[Issue 77] Media Monitoring: Extract of Press News on Higher Education in Africa

  1. University World News

Report calls for research focus beyond biomedicine (Mozambique)

Enrolment in tertiary education in Mozambique may have multiplied more than seven times in the past 15 years, but it has not expanded postgraduate studies or promoted high-quality research and innovation, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In a key study, “Mapping Research and Innovation in the Republic of Mozambique”, UNESCO noted that limited funding of university education has increased its fragility and stifled the tertiary gross enrolment ratio (GER). GER is the total enrolment in tertiary education, regardless of age expressed as a percentage of the population in the five-year age group immediately following upper secondary education. Still, Mozambique made notable enrolment gains, as it increased the number of university students from 28,298 in 2005 to 213,930 in 2018, reflecting a participation rate of 7.3% in terms of the GER. But the main issue is that Mozambique’s tertiary system is highly focused on undergraduate studies, while postgraduate programmes are underdeveloped, especially at doctoral level. “For instance, in 2018, only two PhDs were awarded at Eduardo Mondlane University, which is the leading university in the country,” stated the study that was launched in Paris on 18 February. In this regard, the low performance of higher education at postgraduate level has contributed to a scenario in which most academics and researchers have no doctoral qualifications. “Across the system as a whole, as of 2016, only 14% of all researchers in Mozambique possessed a doctoral degree and, among them, only 20% were women,” stated the UNESCO study. Although women make up 45% of all university enrolments, their share of enrolment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields is about 30%. Data in the report indicate women are concentrated in business, administration and law (37%), education (27%) and health (15%). But, even as women continue to close the gender gap in higher education, the report noted only 26% of the academic staff in tertiary education are women. Mozambique’s research is also struggling for lack of high-quality researchers.

 Read more here

2. News Day

African universities’ science faculties a mockery (Africa)

African universities should discontinue their science faculties and concentrate their financial resources on the development of the arts, histories and music than misrepresent the sciences through presenting fake and passive models of the discipline of science. It is undoubtedly well-known that proper tertiary education ought to focus on the exploitation of local content, resources and solving of contemporary problems for the benefit of all. For example, apart from focusing on philosophies to advance humanity during ancient times, Greeks developed schools of medicine to treat diseases and pandemics of the time. Hippocrates, a Greek doctor founded the first medical school at the island of Kos in Greece in 500 BCE. The point I am making here is that an expectation raised and still unfulfilled is an affront to the well-being of the expectant. Such an expectation would be better off not raised at all, hence my suggestion that science faculties at universities in Africa should be discontinued because they raise developmental expectations that are not realised. They are largely a waste of resources that could be used effectively elsewhere. Africa is well endowed with the world’s mineral resources far more than any other continent on plannet earth. It, therefore, becomes logical that if we are to heed the divine principle that we are stewards and the more we are given the more we shall account for. For Africa to be comnensurate with her bountiful endowment of mineral resources, she should excel more than any other continent in the processing of her mineral resources to benefit her citizens. It, therefore, becomes logical that if we are to heed the divine principle that we are stewards and the more we are given the more we shall account for. For Africa to be comnensurate with her bountiful endowment of mineral resources, she should excel more than any other continent in the processing of her mineral resources to benefit her citizens. Such knowledge can be attained from the universities’ faculties of science. It is also known that no country can create incremental wealth for its people without engaging in the processing of its resources — manufacturing.

Read more here


Opportunités de Formation de Troisième Cycle dans le cadre du

Programme d’Assistanat d’Enseignement Supérieur de RUFORUM (GTA)

Lors de la réunion annuelle des Vice-Chanceliers / Présidents / Directeurs de Section / Recteurs des Universités Membres de RUFORUM (voir les liens sur le Dépliant de RUFORUM et l’Aperçu de RUFORUM) qui s’est tenue le 11 novembre 2020, les Vice-Chanceliers ont réaffirmé leur engagement envers le Programme d’Assistanat d’Enseignement Supérieur (GTA) qu’ils ont initié en 2014. Les objectifs du GTA sont les suivants: i) Améliorer la qualité de l’enseignement supérieur et augmenter le nombre du personnel académique formé au niveau du doctorat dans les universités Africaines; ii) Fournir à la recherche doctorale des opportunités de contribuer plus directement au développement de l’Afrique; iii) Renforcer la collaboration interuniversitaire dans le domaine de l’enseignement supérieur en Afrique; et iv) Promouvoir la mobilité du personnel parmi les universités membres de RUFORUM et à travers l’Afrique.

Suite à la réunion des Vice-Chanceliers du 11 novembre 2020, le Secrétariat de RUFORUM est heureux d’annoncer la disponibilité des opportunités de formation dans ses différentes Universités Membres dans le cadre de l’accord GTA. Le Secrétariat sollicite plus d’offres d’autres universités membres pour former des candidats GTA.

Dans le cadre du Progamme GTA:

  1. Les universités d’envoi nomment les membres de leur personnel pour être formé pendant que le secrétariat de RUFORUM aide à les placer dans les universités d’accueil (hôte)
  2. Les universités d’envoi s’engagent à payer les frais de voyage, d’assurance, de survie et de recherche de leur personnel en formation
  3. Les universités d’accueil renoncent aux frais académiques et aux coûts y associés, et fournissent un logement aux boursiers GTA admis
  4. Une fois que le processus d’admission est terminé, les universités d’envoi et d’accueil ainsi que le boursier GTA nommé signent un accord tripartite pour guider l’accueil et la formation du boursier
  5. Dans certains cas où des opportunités existent, l’université d’accueil peut associer le boursier GTA au programme de recherche de l’université d’accueil
  6. Le secrétariat de RUFORUM facilite l’accord GTA et fait le suivi sur la formation des boursiers GTA

Postgraduate Training Opportunities under the RUFORUM

Graduate Teaching Assistantship Program (GTA)

During the annual meeting of Vice Chancellors/Presidents/Principals/Rectors of RUFORUM Member Universities (see links about RUFORUM flier and RUFORUM at a Glance) held on 11th November 2020, the Vice Chancellors re-affirmed their commitment to the Graduate Teaching Assistantship Program that they initiated in 2014. The objectives of the GTA are to: i) Improve the quality of higher education and increase the pool of PhD-level trained academic staff in African universities; ii) Provide opportunities for the doctoral research to contribute more directly to African development; iii) Strengthen inter- university collaboration in the field of higher education in Africa; and iv) Promote staff mobility among RUFORUM member universities, and across Africa.

Following the meeting of the Vice Chancellors on 11th November 2020, the RUFORUM Secretariat is pleased to announce the availability of training opportunities at the different Member Universities as part of the GTA arrangement. The Secretariat invites for more offers from the other member universities to train GTA candidates.

Under the GTA arrangement:

  1. The sending universities nominate the staff to be trained and RUFORUM Secretariat helps to get them placed in receiving (host) Universities
  2. The sending universities commit to pay for travel, health insurance, upkeep and research of their staff under training
  3. The receiving/host universities waive the fees and associated costs, and provide accommodation for the admitted GTA Fellows
  4. Once admission process is completed, the sending and host universities and the nominated GTA Fellow sign a Tripartite Agreement to guide the hosting and training of the Fellow
  5. In some cases where opportunities exist, the host University may attach the GTA Fellow to the research program at the hosting university
  6. The RUFORUM Secretariat facilitates the GTA arrangement and follows up on the GTA training

E-learning for strengthening educational capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Enhancing ICT competence and capacity in bio-entrepreneurship education is central for reaching a wide number of students in Sub-Saharan Africa. PBL-BioAfrica has started on this task by investigating teachers’ current usage of digital learning platforms in Kenya and Zambia through surveys and focus group interviews.

Issues in online teaching

An online survey about teachers’ pedagogical competences received more than 90 replies from teachers in Kenya and Zambia. Each partner university conducted focus group discussions in which 4–6 deans, lecturers and ICT staff members participated.

Based on the survey and the focus group discussions, the need for improving usage of digital platforms in bio-entrepreneurship education became evident. All partner HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) already do have online platforms in use, but equipment and software are often out of date or inadequate. Connectivity is also problematic in remote teaching; although the internet connection might be excellent on university campuses, the quality of the connections varies in teachers’ and students’ homes and off-campus offices.

Another issue that came up was the attitude towards online teaching among both teachers and students. Due to the pandemic, a large part of teaching has been forced to take place online, and the situation has been unpleasant to many. Teachers and students struggle with keeping the lectures as interactive as in classroom teaching, and using digital platforms often causes additional work for teachers.

“While some universities have trained their lecturers and students on using the online platforms, questions of motivation and converting the courses to e-learning mode need to be addressed. This is because many course units are yet to be converted for e-learning delivery”, says Dr. Samuel Ruhiu, University of Nairobi.

“With the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, many lecturers have been forced to deliver their ‘normal’ lectures through the online platforms without the supportive interactive features of e-learning, which may not be engaging for students. There is therefore need to train the lecturers on converting their courses to e-learning mode, and to motivate them to invest the time and effort required to do the actual conversion.”

For more information about PBL-BioAfrica Project .

[Press Release] American University of Beirut (AUB) signs memorandum of understanding with RUFORUM

Kampala, 26th February 2021. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on 24th February 2021 between the American University of Beirut (AUB) through its Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) and The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM, a consortium of 129 African universities in 38 African countries. The purpose of the MoU is to provide a framework for collaboration and partnership between RUFORUM and AUB in areas including but not limited to staff exchanges, research, teaching, training and academic dialogue on issues related to relevant and quality higher education, agriculture, food systems, poverty reduction and global development.

The two institutions will therefore cooperate in areas including but not limited to; exchange of information and knowledge, students, faculty and research scholars. They will also collaborate in development and implementation of joint research projects and programmes of mutual interest, organization of events, seminars, workshops and conferences in the thematic areas of interest, hold dialogues and consultations to develop new strategic directions and develop and implement new educational programmes and projects in the thematic areas of cooperation.

The two institutions believe that this cooperation will improve the contribution of their partner institutions in training quality human resources to address agricultural, environmental and global development challenges.

[Issue 76] Media Monitoring: Extract of Press News on Higher Education in Africa

  1. Nature News

Give African research participants more say in genomic data, say scientists (Africa)

Tensions are building in Africa over the rules that govern the donation of biological samples and data to research.  Many human genome studies ask participants to sign a form that gives them little direct control over how their data will be used. But a panel of researchers in Africa says that this can fuel distrust between researchers and participants, and needs to change. This stark message comes in a report published last week, Recommendations for Data and Biospecimen Governance in Africa, from a committee of 13 African scientists, whose expertise ranges from bioinformatics to genomics. The African Academy of Sciences, based in Nairobi, and the African Union Development Agency, based in Addis Ababa, convened the group in June 2019 in response to concerns that international research-funding agencies and researchers from high-income countries have a disproportionate influence when it comes to setting research priorities and data-sharing rules in Africa. The report says that research participants in Africa are especially vulnerable to exploitation. This is because illiteracy and disease are common in Africa, and many people have poor access to medical care. By participating in research, people can access doctors when they are unwell. It is currently accepted practice in genomics research for data-access committees — groups of experts that are independent of researchers and funders — to decide who gets to see and use genomics data. The report’s authors want research participants in Africa to have more of a say in decisions made about their data, and, in particular, to avoid what is called broad consent, which allows researchers to reuse data to answer new research questions, subject to access-control regulations. “This requires participants to cede their autonomy to researchers entirely,” they write. “Broad consent has been a dogma of the funder,” says Godfrey Tangwa, a philosopher and bioethicist who is emeritus at the University of Yaoundé 1 in Cameroon and one of the report’s authors. He says research funders do make ethics a priority for their research — but that their ethics guidelines often serve the funders’ needs, not those of research participants.

Read more here

  • University World News

Government orders university council to delink colleges (Malawi)

The Malawi government has ordered the council of the University of Malawi (UNIMA) to push ahead with delinking or unbundling its constituent colleges, a mechanism to establish more public institutions, despite the project having been suspended on 20 January. The council voted on that day to suspend the creation of the independent universities, claiming that a 2017 decision authorising the process was not in line with Malawian law at the time and, hence, was ultra vires. This stalling has clearly upset a government that secured legislation last year to authorise this long-running project. Subsequently, it has now formally instructed the UNIMA council to go ahead with delinking. On 18 February, Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima, who heads a wide-ranging set of public-sector reforms (under which the university reform falls), met the UNIMA council, the Justice Minister Titus Mvalo, the Attorney-General Chikosa Silungwe, the government Director of Higher Education Dr Levis Enaya and officials from the Malawi Department of Statutory Corporations. A statement issued by the vice president’s spokesperson, Pilirani Phiri, states that the government had consultations with stakeholders to affirm its position to proceed with the delinking process. As a result of this, the government statement said the ministry of education should now gazette the commencement date for the delinking legislation, implement a detailed plan of action and establish a transitional unit to oversee and conclude the process. President Lazarus Chakwera had already, last year, assented to Acts 19 and 18 of 2019 that authorised the merger of the university’s College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing into a Kamuzu University of Health Sciences; and the transformation of UNIMA’s The Polytechnic wing into a Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences.

Read more here


The scholarship from RUFORUM has expanded my research capabilities and network

My name is Kusiima Kaheesi Samuel studying PhD Environment and Natural Resources at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science (CAES), Makerere University, Uganda. I  received funding from RUFORUM under the Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) Project for my research entitled: Land Use Land Cover Change (LULCC) and its Implications on Ecosystem Services in the Albert Water Management Zone, Uganda. The aim of my project is to unravel the relationship between LULCC and human well-being through alteration of ecosystem service supply in the dynamic landscape famous for being a biodiversity hotspot, oil and gas industry activities, agricultural activities, and an exponential population growth.

The project is great significance because of inter alia reflection of the situation in terms of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2,3,6,7,11,12,13; accounting for land use sector in Nationally Determined Conditions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement; Forest Landscape Restoration opportunity of Uganda; Detect the level of compliance and effectiveness of elaborate environment and natural resources laws; understanding ecosystem services synergies/trade-offs; and explanation to the environmentalists paradox.

Samuel (center) with a Sentinel Faciltator and Fellow Sentinel Students at the RUFORUM AGM in Cape Coast, Ghana

My proposal was accepted by the Doctoral Committee and since then I have spent most of the time doing intensive literature review to inform my review paper (yet to be submitted), instrumentation, and working on objective one which is basically GIS and RS thus requiring nominal fieldwork.  

Since my scholarship award by RUFORUM – Sentinel Project, I received loads of benefits which have translated into high velocity for my project. The Ghana trip in December 2019 was an opportunity for me to interact/network with fellow Sentinel Students, acquire knowledge and mentorship from highly qualified and seasoned Sentinel facilitators. Aside, I have received mentorship from a cocktail of seasoned dons/researchers both physically (at RUFORUM and Makerere University) and Virtually (RUFORUM organized zoom trainings). This has remarkably enhanced my PhD candidature and preparation for the afterlife in terms of capabilities and belonging to a big/vibrant network.

Kusiima Kaheesi Samuel

Whereas the going looks awesome, COVID-19 scourge has compromised my work rate for instance I have that fear for passenger service vehicles (public transport) meaning minimal mobility. Aside, the study area has been a COVID19 hotspot hindering primary data collection activities. However, religious adherence to COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Ministry of Health and better nutrition is helping us to cope. In the next couple of weeks, I will be out in the field to collect data.

This thing must come down!!

For more details, please contact Mr. Kusiima Kaheesi Samuel via email: skkusiima@gmail.com

I have benefited a lot from skills enhancement trainings organized by RUFORUM

My name is Zenebe Shuite Argado from Ethiopia. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from Debre Markos University, Ethiopia and a Master of Education in Geography and Environmental Education from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. I was a full-time teaching staff in the department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Bule Hora University, Ethiopia, from July 2011 up to October 2018. I have served at the position of department head for two years (2013-15) in the same department. 


Currently, I am a PhD student in Climate Change and Bio-energy Development, at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resource, Hawassa University, Ethiopia. I am one of those who won the RUFORUM research scholarship funded through the Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) Project.

I have completed my course work and prepared my research proposal titled as “Land Use Effect on Plant Diversity, Biomass, Soil Quality, Carbon Sequestration and Their Implication to Climate Change Mitigation in Aleta Chuko Woreda of Sidama Region, Ethiopia”.  The main aim of the research is to investigate land use impact on diversity of woody species, litter fall and decomposition, soil quality, microbial biomass, carbon and nitrogen stocks.

Land use change from relict natural forest and agroforestry to mono-cropping land affects tree species diversity and composition. Among other managed land uses, traditional agroforestry practices play an important role in the conservation of native woody species, plant diversity, biomass, maintain soil quality, litter production and store carbon than the rest of farming systems. Traditional agroforestry practice in Aleta Chuko woreda, Sidama region, has been sustaining the natural environment for more than half a century. However, there is a trend to increase productivity through agricultural intensification which involves reduction in plant diversity and affects agroforestry systems favoring monoculture fields. Ecologically important native tree species dominated by exotic one in woodlots, which is one of the common land uses in Aleta Chuko woreda. Assessment of these issues in agricultural and agroforestry land uses in Ethiopia receives less attention as compared to other land uses. Thus, lack of data on species diversity, carbon stocks and ecosystem processes in different land uses at the local scale hamper efforts done towards climate change mitigation.

I have benefited a lot from the trainings that have been organized by RUFORUM on GIS, remote sensing, statistical and qualitative training as well as share experience that held from 2-6 December, 2019, University of Cape Coast, Ghana. I would like to thank RUFORUM and SENTINEL Project for their support. Great thanks to those who helping me under this project, especially Mentors who assisted me during concept note development and Mr. David Ekepu from the RUFORUM Secretariat who follows up my progress.   

Zenebe Argado (1st squatting from the right) with other Sentinel PhD fellows at the RUFORUM AGM in Cape Coast, Ghana, Dec 2019

For more information, please contact Zenebe Shuite Argado through email: zeneshu112@gmail.com

My research fieldwork in a foreign country has been a life changing experience

I am Rudo Violet Denga, a Zimbabwean studying PhD at Copperbelt University, Zambia. I obtained both BSc Hons. in Development Studies & MSc. in Development Studies from my home country. My research interests are in social-ecology with particular focus on sustainable environmental management, river bank cultivation and land use/cover change (LUCC).  Currently I am pursuing a PhD in Plant and Environmental Sciences, School of Natural Resource Management, African Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Mining (ACESM), Copperbelt University, Zambia. I am a beneficiary of the RUFORUM scholarship under the Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) Project. Coming from a background in development work, I hold a strong understanding of sustainable livelihoods, rural development, poverty, gender issues, food security, sustainable development, climate change and globalization. Development discourse is central to my heart and the zeal to want to learn and know more on this area encouraged me to take my study career to the next level.


My topic of research is “Investigation of the Drivers and Impacts of Riverbank Cultivation on the Upper Kafue River Basin in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province and their Implications on Environmental Social Sustainability”.  The study aims to comprehend patterns, drivers and impacts of riverbank cultivation and its implications on environmental social sustainability. My research work intends to contribute to policy by aiding the Government of Zambia (GoZ) to entrench awareness and understanding of its environmental policies to communities that are cultivating on Kafue River banks as well as its tributaries in the context of Land Use Changes (LUCs). Clearly, the conversion pressure to cultivate along the river and stream banks is mainly driven by the population which is in dire need of food but the upland is fast becoming very unsuitable for agricultural activities. Society responds by resorting to riverine cultivation which is unsustainable. Zambia is no exception, Government of Zambia (GoZ) has put in place several policies and conventions to support sustainable agricultural development. These policies and conventions appreciate that agricultural development and environmental management are critical for the amelioration of poverty. They have however, failed to stimulate economic growth mainly due to lack of political will, low support to implementation and inconsistences in both policy and legislation.

It is my dream to live in a world were future generations will also benefit from these natural resources that we and are still enjoying. I believe that evidence when put in monetary value can influence policy change. My study will analyse Land Use Changes (LUCs) that have taken place over a period of 30 years (1989 to 2019) at 10-year intervals. Demonstration period for the study will date back to 20 years and projection period will be 10 years ie. from the year 2024 to 2033. The study will focus on a 40km stretch along the Kafue River in Copperbelt, Kitwe as well as the several perennial streams that feed into it. Buffering will be 10km on either side of the main river. This will enable for the capturing of activities taking place around the study area ie. within the urban area where there are high socio-economic activities as well as high population. Agriculture remains the single contributor to deforestation and environmental degradation. As a result, land use (LU) is facing challenges due to a number of factors including population growth, pressure on land resource, agriculture expansions, technology, climate change and politics. Therefore, because land expansion is limited, inappropriate and unsustainable land use practices will continue to increase in order to feed the rapidly growing population at the detriment of the environment. LUCs strongly connects to climate change and the ultimate goal of the study is to contribute to policy recommendation at policy, programmes and operational levels. This will be achieved by answering the following questions:

(i)   What are the socio-ecological consequences of riverbank cultivation on local land-use changes?

(ii)  What are the projections on spatiotemporal process of the encroachment of agricultural expansions into riverbanks over the past 30 years? (iii) What have been the historical trends of subsistence agriculture and riverbank cultivations?

(iii) What have been the historical trends of subsistence agriculture and riverbank cultivations?   

The Kafue River is the third largest river in Zambia with several perennial streams feeding into it. The river flows entirely within the country providing a livelihood to about 50% of Zambia’s population. The river plays a significant role in sustaining Zambia’s economic systems from various activities including agriculture, mining, industrial, tourism, hydropower generation, natural resource and fishing. Copperbelt was once the industrial hub of Zambia that provided a lifeline for the country since the 1950’s. Privatisation and sale of these mines by the Government of Zambia (GoZ) in the early 1990s gave rise to unprecedented unemployment and high poverty levels. This unemployment saw an increase in subsistence agriculture, mostly encroaching the Kafue River Basin banks for all-year-round food production. As a result, subsistence agriculture along this river and its tributaries is more pronounced now than before. In Kitwe specifically, there was in increase in demand for housing settlements both legal and illegal due to influx in human population driven by rural-urban migration. This demand translated into an increased demand for housing and farming land. This forced the helpless communities to unsustainable utilise river and stream banks as they provided fertile soils and high moisture for all-year-round food production.

Current findings from my fieldwork show climate change as the greatest contributor to rural-to-urban migration. Upland soil fertility has reduced drastically and is no longer productive, bringing untold hardship to these communities forcing them to unsustainably utilise the riverine areas. To some extent, the energy policies of Zambia are blamed for fuelling the demand for charcoal and firewood considering that the cost of electricity is prohibitively expensive and beyond the reach of ordinary households. The same open land along the riverine areas has also been converted into a residential place – legal and illegal. Just to give a synopsis of the important roles which the Kafue River plays in sustaining Zambia’s economic systems. Studying the impacts of agricultural expansions along this river’s system will provide the much-needed evidence-based support to policy review and formulation. At this juncture, it is not enough to sit around tables and ratify to all environmental treaties over a cup of coffee.  Instead, it is about time that people realise political will backing is imperative to these treaty resolutions such that they can be adopted and implemented at policy, programmes and operational levels.

Rudo doing fieldwork in Bulangililo along Kafue River, Kitwe, Zambia

The road has not been a smooth drive due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I appreciate that RUFORUM expects me as a student to have completed the study within the stated time period. Unfortunately, this global pandemic has slowed things down for me when schools and universities closed in March 2020. Added to that, the university went on indefinite strike further affecting my work. That did not deter me from fighting to meet my targets as and I have learnt to “work in fear without fear”. Bolting through the first part of field work in the midst of a global crisis last year, I am now working on the second part of my fieldwork and hope to continue and complete the final part by end of this year. The experience I have obtained from the little fieldwork conducted so far has been somewhat life changing. The household questionnaires speak more on land, tenure and water pollution issues and this is very sensitive issues of discussions/talks here in Zambia. As a foreign student, asking such questions raised a lot of suspicion amongst the respondents. My being a female foreign researcher who was in the company of male Zambian Research Assistants further soiled the situation. It was not fieldwork as usual. Fortunately, my Supervisors had oriented me on dress code, identity and approach. Wearing a worksuit, a reflector, name badge and student identification, in the company of male Zambian Research Assistants whom were familiar with the area, fluent in the Bemba language as well as the culture. This still remained a toll order for us. On arriving at the farming field/housing settlements, we normally were received by the females whom would take us to where their husbands or heads of households would be. As for those women whose husbands or heads of the households were not present, they went through the trouble to explain why they were participating in answering the questionnaire and how it would have benefitted us if we had met with the head of the house. This therefore consumed a lot of the discussion time, but knowing that “patience is a virtue”, it did pay in the end.

My study has a total of four research objectives and the second objective demands that I use geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) technology in order to understand LUCCs that have taken place between 1989 to 2019 and also be able to make further projections for the next 10 years ahead. To overcome this challenge, my Core Supervisor who in his own extra time took the trouble to walk me through some GIS &RS training. I am also very grateful to RUFORUM for organizing virtual GIS & RS training which came at a time when I needed it most. A big thank you to all the Sentinel Researchers for taking their time and training us virtually on qualitative methods and data analysis. Despite my having poor internet connectivity, this training will go a long way in shaping my study. I intend to use AMOS for analysis in my study. I request to RUFORUM to organise more of these virtual training sessions during this time when conventional learning will not be possible. By the time of finishing this study, it is my hope that I would have published four journal articles.  

[Press release]Planning Meeting for the Second Afro-Arab Partnership Forum Held

Kampala 18th, February 2021: In 2019, the first Afro-Arab Partnership forum focusing on African higher education and agriculture was convened by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) in collaboration with Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development (AOAD), the Arab Bank for Economic Development (BADEA) and Uganda Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoST&I). This consultative forum was designed to provide a platform for dialogue between the African higher education sector and the global as well as African development partners to chat a way forward for promoting equal opportunity in youth employability and entrepreneurship in Africa.

The forum is part of the RUFORUM iterative processes for the design and implementation of initiatives that strengthen higher education and agricultural sectors in Africa, with emphasis on business incubation and enterprise creation. As such, and following the success of the first meeting in Kampala, it has been considered important to hold a second one in 2021 to be co-hosted by RUFORUM and Uganda Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoST&I). This will be organised under the theme “Mobilising Partnership for supporting implementation of Africa’s Universities Agenda for Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI)”.

A preparatory meeting was held today 18th February 2021 to consult with key stakeholders on the planned second Afro-Arab Partnership forum. This virtual meeting, hosted by the RUFORUM Secretariat, was attended by African Union Commission (AUC),  Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD), Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Sudan Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR) and Uganda Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoST&I).

The preparatory meeting, which highlighted the Youth Employability and Entrepreneurship as a key issue in Africa, was addressed by Prof. Adipala Ekwamu, RUFORUM Executive Secretary;  Prof. Ibrahim El Dukheri, Director General of  the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD); Dr. Mohammed Elfeel, Technical Advisor to the Director General, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA); Ms. En’amulrahman Malkawi, the Global Youth Empowerment Specialist, Islamic Development Bank; Ms. Diana Akullo Ogwal Oyena, Policy Officer – Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Rural Economy and Sustainable Development of  the African Union Commission; and Ms. Monica Nyakaisiki, Assistant Commissioner, MoST&I (Uganda).

The meeting key highlights were:

  1. AOAD aims to support agriculture and food security in the Arab region and Africa and has a new strategy aligned to the global SDGs, which among others, focuses on supporting and facilitating transformation of food and agricultural systems in the two regions, eradicating hunger and reducing poverty through enhanced productivity, and fostering better knowledge sharing among key actors, among others. AOAD places strong emphasis on engaging youth in the development process and supports activities that promote youth skill development and employability.
  2. BADEA is committed to the development of higher education; agriculture; science and technology; youth employability; and strengthening SMEs in Africa, which are all in line with the BADEA strategy. BADEA has committed to and is funding a Feasibility Study in Uganda on Strengthening Youth Employability and Entrepreneurship in Africa (YEED) project. Based on the outcome of the Feasibility study, it is planned that the Project be launched in Uganda and other countries. 
  3. IsDB has a youth development strategy, which was approved one year ago focusing on three pillars: education, economic empowerment of youth, and youth engagement with the aim of having engaged and productive youth demonstrating leadership in their communities, agriculture being one of the main sectors of focus.
  4. AUC values its partnership with RUFORUM and AOAD in advancing Africa’s agricultural agenda and acknowledges the role of agriculture in advancing youth employability and entrepreneurship. The issue of youth employability affects the entire Africa continent and the global community. AUC invites RUFORUM and African Universities to actively participate in implementation of the AUC continental frameworks including CAADP review planned for this year and also in the EU-AUC Partnership activities geared to Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture. 
  5. MoST&I (Uganda) recognises the roles of the various key stakeholders in addressing youth employability challenge and is committed to working with Afro-Arab partners in the cause of transforming higher education, science, technology and innovation especially in line with youth employability and development of Higher Education Regional Training Centres across Africa. Agriculture being the backbone of the economy of Africa is key in the transformation of the continent and therefore the planned forum will be very important. Uganda Government has accepted to host the Forum event and looks forward to welcoming the delegates to Kampala.

The Planning meeting agreed that the Second Afro-Arab Partnership Forum be held sometimes in October or November 2021.

Amidst the challenges, I am still on course to finish my PhD studies

My name is Abich Amsalu. I have been studying PhD in Climate Change and Bio-energy Development since September 2018 at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Nature Resources, Hawassa University, Ethiopia. To support my studies, I won a research grant from the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) funded by the  Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) Project for conducting research focusing on the impact of deforestation and forest degradation on the ecosystem services, particularly plant species diversity and carbon stock changes. The information generated in this study is necessary to design biodiversity conservation strategies and national REDD+ schemes in the Combretum-Terminalia woodland ecosystem, west and northwest Ethiopia. In order to achieve this objective, I have been collecting data   since September 2019 at the three study sites including Homesha district in Benishangul-Gumuz National Regional State (BNRS) and Quara and Metema districts in Amhara National Regional State.

In Ethiopia, ethnic related conflict has been present for a long time, but the issue has received little attention. This conflict has suddenly been rising for three years in many parts of the country including BNRS. Under this condition, ground-based vegetation inventory was carried out at Homesha district in BNRS with support from well-known local people who are influential. Based on this survey, tree species selection was undertaken for measuring aboveground biomass. Unfortunately, we faced several challenges such as conflict between ethnic groups, administration issue for tree harvesting at local levels and eventually the pandemic of COVID-19 (locked down) while we were collecting data in the field. The COVID-19 Pandemic in particular has resulted to the extension of my study period. In addition to these, Ethiopia is under state of emergency, there is a civil war in the northern part of Ethiopia adjacent to my residence and study area and this made my research work challenging.

Field data collection and analysis in the three study sites in the west and northwest Ethiopia

For research entry into study sites, negotiation was made with different administration level officers through paying money to local administration for tree planting purpose and conducting   fieldwork despite the conflict, was a terrible ordeal. One time a serious gun exchange had happened but I escaped by the help of God and army. The remaining data was collected after all things had settled even though we paid unexpected cost to finish the work. My home institution, University of Gondar, paid all the balance of the logistics and field costs.

All the collected data was coded and is available for analysis. Thus, manuscript writing will be done in the first quarter of 2021 after discussion with my advisors. Further, the webinar training of GIS that I took part in and mentorship from RUFORUM will enable me complete the remaining research activities.   

Field data collection and analysis in the three study sites in the west and northwest Ethiopia

For more details, please contact Abich Amsaluvia email:  amsaluabich@gmail.com 

I have spread my wings through RUFORUM scholarships

Growing up in DRC Bukavu town, with parents who believed in education being key to my future, has shaped who I am today. In our home region of Eastern DRC, we faced so many problems growing up due to different wars and rape of women. I had to struggle finishing my university education.  After finishing my undergraduate studies, I started working at my university (Université Evangélique en Afrique) as a lecturer in 2010.

Matendo doing her Laboratory Work

In 2014, I was fortunate to merit a scholarship from the INTRA-ACP mobility scheme funded by the European Union to pursue my master degree at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania. Coming from French speaking country it was not easy to study in an English speaking country. After making some more effort to learn English, I thoroughly enjoyed my course, research work and meeting other people in Tanzania. I even undertook my research in Tanzania investigating some natural products that could fight against Tuta Absoluta, which is a common pest of tomatoes. Interacting with farmers while collecting samples in different districts was however my greatest highlight.

After the completion of my masters’ degree, I got an opportunity to pursue a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) under the auspices of the RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) Programme. I also won another research scholarship from RUFORUM funded by the Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) Project.

For my PhD research, I am studying utilization of local plant-based treatment to mitigate the mycotoxin contamination in some staples food in South Kivu, DRC. This work proposes to address the problem of food insecurity in the DRC through the prevention and reduction of mycotoxin (aflatoxins and fumonisins) contamination in foods commonly consumed in the community. There is still limited information on the contamination of maize with fungi that causes the mycotoxines in foods and how to manage it, yet it is so devastating it is reported to cause yield loss, and the oocurrence of some diseases are correlated with the population to be exposed on those toxins. Aflatoxins cannot be completely eliminated from the food systems. Thus, any effort to prevent or reduce contamination in foods is highly recommended.

This research was my first major experience in plant pathology and was not short of challenges. At the start, the task looked impossible because it was difficult to have the equipment to determine the incidence of those toxins in maize. All the equipment to be used was really costly and was unavailable in the local markets. The financial support from RUFORUM has helped me a lot, to undertake my research. In addition, we had several webinars. One on GIS, which helped me in mapping my research area; the webinar on qualitative and quantitative data helped me in analysing the data of my findings. All thanks to support from the SENTINNEL project through RUFORUM.

The experience in the field was not bad, but we were confronted with a COVID-19 problem and we could not reach certain areas. The research methodology that I used was the survey to understand the perception of farmers, processors and vendors on the mycotoxin contamination of their products and at the same time I collected samples to be analyzed in the laboratory. The main findings I got mycotoxin contamination in South Kivu is evident and occurs throughout the value chain with a high incidence in the market and processors. To solve this problem, we need strategies that take into account the entire value chain. I got a networking space with the African aflatoxin expert which is a good platform where we share the most recent publication on mycotoxin contamination in most African countries. COVID 19 greatly affected my field and laboratory work as I was unable to access the laboratory for almost five (5) months and during sample collection, some areas were not accessible because of lockdown. This affected my academic work as I now had to cover the time I had lost during COVID-19.

Currently, I lecture part-time at both JKUAT and UEA universities. Thanks to the knowledge and skills gained through this RUFORUM-funded training, today I move with my head held high with confidence. I am really grateful to RUFORUM for the support provided to me during my studies and to different lecturers for the mentorship.

My career journey is not yet complete though. I have set my sights on greater things and look forward to pursuing the different objectives of my doctoral degree. Thereafter, I will continue to contribute to science through knowledge generation and dissemination. I also plan to mentor young scientists and contribute to sustainable food production by working on vagaries that hinder increased food production.

For more details please contact Ms. Rehema Matendovia email: rehema_esther@yahoo.fr or vecordcongoesther@gmail.com

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