The 12th RUFORUM Principal Investigators monitoring and learning session organized as a side event at the 15th RUFORUM Annual General meeting on 2nd-3rd December, 2019 converged all research teams of projects granted under the Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev project). This was also the first time the Mastercard Foundation met all the project implementers to receive progress updates from the respective teams.
The meeting, which commenced with Prof. Daniel Sherrard, Provost of EARTH University
allowed for sharing of experiences from EARTH University with the research teams. Key amongst the issues that emerged were the need to retool professors, lecturers and staff with focus on learning from successful programs on the continent and beyond; increasing the rigor in programs to guarantee that students grasp business and entrepreneurial principles; incorporation of innovation and social or environmental components in entrepreneurial projects; exposure of students to state of the art technologies on value addition; according autonomy to students in decision making and conflict resolution; and, incorporating the business community in the entrepreneurial projects, for example serving as advisors. He specifically highlighted the need for research teams to focus on the mission of respective institutions. “Everyone – students, faculty, staff, leaders all must “sing the same tune” and share the mission, vision and institutional values”, he said.
The meeting provided opportunity for the pioneer projects at Gulu (Pig CARP+) and Egerton University (Cassava and seed potato CARP+) to share lessons for the newly granted projects. Amongst the key lessons that emerged included the multi-disciplinary nature of the CARP+ which calls for proper planning; the need for flexibility of university systems to handle multi-disciplinary research projects; high expectations from farming communities and industry on project outputs especially planting materials; and, exploiting community indigenous knowledge through participatory research.
Through participation in the Community Action Research Projects (CARP+) and RUFORUM Entrepreneurship Challenge Program (RECAP) projects, research teams reported to have been able to leverage additional funding and support from several agencies including the Potato CARP at Makerere University that secured US$ 62,000 from the Makerere University Research and Innovation fund; US$ 650, 000 to Bindura University of Science education to evaluate the use sub surface water harvesting membranes and tied contours in sandy soils; and, US$ 21,430 to the seed potato CARP at Egerton University amongst others.
The CARP and RECAP projects have engaged 21,134 direct &156,000 indirect beneficiaries; and 382 incubatees resulting into several innovations including two local feed formulae for pigs; two indigenous micro-organisms (IMO) products based on molasses and maize; ready-to-cook seasoned baobab leaf powder for sauce preparation; Complementary Food Supplement (CFSs) based on baobab; technical guide for optimizing baobab leave production at seedling stage, sorghum based instant porridge for the smallholder communities; and, honey fortified peanut butter. Several of these products emerging out of the CARP+ and RECAP projects have a strong business potential.
Under the RECAP projects, students have been able to cumulatively mobilize US$ 31,400 through prize awards including two students groups at University of Abomey Calavi that each received US$ 5,000 dollars from the Tony Elumelu Foundation; and, US$ 30,000 to Bishop Stuart University in Uganda from various agencies including AVSI and Ugandan Ministry of Science technology and Innovation to support student business incubation. The RECAPs have also provided employment opportunity to other Youths, for instance, the RECAP project at Bishop Stuart University in Uganda created seven jobs employing up to 23 Youths. In Kenya, the Agrienterprise Incubation for Improved Livelihoods and Economic Development (AGLEAD) has supported students establish fourteen enterprises in value addition, hospitality, agribusiness consultancy, and online training and marketing platform, three of which are legally registered as businesses employing up to 24 Youth.
Smallholders have a challenge of accessing clean planting materials and mainly rely on neighbors, own farm and research institutions as narrated by one of the Principal Investigators, “Farmers are willing to grow safflower as individuals or groups, however the project currently does not have enough quantities of seed that farmers require”. Streamlining technologies that enhance availability of clean planting materials is very important, and this includes tissue culture; propagation of healthy planting materials; and, supporting local seed businesses
Smallholders are deficient of knowledge on value addition of several crops, and this has potential to result into several post-harvest losses. Thus, training smallholders on value addition and economic value of seed propagation and bulking remains important.
Farmers produce small quantities for marketing. However, most farmers use more than one channel to sell their produce. This implies that there is a disorganized produce marketing system leading to high transaction costs. Formation of marketing groups would enhance marketing.