PowerPoint presentations”. The importance of effective visual aids to complement the presentation was emphasized because according to Katie, nutrition is all about change and this change cannot be achieved without effective communication. She highlighted that it is part of our human nature to read into our actions based on our perceptions. As we know, “actions speak louder than words” so we are encouraged to communicate, and it is my wish for every leader to get good at it. This informed the ANLP’s decision to pay attention to communication as an enabler to strategic thinking and effective leadership

Realtime communication skills development was carried out during the 2022 ANLP in-person session. All the participants took turns to prepare and make a PowerPoint presentation to complement leadership roles. This session also made participants focus on other areas earlier discussed, especially in their ability to give and receive feedback. It was also demonstrated that it is through effective leadership that each participant ‘potential leader’ can lead from where s/he stands. In other words, whether the Leader can be a servant leader, that is leading up, leading across, or leading down. Effective communication is very key to the level of achievements.

During the presentation and peer reviews session, it was discovered that many participants have developed soft skillsets for proper communication as they exhibited the ability to keep to the presentation time, be clear on messages, call for actions, state the need for change, suggested solutions, kept it simple and focused. On the other hand, some of the participants required improvement on clarity of information, the use of positive language, use of evidence, diagrams, charts, and visuals, especially for presentations to policymakers or donors.

My personal experience and feedback opened another blind spot for me because, the feedback revealed that for me to lead successfully, I should adopt lifelong learning practice in areas of improved slides development and clearer communication. Feedback is very important in identifying strengths and weaknesses that we may not be aware of. Please endeavour to always ask for feedback.

Meals at the ANLP

By: Muzafaru Ssenyondo

Thursday 10 March 2022

The 20th African Nutrition Leadership Program (ANLP) brings onboard delegates from eight countries across Africa including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa; with different cultures and food preferences. The program is being hosted at Elgro River lodge, a privately owned lodge with a beautiful game reserve. Dishes served at this lodge are mixed, including those of white African and black African origin. This blog aims to share delegates’ feedback and experience on the meals prepared and served at the ANLP.

The 20th African Nutrition Leadership Program (ANLP) brings onboard delegates from eight countries across Africa including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa; with different cultures and food preferences. The program is being hosted at Elgro River lodge, a privately owned lodge with a beautiful game reserve. Dishes served at this lodge are mixed, including those of white African and black African origin. This blog aims to share delegates’ feedback and experience on the meals prepared and served at the ANLP.

From the interactions with most of the delegates, a variety of foods have been provided at every meal from breakfast to dinner. These include varieties of fruits, vegetables, meats and bread. The commonest carbohydrate prepared was bread and rice. Meats (especially beef and lamb) form part of every meal be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Surprisingly to most of the delegates, vegetables are commonly prepared with sugar in South Africa, and this has been one of the cooking preparation methods that participants have learnt. Some of the yummy, strange foods highlighted included the Hummus, Chutney and Pumpkin tart. However, some delegates indicated that they are missing some of their indigenous foods from their countries. These included “Ugali” commonly known as maize, bread, chapati, coconut, beans and popular products such as ‘akara’, Moi-Moi and some of the local vegetables.

With this excitement in variety and plenty of foods, the issue of calorie intake came up as one of the biggest threats to most of the participants’ bodies, as some of them have already reported to have gained extra Kilograms in just three days. Here are some of the nutrition tips to healthy eating at the ANLP; i) adding vegetables and fruits to your plate. These have less calories to keep you full the whole day, ii) drinking a lot of water and most importantly, engaging in physical activities such as brisk walking and jogging to burn out the extra kilo calories.

On Friday this week, don’t miss the tastiest “Braai”- the South African version of a barbecue that we are going to have for dinner. Come one come all!

Learning through play: The wheelbarrow and the nest

Mercy Mvurya

Wednesday 9 March 2022

The 20th ANLP in-person component at Elgro River Lodge entered its second day today. It was a rainy and chilly morning. Participants were excited and ready for a productive day. Having had a restful night I was particularly feeling energized and ready to take any challenge that would come my way. From previous sessions, I had come to the realization that the program would require me to get out of my comfort zone. I was optimistic.

The session began with a discussion on strategic thinking and as it went on my fears of what would be of the day’s teambuilding were laid to rest. The lessons demanded that we tackled challenges that came our way and found innovative ways to overcome them. We had a full day, despite the weather. The team building activities we had done earlier had taught us many lessons and it was interesting to note how small things that seemed like just play could carry with them great lessons.  Luckily the rain subsided just in time for the activities. We couldn’t have guessed what was coming. The first activity involved carrying a group member on a wheelbarrow while blind folded. As usual, it sounded like a nice fun game, but we soon realized that it was quite challenging. The blindfolded member who happened to be the wheelbarrow pusher had to depend on the ‘passenger’ for guidance. Communication, confidence, and trust were crucial.

Innovative and strategic leadership was showcased through the construction of a nest with availed materials. Teams were challenged to make a nest good enough to cushion an egg against breakage when dropped from a height. It got participants thinking and exploring ways to do it. The task required a lot of creativity. Teams worked hard within the little allocated time. In the end, none of the nests stood the test. Important lessons were drawn, nonetheless. In both cases the teams had followed a plan together and agreed. They had to own up and take responsibility for the outcome, as a team and that’s an important aspect of teamwork.

As adults we tend to play less. At least I do. It may be that we have less time for it but often, it may be that we deem it as a less important way of learning than other methods. We think of it as an activity for children, but do we stop to wonder why they learn things so fast? Mind engaging games can teach us lessons we wouldn’t learn in a classroom. So let’s all get some time off our busy schedules and engage in some play shall we?

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