By Gregory Ndwandwa Sikumba, RUFORUM alumnus
I first developed an interest in research for development while studying for a bachelor’s degree in animal science at the University of Namibia. After graduation, I joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development in Zambia in 2008 as a Tsetse Control Biologist in Copperbelt Province. As a biologist, I realized that I needed to be skilled in research and survey design; data management and analysis; and statistical modelling in order to become a fully-fledged researcher. This strengthened my desire to enroll for postgraduate studies in Research Methods.
In 2010, after numerous unsuccessful attempts at applying for scholarships, I was awarded a RUFORUM scholarship to study a master’s degree in research methods at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Nairobi, Kenya.
I assumed I would easily transition to the course, but I was wrong. MSc Research Methods was taught in a modular system making it a very rigorous, though highly stimulating course. We were assessed every two weeks and exams involved critical thinking. Our cohort was diverse, with 32 students from nine different countries, but we were able to cope with the challenge of this diversity because many of our assessments required us to work in groups. I credit the training programme for giving us a unique opportunity to learn from one another and nurturing my soft skills in team work and conflict resolution.
Upon completion of my course work in 2012, I was awarded a graduate fellowship by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where I was attached to the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) Project for my thesis research. The EADD is a regional dairy industry development programme whose goal is to help families living on small 1-5 acre farms lift themselves out of poverty through more profitable production and marketing of milk. My thesis research therefore was on “Socio-economic analysis of dairy feed technologies promoted in the Kenyan highlands”.
Reaping the benefits of the MSc Research Methods
The skills I acquired during my master’s training helped me to excel in my work as a graduate fellow and later as a consultant on dairy productivity, which I embarked on after graduation. As a fellow, I handled with ease large-scale data assessment to measure productivity, impact, and identify gaps in the dairy value chain for 3 countries (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda). It was this experience that opened my eyes and made me appreciate the quality of analytical skills the MSc Research Methods course offers.
Complementary to my experience working in the field, the master’s degree provided me with rigorous training on identifying gaps in the agricultural value chain and developing research proposals using an integrated approach. Moreover, the curriculum was in line with my interest in sustainable intensification of agricultural technologies for small holder farmers and has greatly facilitated my career in research for development.
Working with the team of highly skilled multidisciplinary scientists at ILRI and its partner organisations, as well as JKUAT faculty staff gave me exposure and contributed to my growth as a scholar. I have gained invaluable experience in monitoring, learning and evaluation, report and scientific writing and research proposal development. I am now competent in designing surveys with modern data collection methods (using tablets and mobile phones), participatory research methods, econometric analysis, and developing models.
Finally, and most importantly, after completion of my master’s degree, I got an ILRI/DAAD Scholarship in 2014, under the AFRICA RISING Project, to pursue a PhD in animal nutrition at the University of Nairobi, which I hope to complete soon.
The MSc Research Methods offers excellent preparation for a career either in academia or in research for development. However, being new, the course needs to be marketed in order for stakeholders to appreciate it and to make its graduates marketable to employers.
For me, the course has been a launch pad to greater things and I count myself lucky to have pursued it. Through it I have grown socially, academically and made friends across Africa. I now look to the future with lots of optimism as I already see the numerous opportunities that will open up for me upon graduation from my PhD studies; all thanks to the seed that was sown by this RUFORUM Regional Programme.
The Master of Science Degree in Research Methods hosted by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is one of the six collaborative regional master’s degree programmes established by RUFORUM. Launched in 2009, the programme was established in response to the large unmet demand in the labour market for professionals skilled in agricultural research methods. To date, the programme has graduated more than 100 graduates from 15 African countries
Related stories on the MSc Research Methods and its impact:
- Skilling graduates to support multidisciplinary research – RUFORUM trains 100
- From cleaner to communication researcher: How I overcame challenges to achieve my dream (Kenya)
- The JKUAT Master’s in Research Methods: what a course by Ms. Nancy Chenge (Kenya)
- A story of Alma Tariro Muropa (Zimbabwe)
- Ntukamazina Nepomuscene completed his MSc in research methods at JKUAT, and now occupies the role of research specialist at ISABU (Burundi)