By mugonya John
In September this year, I received communication from the International Crop Research Institute for Semi_Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) that my application for an internship placement had been successful. Getting an internship opportunity soon after defending my Master’s thesis at Gulu University, was exciting and double blessing. I looked forward to working with a multi-disciplinary team from various countries. I was selected to work in the Markets Institutions Nutrition and Diversity program, particularly on analysis of livestock market systems among pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in the Kerio Valley of Kenya. The internship was supported by the MasterCard Foundation (MCF) through the Regional Universities’ Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM).
I reported for the intership at the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi which hosts the Eastern and Southern regional office of ICRISAT. The center is home for nineteen international organizations many of which are under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Consortium. I was warmly welcomed and given adequate support beyond my expectations.
I started the preparation for the Kerio Valley study with a voracious review of literature related to livestock market systems’ function and structure. Given the time and financial resources availed, qualitative research methods were preferred over quantitative. I was not acquainted to qualitative research methods, therefore I was supported by my line supervisor and other team members. I was also supported by two experts in qualitative studies notably Caroline Hambloch and Emma Elfversson particularly in designing the study methodology. I have gained a lot of knowledge, skills and insights in qualitative research especially in methodology development, data collection and transcription.
During data collection, I was pleased to see a beautiful part of Kenya, the Kerio Valley. The valley is geographically shaped like a triangle and it touches three different counties which include; Elgeyo-Marakwet, West Pokot and Beringo. The valley is home to majorly two tribes; the Marakwets and the Pokots. The Pokots are pastoralists while the Marakwets are agro-pastoralists. In Kerio Valley, livestock is very important for people’ livelihoods and as a means of transport given the terrain of the land. A striking attribute about these people is the social capital amongst them. For example, I witnessed the community contributing towards education of three children two in high school and one at the university who belonged to a teacher within the community. This internship is a great experience both in terms of developing my research skills and in appreciating various cultural practices.
Contact: Phone: +256 771890353, Email: email@example.com, Twitter: @mugonyaj
Figure 1: A truck loading mangoes in Sangach center, Elgeyo Marakwet County
Figure 2: Donkeys carrying luggage across a stream near the cattle trade area in Lomut, West Pokot County
Figure 3: Goats moving to the grazing area along Tot-Kolowa road
Figure 4: Female traders selling milk in Chesegeon livestock market in West Pokot County
Kampala 03, August 2020 The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a consortium of 128 Universities in 38 African Countries, is pleased to announce the recipients of the two year Post-doctoral Fellowships funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The 10 Fellowships targeted former beneficiaries of regional doctoral training programmes funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York through RUFORUM. The Uganda National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) will co-fund two Fellowships to be based at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Namulonge. The call for the Fellowships attracted 29 applicants from 12 countries in African from which, 10 final awardees were selected following evaluation by external reviewers.
The RUFORUM Post-Doctoral Fellowship Programme aims at increasing and ensuring high retention of African graduates in Africa in order to strengthen universities and research institutions capacity to meet the growing demand for higher education and research for creating knowledge and prosperity on the continent.
The Post-doctoral Fellowships Programme builds on, and helps to scale up, RUFORUM’s commitment to strengthen postgraduate training and academic mobility in Africa.
‘’The Fellowship programme helps us to train the next generation of scientists and leaders in Africa. We plan to scale-up this initiative and we seek partnership with National Research Systems and other organisations
RUFORUM thanks the Carnegie Corporation of New York and National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO, Uganda) for funding the Fellowships and congratulates the 10 PostDoctoral Fellowship recipients.PressRelease_RUFORUM awards 10 Post-Doctoral Fellowships
Kampala 31, July 2020 The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a consortium of 128 Universities in 38 African Countries, is pleased to announce the recipients of the two year Doctoral Research Grants funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The grants targeted registered PhD candidates in one of the RUFORUM Network universities as Graduate Teaching Assistants. The call for the grants attracted 103 applicants from 20 African countries from which 42 final awardees were selected following evaluation by external reviewers.
The RUFORUM Doctoral Research grants aim at increasing the proportion of academic staff with PhD qualifications and contributing to locally relevant research. The Doctoral Research grant builds on, and helps to scale up, RUFORUM’s commitment to strengthen postgraduate training and academic mobility in Africa.
“RUFORUM Member Universities have committed to fund the training of 350 PhD-level faculty staff by 2022. This is an investment of about US$ 21 million by African Universities. We urge African Governments and their partners to co-fund this initiative” said Professor Adipala Ekwamu, Executive Secretary, RUFORUM.
RUFORUM thanks the Carnegie Corporation of New York for funding the candidates and congratulates the 42 Doctoral Research grant recipients. We further thank the RUFORUM member universities for funding the Graduate Teaching Assistantship Programme. PressRelease_RUFORUM awards 42 Doctoral Research Grants
The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a consortium of 128 Universities in 38 African Countries, is pleased to notify the prospective applicants of the upcoming call for 2021 RUFORUM Young African Entrepreneurs Competition (RUYAEC). The overall purpose of the RUFORUM Young African Entrepreneurs Competition (RUYAEC) is to catalyse entrepreneurship through promotion of business innovation and provision of seed funding to young entrepreneurs with creative and innovative business ideas among African youth. RUYAEC will target young African entrepreneurs and incubates below 35 years of age to compete for 20 awards that show case their innovations, enterprises, business concepts and propositions.
This fourth round (see previous rounds here) of the RUFORUM Young Innovators Competition will be an Africa-wide competition and hence it will target all African countries. The awards will be made in Cotonou, Benin during the RUFORUM Triennial Conference in December, 2021.
RUFORUM targets to provide 20 awards to young innovators and entrepreneurs in the following fields: Food and agribusiness, Incubations, ICTs, Health, Engineering, Natural resources, and Meteorology, among others. All the 2016, 2018, and 2019 RUFORUM Young Innovators Awardees are NOT eligible to apply.
The RUYAEC operates within one of RUFORUM’s values and principles of creativity seeking to offer opportunities to develop innovative solutions both in addressing the problems faced by smallholder farmers, and in managing research projects in remote areas.
We shall officially launch the call for RUFORUM Young African Entrepreneurs Competition 2021 on 1st October 2020 with a deadline of submissions on 31st March 2021 and hence this serves as a pre-call announcement.PreCall_Announcement_Young Innovators2021
The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), established by ten Vice Chancellors in 2004, is a consortium of 128 African universities operating within 38 countries spanning the African continent. RUFORUM is coordinated by a Secretariat hosted by Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. RUFORUM supports universities to address the important and largely unfulfilled role that universities play in contributing to the well‐being of small‐scale farmers and economic development of countries throughout the sub-Saharan Africa region. For more details about RUFORUM, see www.ruforum.org and a profile of RUFORUM activities in this link.
Since its establishment 16 years ago, RUFORUM has been building and consolidating partnerships with Universities and Higher Education Networks in Africa and globally, Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), African Policy Advocacy Networks, Private Sector, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET Institutions), and Think Tanks in order to transform the continent. Among its thrusts, RUFORUM aims to promote and recognize contribution of scientists and individuals in especially Africa, who are making contributions towards advancing science to address Africa’s development needs. As such, RUFORUM runs a series of awards (see previous awards (Ghana Young Scientist Award)) to promote excellence in the continent.
For the first time, the RUFORUM Triennial Conference (RTC) will be held in West Africa. The conference will be hosted by the Government of Benin and RUFORUM Member universities in Benin in December 2021. In commemoration of the RTC, RUFORUM will issue a second call for the Young Scientists Award to recognize young upcoming scientists in Universities and other research institutions in Benin. There will be three awards from three award categories (please see award categories below). Each recipient will receive a citation and a token financial award. PreCall_Announcement_YSA 12 July 2020 (3)
My Journey into the PhD program began when we were invited by our partners from the School of Agricultural Sciences, Makerere University to partner in the development of a proposal. This proposal was for the competitive grants that had been advertised under the RUFORUM Community Action Research Program (CARP). At that time, I was working with an NGO (Women of Uganda Network), where we used radio, mobile phones, Web 2.0 tools and the Ushahidi platform to engage with and share agricultural information with smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda. I came in as the “ICT in Agriculture” partner working with rural farming communities.
Our Proposal was titled “Outreach Framework for Strengthening University-Farming Community engagement for Improved and sustainable Livelihoods (SUFACE)”, led by Dr. Peter Ebanyat as the Principal investigator. One of the requirements for the CARP call was that the proposal had to include one PhD student and three Masters students. I ended up becoming the PhD student in the project.
Joining the PhD Program
I enrolled for the Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural and Rural innovations of Makerere University in the academic year 2012/13. It was a three-year program with one year for coursework. We started our coursework year in September of 2012 and I had full sponsorship under the RUFORUM CARP project, so I was not worried about tuition and research funds. The first year started very well until I started facing family challenges. My spouse got very ill with kidney failure and was hospitalized for an entire year. Juggling school, hospital and family became my life. I was determined to keep up with the program but there were days my brain would simply not function. Towards the end of 2013, my spouse lost the battle just as we were completing the first year. My supervisor at that time advised me to take a dead year. But a lot was happening at the same time because immediately after that bad spell, I got called for a job that I had applied for a year back. The job was in Nairobi, Kenya, meaning I was to change geographical location. I had to make a lot of critical decisions and real fast. If I took up the job offer, that meant I was going to have to lose my scholarship.
Losing the scholarship The decisions l had to make were the most difficult at that time. I had very supportive Supervisors (Dr. Prossy Isubikalu and Dr. Bernard Obaa), who counselled me, but at the end of the day, the decision was mine to make. I dropped out of the CARP project, took up the job offer and decided not to take a dead year, but continue under self-sponsorship. I changed my research area from “Integrated Soil Fertility Management and ICTs” to “Conservation Agriculture and ICTs”. That meant I also had to change supervisors and very quickly work on a new proposal ready for presentation to the Departmental research committee. The Department was supportive and I was assigned new Supervisors, Dr Haroon Sseguya and Dr Florence Kyazze. I was now navigating new terrain, new supervisors, new topic, new geographical location (Machakos and Laikipia counties in Kenya) and different language-Swahili. This last one was not a problem since one of my previous job assignments was in Tanzania. I must commend my Doctoral committee and my supervisors, I was able to work hard and have the proposal in time for the scheduled proposal defense. I passed the proposal defense and had to make minor changes before I was cleared for data collection. That also meant I had to make frequent journeys back to meet with my Supervisors and Doctoral committee.
The search for research funding Two years had passed and I was entering into the third year with no data collected yet. I had saved up some funds but not enough to complete the entire data collection process. I used the funds I had to collect data in one county (Laikipia), but could not proceed to the second county (Machakos) as I had run out of money. Meanwhile, I was busy applying for research funding, and could not breakthrough. I continued working with the data that I had collected while sourcing for research funding, and at the same time applying to present my work in conferences. In 2015, I secured funding from AuthorAid and presented my partial findings at the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, IEEE ISTAS conference in Dublin-Ireland. That Award grant covered my travel expenses and accommodation, but not research. I was able to publish a conference paper “ICT supported Extension Services in Conservation Agriculture Information Access for Smallholder Farmers in Laikipia County, Kenya” (see Link) in the 2015 IEEE International Symposium on Technology in Society (ISTAS) Proceedings, ISBN: 978-1-4799-8282-0.
Securing research funds and returning to Makerere to complete writing Then towards the end of 2015, RUFORUM advertised for Doctoral finalization grant under the Carnegie Corporation of New York. I applied and was awarded the funding in May 2016. This funding marked a very crucial stage and a turning point in my PhD career. It enabled me to complete the rest of my data collection (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Data collection in Kenya
I realized if I continued working, I would never complete the PhD. Therefore, I made another major decision, I quit my job in Nairobi and returned to Makerere University to concentrate on writing. As part of the funding requirement, I was required to present a paper at the Fifth RUFORUM Biennial Conference in Cape Town, South Africa which I did (see Link) and published another conference paper. Writing, rewriting and presenting to the Doctoral Committee, peers and the Departmental seminars was an ongoing activity for most of 2017 and 2018. Writing Journal papers was also part of the process, since it is a requirement to publish before you graduate. For most of 2017/2018, I did nothing else but “bench” in the University library from 8:00 am/9:00 am to 9:00 pm daily except on Sundays. I almost became a recluse, but I knew I had to pay back to my family especially after all the support they had given me. Finally, under the mentorship of my supervisors in September 2019, I successfully defended my PhD and I graduated in January 2020.
Lessons to share
There is a lot to learn during the massive PhD journey, I summarize and share my own experience and lessons that emerged along the journey: the PhD journey is an interesting one, a lot of learning happens, new networks are formed, new skills acquired and resilience built. It is very important to stay positive, focused and keep going even when there are delays on some issues; the most important lesson is to keep writing even when it looks like you are writing nothing. Some days, I would sit in the library and only come out with a paragraph, imagine a whole day. But all those small paragraphs build up into a page. It is also very important to build social capital and networks. Having a peer group where you keep presenting to each other, reminding and lifting each other
always led me to the next step. Reading other people’s work, contributing to discussions I realized was where most of the learning took place. Of course, if you are in the same cohort, people keep dropping off as others complete or drop out completely; it is therefore important to form new networks and keep going. You may be one PhD in the Department, but not in your general area of study, so connect to others for mutual support, guidance and learning. It is also very important to present your work to professional bodies. Participate in conferences, seminars and accept feedback. It changes the way you think and opens up new ideas you had not thought of.
And lastly, remember to always exercise your body and mind. Pray for your peace of mind and also be thankful that you have reached the epitome of Academics. Not everyone reaches there, but with being patient and the will of GOD you will make it! Never Give Up!
Janet Cox Achora works with the World Bank funded Agriculture Cluster Development Project of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries- Uganda, as the Communication and Knowledge Management Specialist. Previous work experience was with the African Conservation Tillage Network- Nairobi Kenya. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Agriculture and Rural Innovations from Makerere University, A Master’s Degree in International Community Economic Development (ICED) from the Southern New Hampshire University, Massachusetts, United States and a Bachelor’s Degree in Library and Information Science from Makerere University, Uganda. Janet can be contacted at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Daily Maverick
Our universities need to change for an as yet unimagined future (South Africa)
South Africa needs to build national capacity for an economy that needs skills that are radical and complex. In order to facilitate this, we need to ‘decolumnise’ campuses from the grand colosseums to a vibrant, insightful, smart network of decentralised partners. Here is something that should scare and excite you in equal measure; in two years’ time, 27% of our economy will consist of new types of jobs that we can’t even imagine yet – not counting the ones whose extinction will be speeded up by Covid-19 and 4IR. But here’s the thing, our universities can’t imagine them either. The truth is that our education system is archaic, designed for an economy that has changed very little over the past 20 years and as a result, is neither as diversified nor resilient as economies that were far inferior to South Africa’s over the same time frame. The system is in gnarly dysfunction. The universities could change, and many want to, but it would take them between 10 and 15 years. South Africa doesn’t have that luxury — and the advent of Covid-19 has just shortened that time frame considerably — but it does have a raft of TVET colleges across the country; 50 of them registered public institutions operating at 364 campuses across the country that could pivot to do this in anything from 12 to 24 months. TVET stands for Technical and Vocational Education and Training. The colleges provide vocational, occupational and artisan education across an incredibly diverse scope; some TVET colleges offer more than 300 courses from NQF levels 1-8, while what we term higher education, i.e. the universities and universities of technology covers NQF levels 5-10. The TVET system is funded to the tune of R8-billion a year and yet most colleges are defective and ineffective, but none of them need be. We have rampant unemployment, with figures that are expected to skyrocket later this year after the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, but the greatest problem remains the NEET, that cohort of persons Not in Employment, Education and Training. In the last quarter of 2018 that amounted to 3.2-million people out of the 10.3-million in the 15-24 age bracket. They are not just unemployed; they are left unemployable in a world that is changing as we speak. Modern learning is based on three facets: qualifications, credentialisation and lifelong learning. Qualifications traditionally open the door to jobs, but what jobs? It once took 15 to 20 years for the technical skills you learnt to become obsolete, now that’s been cut to two to five years. We’re losing plenty of jobs in the formal sector through Covid-19 attrition on the one hand and the much-storied disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the other. There’s also a high barrier to entry in terms of both cost and geography to universities and universities of technology.
Read more here
- University World News
Higher education – The lifeblood of development (Africa)
We are in the midst of a crisis – the crisis of COVID-19 – that has seen Africa lock down, right from Cape Town in South Africa through to Cairo in Egypt; from Djibouti through to Dakar in Senegal. There is a sense in which this crisis is ‘giving back’, one of which includes our inclination to begin to interrogate the role of education in our affairs going forward. And this has come about because during this crisis Africa’s underbelly has been exposed in a number of areas. In the field of health, we have been forced to remind ourselves that notwithstanding the decision of African heads of state in Abuja several years ago to dedicate 15% of national budgets to health, that has not happened, with the consequence that we have seen that our health facilities are below par. It has also demonstrated to us that notwithstanding the position taken by African heads of state in Maputo in Mozambique that we would dedicate 15% of national budgets to agriculture, Africa cannot feed herself. It has also demonstrated that many African governments have in the last many years not regarded science and research and development as key components of development. The net effect is that we have had to rely on other countries to support us even in the provision of things as mundane as masks. I think that this legitimises the conversation we are having today. Post-coronavirus, what is the role of higher education in Africa’s development? And when we talk about development, we must understand development in its broadest sense. Will higher education help to address Africa’s perennial problems which we have stated and restated numerous times? Will it help us to address the problem of hunger? Will it help us to address the problem of the disease burden? Will it ensure we embrace technology and our diffidence of the fourth industrial revolution age? Will it ensure we create opportunities for our young men and women to innovate and to invent? Will it ensure we use our various resources in the areas of art and performance? In a nutshell, will it help Africa to realise the goals that are identified under the African Agenda 2063 so that Africa will be a mid-level economy which is no longer famous for having people live from hand to mouth? In order to do justice to that conversation, it is incumbent upon me to look back to the past. Because when we look back, we are going to recognise that Africans and African leaders have always understood that education is at the very heart of development. I remember as a young man, institutions within the African continent were identified for their excellence – institutions such as Fourah Bay [College] in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which was referred to as the essence of Africa and was famous for its contribution to engineering; institutions such as the University of Ibadan in Nigeria; institutions such as Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Fort Hare and a series of other universities – and when I talk about that history I remember two important events that took place in Ghana in 1961.
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As a son of a farmer, I am always compounded and reminded of Bill Gates quotation “Innovations that are guided by smallholder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and environment will be necessary to ensure food security in the future”. Therefore, I strive to emulate on the farming practices of my fore fathers and at the same time improve on these practices through research, such that farming communities like the ones I was raised from, improve their livelihoods. In 2017, as a volunteer for the Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Kawanda, Uganda, I decided to apply for a Masters in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems at Makerere University. I was graced with fruitful opportunity by Dr. Peter Wasswa, a Lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Production, Makerere University. I was to be part of the cassava Community Action Research Programmes Plus (CARP+) coordinated by Professor Agnes Wakesho Mwang’ombe from the University of Nairobi under the banner of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM).
Growing up as a kid from Lutengo village, Buwama sub-county, Mpigi district in Uganda, I always knew the benefits of growing cassava and now that an opportunity had downed on me in form of the RUFORUM CARP+ project. I ceased it with open arms with good intentions of learning from other cassava farming communities. Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz), is an important staple food crop cultivated in many parts of Uganda, the eastern region being the biggest producer. It is a good source of industrial raw materials, substitute in animal feeds and the chief source of dietary food energy for the majority of Ugandans. In my MSc work, I surveyed sub-county communities in Bukedea and Kumi districts in eastern Uganda, in September 2018 to determine the prevalence of major viral diseases on farmer preferred cassava cultivars and farmers’ knowledge on how to manage these diseases. In Bukedea district five sub-counties including Malera, Kabarwa, Kidongole, Koena and Kocheka were sampled while in Kumi district four sub-counties including Ongino, Kumi, Kanyum and Ngero were sampled. From these sub-counties, I got a chance to visit and interact with 150 cassava farms/farmers; 74 in Bukedea district and 76 in Kumi district with spacing of at least 1 km between farms.
From this interaction, I got to know that farmers prioritize tastiness to other attributes such as good cooking quality and tolerance to diseases. Thus, cultivars NASE 03 and NASE 14 were most preferred despite their observed susceptibility to Cassava mosaic virus disease (CMD) and Cassava brown streak virus disease (CBSD). Cultivar NAROCASS 1 which was observed to tolerate the two diseases and known to yield high was least preferred and not widely adopted as farmers claimed it was tasteless! Though this observed trend in preference and disease preference could as well be related to the time these varieties were released. Cultivar NAROCASS 1 was more recently released only in 2015 while NASE 03 was released in 1993 and NASE 14 in 2011.
Among the farmers I interacted with was Mr. Ogule Samuel from Bukedea district, Kocheka sub- county, Ariet parish, Omoniek village. Samuel had 8 acres of land of which, 6 were used for cassava cultivation. Like all other farmers in the region, Samuel mostly preferred growing NASE 03. Like all other NASE 03 fields by other farmers, Samuel’s field was severely hit by CMD and CBSD. This captured attention and engaged in a serious dialogue with Mr. Ogule in order to find out the cause of this. I found out that the source of cassava planting material used by this farmer was field sourced (FS) cassava planting materials
These FS materials were obtained from own seed, neighbors, friends, community and NGOs whose virus status is unknown and therefore this caused virus build up in these cassava stem cuttings and hence the increased CBSD and CMD in his field. Mr. Ogule confessed to lose between 60-100% of his cassava produce due to CMD and CBSD, seriously affecting his income but also leading to increased food insecurity in the region and the country. When Samuel was asked why he does not opt for the use of tissue culture (TC) cassava planting materials which are tested for viruses, he said he was willing to adopt TC materials but accessibility was a problem.
On moving further to Kumi district, Magara parish, Angopet village, I came across Ms. Alupo Christine, another cassava farmer with the same problems as the previous farmer, Mr. Ogule. Ms. Alupo had 8 acres of cassava with a number of cassava cultivars like NASE 03, NASE 14, NASE 19, TME 14 among others. This farmer used various disease management practices including intercropping, uprooting and discarding infected plants, spraying among others to reduce on the disease damage. She largely intercropped cassava with maize, sorghum, sunflower, groundnuts, cowpea among others as do other farmers in the region.
However, with the above management practices I noticed that CBSD and CMD were still prevalent in Ms. Alupo’s cassava fields as well as in other farmers’ fields carrying out the same practices.
I observed that farmers in Bukedea and Kumi were not taking into account the isolation distances suggested in FAO convention, 2012. Their cassava fields were located in close proximity to each other and this eased the spread of virus infections from one farmer field to another by whiteflies.
My encounter with cassava farming communities in Bukedea and Kumi provided me with an exciting experience but rather challenging and as a student pursuing plant breeding, I realized the need for more improved varieties not only in high yielding and disease resistance attributes but also ‘good’ taste attributes. I also realized that farmers need to be sensitized on the benefits of starting with clean/virus-free planting materials obtained from credible sources. Such material could be obtained from tissue culture labs as basic seed and multiplied in isolated places before dissemination of material to farmers.
This led me to undertake further research on establishing the effective isolation distance for management of viral diseases in tissue culture-derived material and field-sourced virus-tested material. A manuscript has been developed to this effect and is under review by the African Crop Science Journal. This work will provide seed multipliers and smallholder farmers in Uganda with effective isolation distances in order to manage CBSD and CMD during seed multiplication thus enabling farmers to start with clean material whenever establishing new fields.
Gratitude to the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) for the opportunity to be part of this project, my supervisors for the proper coordination and the cassava farmers from Bukedea and Kumi districts for their lovely enthusiasm and warm hospitality.
By Kasule Faizo who can be contacted through this email@example.com
Having grown and brought up in western part of Kenya, where cassava is one of the major foods and a week cannot go without ‘Ugali’ made from cassava and sorghum this was my first encounter with the Kenyan coast. I had higher expectations and according to the stories I have been since my childhood about the people in the Kenyan coastal region. This ranging from the low paced life style at the coast, plenty of coconuts, good recipes and beautiful girls along in the Taita region.
My experience was great and awesome from the long hours of travels from the Nairobi to Kilifi County and the warm high climate temperature. This made me understand why people in this region are used lesos-sheets of cloth as compared to our people in the uplands and the rest of the country.
I had a good encounter with farmers in Kilifi County who are growing cassava. To my surprise, cassava is really grown in large quantities in Kilifi than I had ever thought and many local delicacies like ‘Kimanga’, ‘Kibwada Kachiri’, are prepared from cassava as compared to where I come from in western Kenya where we only know of Ugali made from cassava and boiled cassava tubers. The cassava uptake in Kilifi was more high as compared to cassava uptake in Taita taveta counties this was attributed to wide spread Muslim religion in Kilifi where I came to learn that cassava is highly consumed during the Ramadhan season common practice in the among the Muslim community.
In my interaction with farmers on cassava diseases in the region, the major cassava diseases cited were; cassava bacterial blight, cassava brown streak, cassava mosaic disease and cassava cesospora leaf spot. Most farmers are aware of the symptoms of these diseases in their fields and to them these symptoms are associated with respective cassava varieties and maturity stages. This showed awareness on cassava farming for optimum production is still very low. One of the farmers we interacted with Ms.Dama Wanje was open to us and indicated that since time immemorial and through her years of growing cassava, she has known that cassava mosaic symptoms is assign of morphologic variety associated with Kibandameno. She was greatly shocked to learn that this was a serious cassava disease called cassava mosaic disease. As other farmers in Kayafungo associated defoliation due to cassava bacterial blight as assign of cassava maturity. All in all, this was a great learning experience for them and they enjoyed a friendly discussion on cassava disease explanation.
It was the most exciting moment to note that I was at the lowest altitude levels of 0-5 mm above sea level when I was in Kilifi. This was the most amazing moments when I checked on the GPS which could read as low as 0 m above sea levels something I had never imagined in life could occur. The rich loamy sand soil in Kilifi and massive forest of coconut trees and hot sunshine which could keep on shinning even during the rains were some of the interesting things I was encountering in my life.
Farmers in Taita Taveta were extremely open and welcoming. With a beautiful landscape, nice snaky roads as you ascend the mountains, Taita Taveta County is breath taking. With few coconut plantations, people here are quite active in farming and we could see plantations of maize, bananas, legumes and high forestation activities. This is an area whre I noted that people live in harmony with wildlife since they are surrounded by Tsavo National Park. In one particular incidence we had to close the survey early so as to release the field guide to go home since there was information that lion was spotted roaming aimlessly in the villages. People in the region of Mwatate, Voi, and Dembwa seemed to be used to animals like elephants buffalo something that I found strange since for me I have been seeing this animals only in pictures. To some extend most farmers sited wildlife as a great challenge to cassava farming since baboons could come and uproot their cassava cuttings hence most of them didn’t engage in deeply in cassava farming s compared to the Kilifi people.
Taveta region which bordering Tanzania was found to be the most active in arming as compared to Taveta region. This was due to availability of the irrigation scheme that has allowed a number of farmers to engage in massive production of bananas and pulses with little intercrop of some cassava stems mostly at the farm borders just for home consumption in Mboghoni ward of Taveta sub-county. Farmers in this region enjoy a free market access to Tanzania as they can sale their farm produce to Tanzania and access other produce from Tanzania in the larger Taveta market located not far away.
In our interaction with farmers in this region, we learnt that cassava has a great opportunity to change people lives by enhancing food security and nutrition, increasing peoples in come in the rural regions. There is much to be done to upscale cassava production so that Kenya can shift from the 1.2 million MT annually to another level and this could be possible by intervention from county government, awareness on business opportunities within cassava farming, support of value addition systems, advocate for improved variety, addressing market fragmentation and provision of sustainable certified healthy planting materials
Above all I take this opportunity to thank the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), the Mastercard Foundation and the University of Nairobi for giving me the opportunity to work the cassava project. The cassava project is committed to food and nutrition security, eradication of poverty in the rural, knowledge sharing and dissemination and finally to upscale cassava production in the targeted regions. I look forward to participating in such interventions and initiatives with the community of Kilifi and Taita taveta counties.
By LIVOI ANTONY who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
- IAEA News
Benin enhances production and export of soybean using Bio-fertilizers and isotopic technology (Benin)
Poor soil fertility meant low yields and insufficient income for soybean farmers in the West African nation of Benin. Thanks to the use of bio-fertilizers, improved using isotopic techniques, they have increased their production significantly, with the support of the IAEA in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “Inoculation promotes the development of nodules at the roots and thus increases the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen. It is a cost-effective way to increase yields, while improving and maintaining soil fertility,” said Nestor Ahoyo Adjovi, Scientific Director of the National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin (INRAB). As a result, soybean production has increased from 57,000 tons in 2009 to 222,000 tons last year, and its value has grown from US$ 6.6 million to US$ 109 million, according to data from a recent industry publication. During the same period, the cultivated area increased from 64,000 ha to 200,000 ha and yield rose from 890 kg/ha in 2009 to 1100 kg/ha in 2019. It is projected that annual soybean production will hit 341,000 tons by 2030 – a six-fold increase compared to 2009. Benin, which did not export soybeans when support from the IAEA and FAO started in 2009, now exports 40,000 tons at a value of US$ 19 million, annually. With support from the IAEA and the FAO, researchers at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, the National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin (INRAB) and several local and international NGOs have helped local farmers to increase the yields of soybean by increasing the nitrogen content of the soil through the natural process of nitrogen fixation from the air, making soybean production environmentally friendly. To facilitate the process of increased nitrogen fixation, researchers at the University of Abomey-Calavi produced inoculum, a biofertilizer that contains microorganisms to enhance the productivity of soil and stimulate crop growth, and also test the efficacy of these bio-fertilizers before releasing them to the Ministry of Agriculture and the NGOs for distribution to farmers. Isotopic techniques were used to establish this efficacy and the ability of the plants to uptake the biofertilizer and fix nitrogen from the air. “Traditional production practices did not allow producers to improve soybean yields above 890 kilograms per hectare, but with current improved production practices, farmers can harvest 1100 kilograms per hectare,” said Ahoyo Adjovi. The improved yield in the farmers’ field is still below the world average of 3370 kilograms per hectare, and scientists continue to work on improving the practices further.
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- University World News
Defying the notion of ivory tower in aftermath of COVID-19 (Africa)
Universities throughout the world and those in Africa in particular have been criticised for being ivory towers: aloof, unaccountable and disengaged from the interests of their communities. African universities especially have been incessantly, unfairly and harshly attacked for not lifting the continent out of its cycle of poverty and economic deprivation – as if they were the only players in the complex web of the development universe. This allegation has been on the table for decades – without any vigorous rebuttal from institutions. In fact, this narrative has been instrumental in shaping the discourse on the contribution of African universities to the development of the continent, supporting the notion that such contribution is insignificant. This article discounts the notion of the ‘Towerisation’ of African universities as the current pandemic is decisively exhibiting their role as frontline institutions in combating the killer disease. In a book chapter in Flagship Universities in Africa, Damtew Teferra observes that the unflattering term ‘ivory tower’ has often been evoked to criticise (flagship) universities as much for their purported inclinations as to what matters most in the international sphere as for their presumed lack of relevance to conditions in their own backyard. Criticism of these institutions has been harsh despite their massive contributions, as measured by the graduates – including doctors, nurses, educators, engineers, architects, accountants, lawyers, and agriculturists, among others – they have produced and their impact on the everyday lives of citizens and nations despite the huge challenges. The long-standing allegations, and charges, have been that the contribution of universities is lacking. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have sent most of their students and staff home. However, many remain involved in a host of activities aimed at combating the disease. Here is a snapshot of direct community-related activities undertaken by universities, in addition to their role in providing life-saving medical services.
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- The Conversation
A big effort to invest in education will pay off in the long term for South Africa (South Africa)
South Africa’s economy has consistently been a two-speed economy. It has one of the highest inequality rates in the world, characterised by gaps in opportunities for its citizens and by severe poverty lasting from one generation to the next. In the middle of a global pandemic, the debate is about handling COVID-19 while saving the economy, and less about promoting fast growth and future prosperity. Yet this is an unfair dilemma. Countries in good shape can more easily handle the costs of COVID-19. We see the pandemic as just one more factor intensifying the differences. In that context, the pessimistic outlook for future economic growth is worrisome. What performance can we expect from a country with South Africa’s income level in these challenging global economic conditions? South Africa’s economic growth trajectory from 1990 to 2018 shows two things: persistent income inequality between countries; and a fall in the country’s world ranking from number 80 in the 1990s to 110-120 in the 2010s. If global economic conditions hurt every country’s economy, why has South Africa performed poorly relative to its peers? History does not support the concept of catching up. Poor countries stay poor, rich countries stay rich, and middle incomes also stay put, unless radical structural changes take place. The central message from empirical economics is that inequality continues both between countries and between households within countries. Poverty traps are observed in most developing countries as one generation’s lack of opportunities constrains the next generation. Increasing investment in capital and human capital is good for economic growth. Low- and middle-income countries stay behind in such investments, not only for lack of funding, but also for lack of expectations.
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- University World News
Over 100 PhDs face review in single university (Kenya)
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has defended as “meritoriously earned” its doctoral degrees awarded over the past year – despite a recent report by the regulator highlighting inadequate supervision and other irregularities which has thrown the validity of up to 118 PhDs into doubt. The Quality Audit Panel of the Commission for University Education (CUE) conducted the inquiry over two days last month after an “inordinately high” number of PhD awards were made during the institution’s 33th graduation ceremony on 21 June – a number which had become a “matter of public interest”. The audit also included the 32nd graduation held in November 2018 and the 31st graduation in June 2018. The CUE report, a copy of which has been seen by this publication, found that many PhD supervisors had supervision loads way beyond the threshold of three PhDs and five Masters in an academic year as provided under the Universities Standards and Guidelines. One academic, for example, was found to have been the sole supervisor for 41 master’s students – across 10 disparate disciplines – and 14 PhD students. “… In the recent three graduations, three supervisors from CoHRED [College of Human Resource Development] each graduated: 41; 30; 33 PhD students, respectively. In addition, each of the three supervisors graduated 45, 106 and 72 Master’s students … The three graduations took place within a period of 12 months,” the report states. Over 73% of the doctorates awarded during the three ceremonies emanated from the College of Human Resource Development (CoHRED), while only 8% and over 4% came from the College of Health Sciences and College of Agricultural and Natural Resources respectively. It also found that in some cases there was no paperwork to prove supervision had taken place on a required three-monthly basis. “The compromised quality of supervision was evidenced by examiners’ reports and defense committees reports that highlighted fundamental issues in the theses … issues that ordinarily ought to have been identified during supervision,” the report states.
Other problems related to irregular constitution of the board of examiners and a lack of evidence of student seminar presentations. In one case, a student was found to have completed his or research, published, and indicated an intention to submit in less than 12 months following a successful defence of the proposal. The report also found that some Journals in which students had published (PhD students are required to publish two papers in refereed journals) were non-existent and there was “a likelihood of conflict of interest” where the editorial boards of a number of the journals in which students published included CoHRED faculty members.
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2. Africa News
Liberia president declares free tuition in all public universities (Liberia)
President George Manneh Weah on Thursday declared that all undergraduates public entering universities across the country will enjoy free tuition. “Today, I’m excited to announce that I have declared the University of Liberia and all other Public Universities in Liberia tuition free for all undergraduates,” Weah wrote on Facebook without giving any further details. Reports indicate that he made the declaration before students of the University of Liberia at the Capitol Hill campus located in the capital Liberia. The announcement was met with loud cheers and applause. An undergraduate is a university student who has not yet received a degree. The West African country currently has four public universities. Aside the main University of Liberia, UL, the Booker Washington Institute, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the William V.S. Tubman University, complete the list. Students had recently protested against fee hikes accusing the UL administration of unilaterally hiking fees. The students eventually had the audience of the president who promised to look into the issue. It was at the same meeting that Weah announced that he will visit the school, a promise he kept and during which he disclosed the news. Many economic watchers are now waiting to see the costing mechanism and other fine details of the program. Most African countries are grappling with implementing free education even at the basic level. Ghana started an ambitious free Senior High School system which continues to be faced with challenges. Sierra Leone is also in the process of implementing free primary education. The former world footballer of the year won the presidency early this year after leading a coalition to defeat the then ruling party’s candidate, Joseph Boakai. Reports indicate that the University of Liberia took in about half of the expected 20,000 students for the 2018/2019 semester with the main reason pegged on the fee hikes.
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