The Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev) Programme at Egerton University held its second National Forum from 12th to 13th March 2019 in Naivasha, Kenya. With the key objective of creating and promoting linkages between agricultural education, training, labour markets and policy makers, the National Forum brought together participants from several universities, Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutions (TVETs), development partners, agricultural industry players in the private and public sectors and other stakeholders.
The meeting was graced by the Permanent Secretary in the State Department for Irrigation, Prof Fred Segor who was the Guest of Honour. Also present were the Vice Chancellor Egerton University, a representative from the Nakuru County Executive Committee on Agriculture, deans from faculties of agriculture in seven other universities in Kenya, and Senior Programme Manager at the Mastercard Foundation, Dr. Codou Diaw.
Under the theme “Sustainable Development through Innovative Agricultural Training”, the two-day meeting discussed various topical issues including university-TVET collaboration, enhancing agricultural productivity, institutional transformation, as well as improving the quality of education and employability of graduates.
An exhibition was held parallel to the meeting and attracted participation from TVETs such as the Dairy Training Institute, Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology, Baraka Agricultural College; the private sector and government institutions who exhibited their innovations and technologies.
National Forums (or RUFORUM chapters) are national mechanisms to ensure wide stakeholder participation in RUFORUM programmes. They are composed of representatives of RUFORUM member universities and other actors such as policy makers, national farmer organisations, national agricultural research and extension systems, and members of the Technical Committee for that country. Through these forums, the TAGDev Programme engages with stakeholders; particularly policy makers, at national level to influence Higher Agricultural Education policies and receive feedback from stakeholders on university and TVET programmes.
Speaking during the opening of the meeting, the Vice Chancellor of Egerton University, Prof. Rose Mwonya acknowledged the support given by the Mastercard Foundation to the university through the TAGDev Programme. She urged entrepreneurs to give back to the community adding that so far, TAGDev has reached 10,000 farmers through extension and industrial attachment.
The Guest of Honour, Prof Fred Segor, noted that such forums are important for bringing together agriculture players to achieve sustainable development. He emphasized that training, research and extension services are important in transforming lives and recognized the effort of institutions in collaborating with farmers and training them on new technologies.
On the side of the local government, Dr Amuyunzu who represented the Nakuru County Executive Committee for Agriculture, said that the theme of the National Forum was in line with the County Integrated Development Plan 2018-2022 and pledged that the county government will support TAGDev to enhance agricultural productivity in the county and the country as a whole. He pointed out that county governments are keen to collaborate with universities, however, they are interested in ready-to-use technologies that can be scaled out within a short time.
In response to calls for closer engagement between the private sector and institutions of higher learning, Mrs. Jane Kagiri, the Kenya Private Sector Association (KEPSA) representative promised to collaborate more with academic institutions by ensuring that KEPSA member organizations understand the key role internship plays in training of students.
Dr. Codou Diaw of the Mastercard Foundation, in her remarks, acknowledged that TAGDev has done a great job in bringing together innovation, research and community development and was particularly encouraged to see students reaching out to farmers in the communities. She urged the institutions to train students to be entrepreneurs and support them to scale up their innovations.
Participants at the National Forum concurred that the platform is an important medium for bringing together key stakeholders in agricultural training especially industry players and policy makers. The Forum highlighted successes in the agricultural training and innovation ecosystem in Kenya and made it clear that stakeholders in the food security continuum should carry out their roles diligently in order to achieve agricultural transformation.
Some key recommendations made were:
- Development of innovative ways to engage with industry, since key players may not be willing to spend time in topical discussions that do not directly impact their businesses;
- Design of a legal framework and restructuring of staff workloads for effective generation and commercialization of innovations by universities;
- Outlining transformation indices for agricultural universities and their graduates
- Integration of TVETs in achieving Kenya’s development agenda (the Big Four Agenda)
- Industrial attachment for students to put into practice the knowledge and skills learned
- Scale up and scale out of innovations to ensure greater impact.
The TAGDev Programme at Egerton University will engage key stakeholders to address these and other issues raised during the National Forum.