The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) organized and participated in the 2017 Global Workshop of the United States African Development Foundation (USADF). Held at the University of Maryland, the workshop was funded through a grant from USADF, a U.S. Government agency established to support African-owned enterprises, which improve lives in poor and vulnerable communities on the continent.
Over 80 participants took part in the 10-day meeting including 22 USADF Country Program Coordinators, 22 country partners who provide technical backstopping to the grantees in each country, 37 staff from the USADF Washington Office and two RUFORUM representatives.
The goal of the event was to transform the way USADF staff and country teams think about Africa and the impact that their interventions create on the continent, hence the workshop theme, “Transforming our mindsets.”
“To do things differently we need to think differently. This means think in a different way about USADF programs, partnerships, and pathways to prosperity for the communities we serve,” said USADF President, CD Glin at the workshop. He added that mindset transformation is essential for adapting to current realities and becoming innovative about resilience, measuring change and catalyzing enterprise growth.
Like RUFORUM, USADF works closely with groups in Africa who are presently underserved namely: smallholder farmers, youth, women and post-conflict communities, to facilitate economic and social development. It awards small grants for technical assistance and capacity building to grassroots organizations, cooperatives and community enterprises that strengthen local institutions and achieve lasting impact. The grants help organizations create tangible benefits such as increasing or sustaining the number of jobs in a community, improving income levels and addressing social development needs.
The workshop provided an opportunity for RUFORUM and USADF to reflect and strategise on how to leverage their strengths to achieve their shared objectives of facilitating economic and social development in underserved communities in Africa. To kick-start the process, some of the possible areas of collaboration identified include:
- Networking: Participation of USADF in the 2017 RUFORUM Annual General Meeting in Malawi and the 2018 Biennial Conference in Nairobi
- Youth mentorship: USADF grantees (agricultural cooperatives and small-scale producer groups; community-based organizations; and African intermediary organizations) to provide opportunities for RUFORUM graduate students to carry out research on value addition and developing business models
- Policy engagement: RUFORUM to work with USADF in policy engagements on the continent especially in the focus areas of the African Union. USADF areas of intervention include agriculture, youth and entrepreneurship and off grid energy, which feed into Agenda 2063 and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024.
- Entrepreneurship: Create synergies between the USADF Youth Led-Enterprises and RUFORUM’s agri-entrepreneurs and innovators program.
The workshop also initiated engagement between RUFORUM and the University of Maryland and strengthened ties with the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI). GKI was born out of consultations during the Ministerial Conference on Higher Education in Agriculture (CHEA) co-hosted by the Government of Uganda, RUFORUM and other regional and international partners in 2010.