Dr. Ir. Symphorien Agbahoungba – is a Beninese and holds a PhD in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology from Makerere University, Uganda. He holds a MSc. in Natural Resources and Biodiversity Management, an Engineer Agronomist Diploma and a BSc. in Agricultural Sciences in the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin. Symphorien has been working with the Laboratory of Applied Ecology for the past ten years as a researcher and an assistant lecturer in the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi. He has been a postdoctoral fellow under the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) with support from Carnegie Cooperation of New York, at the University of Abomey-Calavi. His post doc research is on “Development of insect resistant high yielding cowpea varieties in Benin” under which two PhD and three Master students are involved and supervised by him and his mentor Prof Achille Assogbadjo.
What experience did get from the postdoc fellowship under RUFORUM?
Under his postdoctoral research, the sources of resistance to flower thrips (Megalurothrips sjsostedti Trybom) among Benin cowpea germplasm have been identified with one MSc student. The cowpea germplasm were evaluated both under screen house at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture station of Benin (IITA-Benin) and in field’s conditions in three agro-ecological zones. The most resistant and stable cowpea accessions were Awlétchi, Kpodjiguèguè, IT84E-124, Kplobè-Wéwé, Awonlignikoun and IT83S-742-2 whose resistance sources could be used to introgress resistance into other preferred elites accessions. The accessions IT83S-742-2, Atchawékoun, and Awlétchi were high yielding and the most stable accession across environments. The MSc. student has submitted his thesis to the University of Ghana and it is still waiting for the defense. One manuscript has been submitted to the African Journal of Rural Development and is under review.
In order to know the characteristics of the cowpea germplasm that Symphorien is dealing with, he determined their molecular genetic diversity in the Laboratory of species Genetic Resources Improvement of the Faculty of Sciences and Techniques of the University of Abomey-Calavi (LaREGAME) with one MSc student. Fifty Benin cowpea accessions including some breeding lines from West African breeding programs (Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, and Burkina-Faso) were used with 22 microsatellites (SSR) markers. The largest genetic diversity was found within the accessions from Nigeria whereas the lowest was found within the accessions from Burkina-Faso. The study showed the existence of a genetic diversity within Benin cowpea accessions and could serve as basis for selection in the genetic improvement of the Benin cowpea germplasm. The student completed her study and defended successfully her MSc thesis in May 2019. A second manuscript has been submitted to the African Journal of Rural Development and it is under review.
The molecular genetic diversity wouldn’t be useful if the phenotypic characteristics and the preferences criteria of the different accessions are not known. Thus, he recruited another MSc student who evaluated the preferences criteria of the cowpea accessions in the major cowpea production zones. Furthermore, the agro morphological diversity characterization of the accessions was conducted on 225 cowpea accessions in one major cowpea production area. The student completed his study and defended successfully his thesis in the National University of Agriculture (UNA), Benin in January 2020.
The deeper understanding of the resistance status to biotic stress and the yield performance of the germplasm conducted Dr Symphorien to recruit two PhD students under his post doc fellowship. One student has been working on the genetics of cowpea resistance to the legume pod borer (Maruca vitrata Fabricius) one of major field pest reported by farmers. The student determined the reaction of cowpea accessions to the legume pod borer infestation in different agro-ecological zones of Benin. But the drought spell and the heat that affected the experiments didn’t favor the identification of good sources of resistance under natural conditions. Artificial screening experiments are ongoing in the screen house at IITA-Benin. The biochemical basis of resistance to the legume pod borer and drought and heat tolerance are ongoing. Dr Symphorien and the student have sequenced 280 cowpea accessions using New Generation Sequencing techniques for the genome wide association study and the identification and mapping of the quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with legume pod borer resistance, drought and heat in cowpea. They have published one review paper in the Journal of Crop Improvement.
The second constraint reported by the cowpea producers and consumers was the storage pest, bruchid (Callosobruchus maculatus Fabricius). Therefore, the second PhD student is evaluating the genetic basis of cowpea resistance to the bruchid. They have published another review paper on the resistance of cowpea to bruchid in the Journal of plant breeding and crop science. The sources of resistance to bruchid among Benin cowpea germplasm, have been identified among 174 cowpea accessions from 2018 to 2019. Fourteen accessions were found to be resistant to bruchid including: IT06K-123-1, Alegi*Secow3b, IT86D-1038, WC35B, IT86D-1033, Toumkalam, Kplobe rouge, WC66*NE50, IT06K-270, IT84S-2246-4, WC36, TVU1471, TVU-1367-7 and WC66*5T. The second manuscript has been accepted for publication in the African Crop Science Journal and is under press. Four resistant and four susceptible accessions with some desirable traits and have crossed in full diallel mating design. The F2 and parents are currently under evaluation in the laboratory for the mode of inheritance. The Single Nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers that will be identified in the genotyping done above will be used for the marker traits association analysis. Dr Symphorien and the PhD student are planning to evaluate the biochemical components responsible for the resistance identified in the accessions but are lacking resources.
How has this post doc fellowship been important for his career and Country Benin
This post doc fellowship has improved Dr Symphorien ability to mobilize resources for research. Just after the completion of his PhD at Makerere University in 2017, he didn’t have any resources to set a research programme. But, this fellowship has helped him to know how to mobilize resources for research. In fact, the research outputs obtained and the number of students under his supervision in this post doc fellowship created a visibility on the breeding activities ongoing in the Laboratory of Applied Ecology and helped him to get more links with other breeders in Africa and in the world. In addition, through this fellowship, his breeding skills have been improved and becomes one of the active plant breeders of the University of Abomey-Calavi. He has learnt how to manage a research team and research funds. This has been enhanced by the personal skills development training co-organized by Ruforum and Award in 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya and the project management skills enhancement training organized by Ruforum in 2019 in Ghana. Since 2018, Dr Symphorien is more involved in teaching genetic courses in the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences under his Mentor Professor Achille Assogbadjo. Through this, Professor Achille became more confident about his capability to mentor students and gave him many other students to supervise. The permanent collaboration with his mentor and all the university staff members is an advantage that will facilitate his recruitment in the University.
Through the research conducted on cowpea in the LEA, the National Institute of Agricultural Research has requested him to evaluate the remaining cowpea germplasm in order to introduce the high yielding, most resistant/tolerant to the major biotic and abiotic stress in the national catalogue of crop varieties of Benin.
Since 2005, there was no breeding program on cowpea. The gene bank constructed by the Government in the National Institute of Agricultural Research at Niaouli didn’t have a single alive seeds. Through this post doc research, he has been able to gather 348 cowpea accessions from the different gene banks and the seeds are conserved in the store at LEA. The construction of a gene bank in his laboratory at the University of Abomey-Calavi is future goal to better conserve the seeds and resources will be mobilized for it.
The relationship developed with the cowpea breeders in Western Africa through this fellowship has helped him to introduce the Republic of Benin in the Western African Cowpea Consortium (WACC) since 2018. Through him, Benin has organized in October 2019, the annual meeting of WACC at the University of Abomey-Calavi.
However, Dr Symphorien has some challenges that need to be sorted out. His post doc fellowship will end soon in March 2020. However most of his PhD students will still be conducting their research and will need more resources to complete their study. This is a big challenge since applying for research scholarship does not guarantee obtaining the funds. Therefore, if Ruforum could extend this fellowship it will help the PhD students to complete their research and to train more MSc students.
I am a beneficiary of the Carnegie postdoctoral fellowship awarded to support my research focusing on grain legumes and dryland cereals. Training of young scientists towards masters and doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees was embedded within the fellowship. Collaborative networking to exploit research potential by leveraging on available resources across institutions was adopted, whereby a multi-institutional framework to cater for regional and or international collaboration in training and research was embraced. A total of 6 students were brought on board under the fellowship, who are envisaged to be future researchers with passion of driving Agricultural interventions for food and nutritional security forward. Additional international networking was sought, that created a strong platform for student knowledge exchange and support in their research. Through the fellowship, technologies geared on enhancing legume and sorghum production in the region were generated. The postgraduate students have been exposed to modern research methodologies and their applications so as to be future champions in modernization of agricultural research operations for impact. My skills as a leader in impact oriented research have been enhanced, thus a major milestone in support of my career advancement.
Rationale of the fellowship
I was compelled to go for the fellowship given its niche in embracing interdisciplinary in relation to my research interests, need for strategic partnerships for delivery and professional development support while generating new crop of young scientists. The rationale of the fellowship was to support and strengthen capacity for impact-oriented research via training while promoting collaborative networking to exploit research potential. This is in response to the changing development paradigms that call for ability and technical competency in quality research to cope with emerging challenges. It was further envisaged as a platform for providing research and mentoring support to postgraduate students pursuing degrees in agricultural sciences to generate young scientists who are able to address emerging societal challenges.
Partnership and collaboration act as an avenue for technology development and delivery, and the fellowship has contributed to strengthening of regional and international collaboration among universities and international research centers. The fellowship has contributed to the delivery of the RUFORUM flagship programme, CREATE (Creating Research and Teaching Excellence) under its Vision 2030 strategy, training students from different African countries, while increasing research output through publications; and increased output following leveraged resources from the different institutions working together. Thus the fellowship has proved the saying that, “the issues we face are so big and the targets are so challenging that we cannot do it alone”
Approach for delivery
In the agricultural sector at large, there are currently glaring weaknesses in generation of context specific technologies and their consolidation towards enhancing food security. This can be achieved by having well-grounded human resource as specialists to offer refined specific solutions. The fellowship focused on strengthening the research competence of the fellow and a team of graduate students by conducting impact oriented research. This provided opportunity to train graduate students while enhancing technology development to generate products that meet market demands. Working together with the mentor and academic supervisors for the graduate students, a menu of research topics to be pursued by the graduate students were identified.
The research areas were aligned to the International Crops Research institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) dryland legumes and sorghum/millet improvement program, to enable co-funding technical expertise to support the research. The key research activities aimed at building a solid base for dryland legumes and cereals breeding to address challenges such as biotic stresses, malnutrition and climate variability. Students were recruited under the Intra African Mobility programme that funds tuition, so that resources can be leveraged from the fellowship to support their research. A total of 6 students were beneficiaries of the fellowship, including 4 Msc and 2 PhD, who are envisaged to be future researchers with passion of driving Agricultural interventions for food and nutritional security to the next level. A multi-institutional interaction approach and a flexible, sustainable framework to cater for regional and or international collaboration in training and research was put in place. This included Makerere University, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics ICRISAT, National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) and the University of Georgia (UGA). Through the collaboration, the students have been exposed to international networks including interaction with the peanut innovation laboratory initiative leaders. Through the initiative, agricultural technologies geared on enhancing legume and sorghum production in the region are being generated.
Enhanced capacity of post-graduate students as crop of new scientists
The postgraduate students have been capacitated to use the available resources to generate cutting edge scientific knowledge through field research. Leveraging resources from the three institutions, the students have been exposed to the use of modern Breeding Management Systems (BMS) in designing and managing nurseries, analysing data and automated operations. The students are able to set up field experiments, collect and analyse data. Through the mentorship, the students have been groomed to become independent confident scientists through exposure to scientific forums where they have done presentations on their work. This has further contributed to my career development since It has a mile stone having mentored such a number of young scientists.
My enhanced Mentoring Capacity and research output as the fellow
The mentorship support to me has sharpened my research and leadership skills through short coaching sessions. As a result, I have been able to support graduate students to become leaders in research from concept development, field experimentation, data collection and analysis and sharing of research output. The fellowship has further led to enhancement of my networking and collaborative ability in execution of agricultural research initiatives for impact. In addition, my writing skills have been enhanced and I have been able to draft five manuscripts for publication alongside presentations at conference.
My research output has more than doubled and I have been able to develop international partnerships that would act as a vehicle for success in the future. The fellowship has led to emergence of opportunities to work with researchers in the region. This consolidates my career path towards becoming a leader in impact oriented research.
My enhanced leadership skills as a research fellow
Following participation in leadership and management; and project managed training courses, I have been equipped with skills to lead teams for quality delivery. In addition, I have been positioned as a leader to spearhead execution of donor projects for quality delivery and impact. Given the need to mobilize resources for research, I have been equipped with skills for donor engagement and development of concept notes for funding. This way, I am well positioned to offer leadership in science including fundraising to support quality research.
Dr. James Mwololo from Kenya is a beneficiary of the Carnegie postdoctoral fellowship awarded to support my research focusing on grain legumes and dryland cereals. The fellowship has contributed to the delivery of the RUFORUM flagship programme, CREATE (Creating Research and Teaching Excellence) under its Vision 2030 strategy.
In this storyline, I am glad to share with you my experience and lessons learnt during the post-doctoral fellowship that started since 2018. The two-years journey has been an interesting one for me as the upcoming young scholar in Sub-Saharan region. Before I tell you a full story about the post-doc fellowship, let me first tell you about myself in details such that you get to know who you are interacting with as you read this story. First of all, I am Dr. Karubanga Gabriel, Lecturer at the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, School of Agricultural Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University. I hold a PhD in Agricultural and Rural Innovation of Makerere University, Uganda. I have been a Post-Doctoral Fellow with support Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) through Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) at Makerere University from 1st March 2018 to 28th February 2020. I have research interests include agricultural innovation systems, agricultural extension and education, communication for development including ICT-based approaches to stimulate agricultural innovation. In addition, I have special interest in knowledge management and communication, community outreach, action research, planning, monitoring and evaluation of agricultural and rural development programs. To contribute to my professional growth, I have published diverse research journal articles in different fields of agriculture, extension, education, outreach, plant health and ICT for rural development.
My story of a post-doc journey!!
After getting to know the person you want to read about, I take this opportunity to share with you my experience in details and I appreciate the time you will take reading this storyline. I hope now you are ready to ready my story. Please, note that, what I present here are my own experiences derived from the implementation of the fellowship and some of the examples I will provide will be touching. Basically, this storyline will be built around the following key questions i.e. How it started? When did it start? What was the focus? Why did I pick interest? How I was supported? How did I design the post-doc? How I was mentored? What were the achievements and lessons learnt? What were the challenges encountered and how were they mitigated? Is there any way forward for future post-docs and who to acknowledge? The storyline clearly is well-articulated below.
How and when it started? My post-doc fellowship started when I had just completed the PhD studies in January 2018. I graduated on 16th January 2018 and immediately I saw an advert on RUFORUM website – https://www.ruforum.org calling for post-doc applications (call ID: RU/2018/Post Doc RTP/01). This was an opportunity for me to take up. Immediately I consulted my mentor – Prof. Jacob Godfrey Agea where he advised me to apply. I developed a proposal and prepared all the required documents and submitted to RUFORUM before the deadline. Upon review of the applications I happened to be among those 19 scholars who were granted a post-doc fellowship (grant award number – RU/2018/Post Doc RTP/17). I was excited and happy to receive such good news. After attaining the PhD, I asked myself what next? And good news from RUFORUM provided the answer. This was an opportunity for me to grow personally and professionally as an upcoming early career scholar. The fellowship started on 1st March 2018 and it is expected to end on 28th February 2020. Two years have really moved very fast and I cannot imagine that the fellowship is soon closing!! Completing the PhD is one thing and getting start up grants to help you strengthening your research and capacity skills is another thing. It is like becoming a ‘Priest’ when there are no churches for you to practice what you are meant to do as a servant of God – this example is applicable to other religions. That is why I say thank you, CCNY and RUFORUM for impacting on my personal and professional growth. You really acted as a ‘shock absorber’ and provided soft landing for me after attaining my PhD.
Of course, like any other person who wants to become an expert in a particular research field, I anchored or build my post-doc fellowship on the PhD work but this time focusing on potential of participatory approaches, and Information and Communication Technologies for Rural Development in Uganda – dealing with issues of agricultural and environmental education. I can confidently say I have gained a lot of experience and expertise through this post-doc fellowship as I will present them in the sub-sequent sections.
Why did I pick interest? The most interesting thing that triggered and motivated me to
apply and undertake this post-doc fellowship was to gain more knowledge and skills in supervising and coaching undergraduate and postgraduate students; of course, under the mentorship of a senior university scholar. I can now confidently supervised and guide students given the coaching I have acquired from the university mentor – Prof. Jacob Godfrey Agea. I am kind of person who has the ambitions which sometimes I see as being too high for me but because of this fellowship, a certain milestone has been attained which finally will lead me to the higher desired goal. I know as reader of this paper you must be wondering what are these higher ambitions I am talking about. I feel I should be a Professor within a period of six years as stipulated in the universities policies. I am happy to report that this fellowship will lead me to Senior Lecturer as I now have all what it requires to be one. The way the post-doc was designed, it required individuals to conduct it in their home institutions and country which provided me an opportunity to keep close to my family and social network as well as directly contributing to my Mother Country – Uganda. Regarding the fellowship was supported, I was provided a total budget of united states dollars equivalent to sixty thousand (USD60,000) to cater for research and stipend. Happily, the stipend (USD1200 per month) I was provided was another motivation factor to undertake the fellowship which allowed me as a fellow to pay house rent, buy home items, feeding, pay tuition fees for my siblings and needy children in my community, arrange for career mentorship in schools in my community and pay medical bills. The students who were recruited on post-doc were partially supported to conducted research work and they were happy and excited about the grant which they never anticipated but received it as an opportunity to enable them progress well in their graduate studies. In a nutshell, the post-doc grant was sufficient for the home-based post-doc fellowships.
How did I design the post-doc? Failure to plan means planning to fail. The way the post-
doc was designed helped me much to ensure that the study is conducted following the systematic procedures. What was interesting most is the recruitment of the students on the fellowship which provided a chain of supervision where everyone was a supervisor of at least a junior. I was supervised my mentor to supervise PhD and Masters students. What made the supervision interesting is when PhD students supervised masters and the latter supervised undergraduate students. This kind of design capacitated even the mentees with good supervision skills and promoting peer learning within a team. Supervising and coaching five graduate students by me and the mentor would not be an easy task which required recruiting other supervisors – at least one per student. Interestingly, this brought together academic faculty with different expertise to strengthen the supervisory team. Thumbs up to the team!!!
What is the actual experience of the fellowship? Participation in this post-doc as a fellow has seriously impacted on me in terms of strengthening my research, supervision and coaching skills. Personally, through the mentorship of Prof. Jacob Godfrey Agea, I have been mentored to supervise and coach students with diverse academic background and training. Some students had limited capacity in research concepts which caused academic supervisors to provide hand-on capacity building to make the students understand research concepts better. For example, Dr. Florence Kyazze Birungi tried to make one of the PhD students – Mr. Kifuko Richard to understand some of the concepts and how they related to influence each other. Some form of guidance is critical for effective mentorship. Another candidate had limited computer skills and quite often when we met for discussions, the student presented work written in the exercise book which to some extent complicated the mentorship process. What is gained and learnt out of this experience is to be patient and welcome the students the way they are and struggle to cause the technical change. It is quite ashaming when you supervise the student and does not progress given the financial support provided. I enjoyed working with Mr. Kalule Stephen Wamala (PhD) shown in plate 1, Mr. Ekulu Emmanuel (MSc – plate 2) and Mr. Asasira Gilbert (MSc – plate 3). These three students were amazing given their faster steady progress. Happily, Emmanuel and Stephen have already submitted their dissertations for examination waiting for the outcome. Gilbert’s has written intent to submit and the dissertation is final check. The other two candidates – Ms. Acom Janet (MSc – plate 4) and Mr. Kifuko Richard (PhD – plate 5) are still writing their dissertation. However, this worries me much because they will not be able to submit their dissertations within the fellowship period about to end on 28th February 2020. Supervision and mentorship are like soccer where team spirit is very crucial. I am proud to tell the readers of this storyline that I have enjoyed working with the mentor and the mentees during the post-doc fellowship. We have kept ourselves as brothers and sister given the way we have interacted and treated each other. I was so amazed and happy seeing the student I supervised and mentored bring me groundnuts as my Christmas package. This showed me that I had impacted on the academic life of this student and I am proud of you Janet and your family for thinking about me as your academic supervisor. My mentor and mentees, have always checked on me to see whether everything is going on well through phone calls, mails and WhatsApp, a sign that mentorship goes beyond being academic. Conversely, publishing is a tiring process and requires commitment and time to pursue it.
The guidance of a mentor to publish has impacted on me the necessary skills of writing and publishing and because of this during the period of two years I have published eight journal papers; I can proudly say this is a great achievement as an upcoming young scholar. However, most of the research funds were provided to students and this compromised me being a first author of the students work which is a key requirement for me to get promoted. With a key question of sustaining supervision and mentorship in mind even after the end of the post-doc fellowship, I have also been grossly engaged in responding to calls for proposals of course with guidance of my mentor. A good mentor should always link mentees to available opportunities and help them achieve them – Prof. Jacob Godfrey Agea has done all the necessary linkage and mentorship into this. I am proud of you my academic mentor and father. Mentors of your caliber as rare and difficult to find. He has always encouraged me to look ahead and progress as an early career academic. To assure you, I take your words cautiously and this explains why I am progressing. Thank you and may the almighty God bless you abundantly. This follows the
advice I got from the Executive Secretary, RUFORUM – Prof. Adipala Ekwamu where during our conversation he said ‘Gabriel you are still a young scholar and if you want to live relevant stay around students and supervise and mentor them to follow your steps’. Prof. Adipala, I still remember this statement and each time I mentor students I find myself very relevant and contributing to the world of professionals. To add on, you, CCNY and RUFORUM team have always blended me well with diverse actors in academic, leadership and other relevant professionals during grants writing meetings, leadership training, conferences and workshop which has widened my social network even beyond Uganda. For example, during the post-doc fellowship I have been able to attend international conferences and workshop in Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and USA which has led to establishment of local and international new networks. I cannot take this for granted but appreciate your role contributing to this healthy network. For instance, it was my first and an interesting experience participating in the grant proposal writing responding to the European Union call entitled ‘Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme’ – Call for proposals EACEA/03/2019. The call targeted African universities where it was a key requirement to form consortia for effective implementation of the projects. A consortium consisted of the following higher institutions of learning; Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) of Botswana as a lead applicant, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenya, Nelson Mandela Africa Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Tanzania, Makerere University (MAK), Uganda, University of Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), Mozambique, University of Lomé (UL), Togo. It was my pleasure and happiness working with people from these institutions of higher learning. Thank you RUFORUM for inviting me to participate and look forward for more future invitations.
Struggles to attain success sometimes is hampered by some challenges. Vast challenges were encountered during the post-doc fellowship more especially when my academic mentor got sick and was referred to India for medication. To some extent this His sickness to a greater extent affected the progress of the mentees as well affecting effective coordination and communication between the mentor and the fellow. I thank God that my mentor is getting well and pray for complete healing. During the implementation process of the post-doc fellowship, it was learnt that for supervision and mentorship to be effective, resources should be adequate to procure equipment such as computers for students to help in typing, analyzing and preparing their reports in a timely manner rather than taking their research work to secretarial bureaus, which violets the principle of confidentiality in social research. This as well delayed the students to have their deliverables in a timely manner as the bureaus were busy with assignments from other students. Annoyingly, the quality of work produced by the bureaus was generally poor with many spelling errors. Some students are too busy with work at their places of duty especially those teaching in universities and secondary schools. This affected their steady progress with both fieldwork and writing their dissertations.
What is the way forward for future post-doc fellowships? The way forward I provide here is my own feeling about how the future post-doc fellowships should entail and look like. In order to provide a conducive environment for the mentees, it is necessary that they are provides with the necessary equipment such as computers since they enroll for graduate studies with basic computer skills and this will allow for timely delivery of outputs. Post-doc fellows should also be provided with research funds to allow them to actively engage in field work to meet promotional requirements. Finally, I look forward for future engagements in similar initiatives.
Special thank you – I would like to pay special gratitude God for keeping me healthy throughout this post-doc fellowship. Thank you to CCNY and RUFORUM for the financial support rendered to me for the success of this post-doc fellowship. Special thank you to Prof. Adipala Ekwamu for the constant technical support rendered to me. Without this financial support, this would have not been possible. Still, let me thank my beloved, focused and committed mentor – Prof. Jacob Godfrey Agea for his warm heart he rendered to me while pursuing this post-doc fellowship. Also, gratitude to Makerere university for hosting this fellowship and the entire faculty for the technical support. My mentees you have made my standards high and I cannot regret being your mentor. Farmers and those I interacted with during field work, I appreciate your valued experience and expertise.
Dr. Gabriel Karubanga is Post-Doctoral Fellow at Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, College of Agricultural and, Environmental Sciences, Makerere University, P.O. Box. 7062, Kampala, Uganda: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kidega Kenneth was one of the 1,513 students who graduated at Gulu University on 11th January 2020. He satisfied the requirement for the award of the degree of Masters of Science of Food Security and Community nutrition of Gulu University. As part of the support to the Mastercard Scholars at Masters level, RUFORUM gives a four months Field Attachment Programme Award (FAPA) to selected MSc students upon completion of their courses. This fund is to help them manage a short-term project related to their research work.
Kidega’s field attachment programme focused on enhancing community knowledge and uptake of Indigenous Micro-organisms (IMO) technology , he worked with Technical Vocational Education and Training Institutions (TVET) students of Kitgum Agriculture and Vocational Institute, community knowledge workers and smallholder farmers in Kitgum district in northern Uganda.
“Sharing the research findings brought more joy, love and hope for agriculture to the participants especially the TVET students because they practically participated in setting up the experimental unit, trapping the IMO, making the IMO solution and laying the deep litter floor IMO bed.
All these made conformed to them the power of the University in research and the ability of discovering new knowledge to solve problem being faced in the community that can help enhance livelihoods. The TVET students thanked Gulu University for availing them the opportunity to understand how research works and, they requested Mr Kidega Kenneth to send their plea to the University to not only send more trainers but also award them with a certificate of participation in IMO technology for pig production.
On the other hand, smallholder farmers in communities where the research findings were disseminated and IMO technology for pig production trainings were conducted appreciated the new knowledge brought to them. The research findings motivated the existing pig farmers to continue with pig keeping and, more non-pig farmers were willing to venture into piggery enterprise after the dissemination and training. Smallholder farmers showed much interest in the technology by turning up in big numbers especially women, being attentive and asking relevant questions concerning the technology. They also requested for more trainings on pig management if they went ahead to implement. To them, the technology appeared to be a promising way of enhancing livelihoods. Above all, both the TVET, community knowledge workers and farmers were very grateful to RUFORUM and Gulu University for the great Initiative taken to facilitate the student to disseminate his research findings to communities in other districts (Kitgum) beyond the scope of his study. It enables farmers’ knowledge to be enhance uniformly across the region. The TVET management further requested Gulu University to continuously send them more Agricultural graduate students for their research results dissemination in order to better enhance the livelihood of smallholder farmers situated far from the University.
Robine Okello is a recent graduated with a Masters Degree in Agri-Enterprises Development at the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, Gulu University, Uganda. whose study was fully sponsored by the RUFORUM under the Nurturing Grant Project (NGP) with support from the Mastercard Foundation. He is a Ugandan and shares his Journey through the program.
At the end of my second year, I applied to the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps 2019 to volunteer for a period of one year because of the excellent development opportunities it provides to the young people to contribute to the continent’s development. Fortunately, have been selected from over 7000 applicants to join a team of Pan-African family of young African professionals serving as AU Youth Volunteers towards an ‘integrated, prosperous and peaceful African driven by its citizens’-the Africa we want!. The opportunity to contribute to improving the welfare of the marginalized groups in the African continent especially youth and women groups participating in business and entrepreneurship including smallholder farmers through developing their human capabilities motivated me to apply.
The Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, Gulu University has a unique community attachment model that allows both the graduate and undergraduate students to practically exercise their professional knowledge back to the community. In 2018, this model was applied for the first time in the refugee’s settings in Northern Uganda, where it proved useful. It was from this training that I had the opportunity to exercise my professional skills and knowledge in Agri-entrepreneurship to train 20 groups to develop workable business plans from concept development to actualization of their businesses. Under the project “promoting farm-based micro-enterprises in the refugees’ settlements”, the project was funded by the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO).
To me, participating in facilitating the establishment of micro-farm based enterprises at the refugees’ settlements in Adjumani and Arua in West Nile, Uganda was a unique experience and opportunity that Gulu University has granted to me. The ability and flexibility to work in a post-war setting in the refugees and host communities was a lifetime experience! Amongst the top competitive skills that made me through was the training and communication skills gained through holding leadership and volunteering positions. Through this, I have been able to design community-driven project interventions that enhanced business and youth entrepreneurship among the University students and community through the establishment of the enterprise called “JuFresh Enterprises” under Student’s Enterprise Scheme (SES) at Faculty of Agriculture & Environment. The enterprise promotes fruits growing and reducing post-harvest losses among fruits producers’ in the region by buying from them. This formed the basis upon which I was selected for the 10th cohort African Union Youth Volunteer corps 2019.
Additionally, involvement in different programs at the Faculty where I made a significant contribution to the University through volunteer graduate teaching assistantship in the Department of Rural Development and Agribusiness where I taught project planning and management, business planning and evaluation, and food supply chain management also gave credence to be selected.
Today, am grateful for the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps (AUYVC) program for deployment to work with an international humanitarian organization Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Djibouti. Tasked with the roles and responsibilities of managing livelihoods and cash transfer projects, including farming activities (provision of seeds, tools, agricultural training and other initiatives to increase food production and decrease food insecurity amongst vulnerable households in the camps). Others managing unrestricted cash transfers for micro-businesses to strengthen people’s capacities and income-generating opportunities amongst refugees and host communities in the camps of Ali-Addeh and Holl-Holl in Southern Djibouti hosting primarily Somali and Ethiopian refugees, and Markazi camp hosting Yemeni refugees in the north.
I am grateful to Gulu University, RUFORUM and the Nurturing grant project for giving me the chance to pursue my Master’s Degree at Gulu University.
About Robine Okello
He is a beneficiary of the MCF@RUFORUM Scholarship and was among the first cohort who graduated with a Master’s degree in Agri-enterprises Development at the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, Gulu University.
Contacts: email@example.com Tel: +256-781125239
Jean Damascene Tuyizere from Rwandan a recent Gulu University graduate (2020) with a Master of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition and one of the MasterCard foundation Scholarship recipient through RUFORUM. Jean Shares his journey as a student at Gulu University and gives recommendations for improvement.
My stay at Gulu University has been a transformative phase of my life. In fact an unusual progress which I referred to as a ‘shift’ in this story. The fact that I was coming from a country which had undergone a transition in official language (from French to English), my English was not stable yet, in fact it was basic. Upon reaching, the University arranged a three months English language training for students coming from French speaking countries. This enabled me and my colleagues to learn English faster and communicate in effectively. This training was reinforced by other programs such as graduate seminar, workshops whose mode of delivery comprised writing a lot of term papers, reviewing articles, attending conferences, community attachment, graduate teaching assistance among others that transformed me into a smart writer.
Secondly the training approach at Gulu University allows students acquire experience while still at the University. This mode of training exposes learners to the real life experiences. The moto of Gulu university ‘‘for community transformation’’ is practiced through its own philosophy ‘‘Student centered outreach model’’ which create a unique interface between the University, students, and the community at large. This provide room for sharing experiences between partners and discuss possible homegrown solutions to address emerging challenges facing the community. Participating in this program made me understand deeper the theoretical knowledge learnt in the class and took me far beyond the class limits.
This program’s curriculum is not merely academic, it expands its contents to the whole personal development from in person communication, mass communication to boasting one’s personality as whole. I will never forget the emphasis of Dr. Egeru Anthony (TAGDev project manager) who always reminded us (scholars) to manage our expenses, investing our little income into small businesses, being more conscious about our health and taking care of the needy. To me this was one of the greatest lessons I have learnt and indeed has greatly impacted my actions and behaviour as whole.
During my stay at the University, I was able to accumulate six other certificates of different soft skills awarded by regional and International organizations from attending conferences, training and workshops. I also received recognition from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as one of the East African young farmers who invited me to attend its East African Regional Workshop on Youth-lead Sustainable Agriculture for Urban Food Systems.
Today, I am using the skills I have acquired from Gulu University and all the side programs I attended to help colleagues across the globe. Currently, I am heavily assisting as a research supervisor, three master students from the The BINGEN University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Bursa Uludağ University (Turkey) and Gulu University, Uganda.
Changing Africa trans-generational poverty into trans-generational wealth is what RUFORUM is missioned to do, in contributing to that, I have opened and I am managing a Facebook page ‘Opportunity Pool for African Youth (OPAY)’’ which seek to helping youth especially those living in remote areas of Africa tape into regional and global opportunities such as scholarships, fellowships and paid internships. At OPAY we also provide technical guidance on how to write a strong application.
Above all, I am a social entrepreneur running a project called ‘NGIRANKUGIRE’ which consists of giving small ruminants (sheep) to resources constrained households in Gataraga sector. The animals are given to households on a contract basis which gives both parties chance to alternate on sharing the offspring.
Last but not least, RUFORUM gives a four months field attachment to MSc students upon completion of their courses to manage a short-term project related to their research work. I am equally glad that I am one of the beneficiaries of this program and have receive funds from RUFORUM to Implement a project on Enhancing Utilization of Wild Fruits and Vegetables for Improved Iron Intake in Northern Uganda. This program offers a huge managerial experience and gives connections to students since they are expected to work with partner organizations during the implementation of the project activities and this expose the students to the job market place.
I am very glad to be an alumnus of Gulu University and I am so much grateful to the Mastercard Foundation for sponsoring my studies at Gulu University, Uganda. I normally tell my friends that I learnt to read and write from Gulu University. But this is not a joke, it is the truth. I am forever indebted to RUFORUM for believing in me and many other needy students and giving us an education.
Read more about Gulu University here
About Jean Damascene Tuyizere
He is a beneficiary of the MCF@RUFORUM Scholarship and was among the first cohort pursuing Masters’ degree in Food Security and Community Nutrition at the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, Gulu University
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.
From 29th November to 6th December, 2019 the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture and five Ghanaian RUFORUM Member universities (University of Cape Coast, University of Ghana-Legon, University of Development Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and University of Education-Winneba organized the 15th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting. The meeting that attracted 1003 participants in 35 side events deliberated on the theme:
Delivering on Africa’s Universities Agenda for Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI): What will it take
Successfully organizing the meeting was the responsibility of the RUFORUM Secretariat and the Local Organizing Committee at the University of Cape Coast. Hence, a wrap meeting was undertaken to receive and review reports on arrangements by the University of Cape Coast and RUFORUM Secretariat, agree on the actions for different teams and individuals, and make recommendations to RUFORUM and the University of Cape Coast. The organization of the AGM involved several components including air travel; local transportation; registration of participants; secretarial and information desk services; scheduling side events; holding scientific/technical sessions; posters and exhibition displays; fundraising/budgeting and payments; communication and visibility; accommodation; documentation; handling protocol issues; and, banqueting and Meals.
At the beginning of the wrap up meeting, Prof. Adipala Ekwamu, RUFORUM Executive Secretary informed Secretariat and University of Cape Coast Staff that the meeting was aimed at reflecting on the entire process towards the hosting of the AGM. Respective committees highlighted several key lessons and amongst these included the banqueting and Meals committee which provided key lessons for future convenings including timely confirmation of the numbers of participants to enhance the development of a clear plan for meals, as well as the need for several catering services than a single caterer.
Transport of delegates to and from the airport was challenging. This was attributed to different travel arrangements by the dignitaries, alterations in travel confirmation by dignitaries, programmatic adjustments, and changes in meeting venues. This situation calls for proper synchrony between accommodation and transport teams through automation; setting up a contingency bus at the airport to reduce the waiting time of delegates; liaising with respective Embassies & Ministry of foreign affairs to properly plan for Minister’s travel, clear identification of Very Important Persons (VIPs) especially Ministers, and setting up pull-ups and labels to direct delegates to the meeting venues.
While at the AGM, Delegates were accommodated in various hotels including Ridge Royal, Elmina Beach Resort, Coconut Groove Beach Resort, Pempamsie Hotel, Capital Hill Hotel, Institute of Education Chalets, Oguaa, Sasakawa, and Samrit Hotel that are located either within or outside the University of Cape Coast. As part of effectively coordinating accommodation arrangements, the meeting recommended the need for mutual trust between RUFORUM Organizing Committee and the Local Organizing Committee in undertaking tasks related to accommodation; embracing peer-to-peer communication; and, booking accommodation in institutional names.
Exhibitions and poster presentations at the AGM offered a great opportunity for Ghanaian Universities to show-case cutting-edge innovations, products, entrepreneurship skills and services, and scientific findings. Key lessons learned included the need for timely registration of exhibitors and branding exhibition booths, innovatively attracting delegates to the exhibition booths, and, the need for organizing Member Universities to exploit the exhibitions as an opportunity for visibility.
Information and communication technology (ICT) was vital in providing updated information to participants on various AGM aspects. Key lessons emerging included the need for specific infrastructure for different sessions, timely communication of any programmatic adjustments to ensure coordinated inter-session movements, ensuring a fast and reliable internet connection to enhance live streaming of the events, ensuring adequate participation by national media agencies, and exploiting e-technology in registration.
RUFORUM held its Business Meeting as one-day event at the sidelines of the 15th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting. The Business Meeting was held Friday, 6th December, 2019 at New Examinations Center, University of Cape Coast, Ghana under the Chairmanship of the Board Chair, Prof. George Kanyama-Phiri, the Vice Chancellor of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In his remarks, He informed members that a formerly temporary Vacant place of the Deputy Board
chair was occupied by electing Prof. Theresa Nkuo-Akenji, Vice Chancellor, University in Bamenda, Cameroon during the RUFORUM Board Meeting held 5th December, 2019 at Elizabeth Adabor Conference Hall, University of Cape Coast, Ghana. She replaces Prof. Ophelia Inez Weeks, the former Vice Chancellor University of Liberia. Prof. Theresa Nkuo-Akenji will work closely with the Board Chair in providing strategic guidance to the Board and the Network at Large.
During the meeting, stakeholders received updates from RUFORUM Secretariat and this included presentations of the 2018/2019 Annual Report and 2019/2020 work plan by Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega-Deputy Executive Secretary-Planning, Resource Mobilization & Management; and the 2018/2019 Financial Report and 2019/2020 Budget Proposal by Ms. Judith Nakyobe, Finance & Administration Manager, RUFORUM. Members applauded the Secretariat for the good work done and approved
the annual and financial report for 2018/2019 and work plan and budget proposal for 2019/2020 estimated at US$ 11,363,910. Prior to her closing remarks, the Finance and Administration Manager requested Ghanaian universities to quantify their contribution to the Annual General Meeting for presentation during the business meeting in Morocco. Further requested Member universities to comply with the Membership subscriptions since only 19% of the universities have complied.
The Business meeting formally approved the admission of 21 new Member Universities, thus increasing RUFORUM footprint from 105 universities to 126 universities in 38 African nations. The admitted universities included; Universite’ Nationale d’Agriculture and University of Parakou (Benin); L’Universite De Bamenda (Cameroun); Universite’ Officielle de Bukavu, Universite’ de Kisangani (Democratic Republic of Congo); Aksum University (Ethiopia); Cape Coast Technical University, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Education Winneba, Koforidua Technical University (Ghana); Maseno University (Kenya); Federal University Dutsin-ma, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Nigeria); Somalia National University (Somalia); University of Mpumalanga (South Africa); West Kordufan University (Sudan); Nkumba University (Uganda); Mulungushi University ( Zambia); Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Midlands State University (Zimbabwe). The Executive Secretary informed Members that due diligence is undertaken by RUFORUM before undertaking the admissions. “RUFORUM continued to receive requests for membership from across the continent and for each application, the Secretariat undertakes due diligence to ensure that the applicant University is recognized in the country. Non university institutions requested and were not considered,”He said. Despite increases in RUFORUM Membership, the RUFORUM Finance and Administration Manager, Ms. Judith Nakyobe requested Members to comply towards submitting Membership subscriptions since only 19% of the universities have complied.
During the business meeting, establishment of several sub-committees was endorsed to serve the ever expanding RUFORUM Network. These sub-committees included the Audit Board sub-committee with Professor Luke Mumba, Vice Chancellor of University of Zambia, as Chair for a period of three years (2020-2022) and a sub-committee for Principals and Deans to support operations of the Principals and Deans Committee.
The Business Meeting further confirmed and approved venues for the upcoming RUFORUM Annual General meetings and Triennial conferences as; 2020 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Morocco; 2021 Annual General Meeting and Triennial Conference to be hosted in Benin; 2022 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Zimbabwe; 2024 Annual General Meeting and Triennial conference be hosted in Namibia; 2025 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Ethiopia; 2026 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Zambia; 2027 Annual General Meeting and Triennial conference be hosted in Uganda; and, 2028 Annual General Meeting to be hosted in Sudan. For periods where offers have not been received, including 2023 AGM, 2029 AGM, and 2030 AGM and triennial Conference, Members advised RUFORUM Secretariat to engages
During the business meeting, establishment of several sub-committees was endorsed to serve the ever expanding RUFORUM Network. These sub-committees included the Audit Board sub-committee with Professor Luke Mumba, Vice Chancellor of University of Zambia, as Chair for a period of three years (2020-2022) and a sub-committee for Principals and Deans to support operations of the Principals and Deans Committee.
The Business Meeting further confirmed and approved venues for the upcoming RUFORUM Annual General meetings and Triennial conferences as; 2020 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Morocco; 2021 Annual General Meeting and Triennial Conference to be hosted in Benin; 2022 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Zimbabwe; 2024 Annual General Meeting and Triennial conference be hosted in Namibia; 2025 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Ethiopia; 2026 Annual General Meeting be hosted in Zambia; 2027 Annual General Meeting and Triennial conference be hosted in Uganda; and, 2028 Annual General Meeting to be hosted in Sudan. For periods where offers have not been received, including 2023 AGM, 2029 AGM, and 2030 AGM and triennial Conference, Members advised RUFORUM Secretariat to engages in dialogue with potential hosting countries. Prior to the close of the business meeting Ms. Shona Bezanson, Head of the Eastern and Southern Africa Partners Network, Scholars Program, Mastercard Foundation delivered remarks on behalf of development partners. She applauded RUFORUM for upholding the values of the Mastercard Foundation.
what has struck me most about this gathering is the way in which RUFORUM perfectly reflects some of the values and approaches Mastercard Foundation holds dear. And that all of us as development partners should cherish and emulate”, She said.
Amongst these values included coming together for a shared goal, working together to achieve the best outcomes, leveraging one another’s strengths and assets, listening to each other and generously sharing insight and experience for leaning purposes. “This is a very powerful network – both in scope and depth. It is mission oriented, it is owned by its members, and it lives here, in Africa” She noted.
The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) 15th Annual General Meeting officially opened on Thursday, the 5th of December 2019 at the New Examination Centre, University of Cape Coast, Ghana. The meeting was being hosted by the Government of Ghana and the five Ghanaian RUFORUM Member Universities: University of Cape Coast, University of Ghana-Legon, University of Development Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and University of Education-Winneba. The event, presided over by the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, through his Minister Hon Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng,. Minister of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation of the Republic of Ghana attracted 257 dignitaries across Africa and beyond, including development partners and senior African Policy Makers.
H.E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana officially opened the 15th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting where he called on Member States to explore all possible mechanisms that will make agriculture attractive to the youth, including leveraging on Science, Technology and Innovations. He informed the delegation that the Government of Ghana commits to work with other Member States to: a) implement an Africa-wide Initiative to Build Africa’s Science, Technology and Innovation Capacity (BASTIC); b) establish centres of excellence in Science Technology and Innovations (ST&I) and Entrepreneurship development in Ghana and other Member States; and, c) work through RUFORUM to strengthen staff capacities in our universities and technical colleges and increase the pool of women scientists in our countries. He further pledged to increase access to education for all Ghanaians and make higher education and Technical and vocational education key drivers of economic development.
This was followed by Remarks from the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM, Prof. Adipala Ekwamu who recognized Dr. Bharati Patel, formerly with the Rockefeller Foundation. He highlighted that Dr. Bharati Patel believed in students as the Change Agents warranting the need to work with and invest in Young people towards rural transformation in Africa. He informed the delegation that RUFORUM was founded in response to the imminent food insecurity with a requirement to galvanize capacity in African universities to address food insecurity. “RUFORUM was set up to provide a platform for training Young People from different African Regions-Students that really love the Continent”, he said.
The Honorable Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education, Republic of Ghana highlighted the need to leverage the collective capacities of the universities and utilize all available resources; and to establish measures for building the capacity of universities to engage the youth and make agriculture productive, attractive and more rewarding. He also highly commended the proposed RUFORUM regional programs for youth agriprenuership; science capacity development; staff capacity and increasing the pool of women scientists. “We need to leverage the collective capacities of the universities and utilize all available resources. We should acknowledge that several institutions have pockets of excellence that can be leveraged for collective capacity”, he said
The Honorable Dr. Becky Ndjoze-Ojo Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Government of Namibia applauded Vice Chancellors of African universities
for the initiative to work together and to support especially training of scholars in different African countries, an intervention geared towards achieving Pan-Africanism and regional integration. She noted that the Government of the Republic of Namibia reaffirms its commitment to host the 2024 RUFORUM Triennial Conference in Windhoek. “My Government applauds the Vice Chancellors of African universities for this initiative to work together and to support especially training of scholars in different African countries. This talks well to the thrusts of our leaders to promote Pan-Africanism and regional integration”, She said.
Amongst other key events at the official opening of the AGM was the prelude to the Launch of Prof. Adipala Ekwamu’s Memoirs “The Unfinished Journey” by Megan Lindow; awards to 20 Young Entrepreneurs from West Africa, four outstanding educationists from Ghana, three Ghanaian Young Scientists, and one award to the Government of Ghana for excellent leadership and management contributing to education policy and the development of higher education and agriculture in Africa. It was against such Awards that Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Republic of Ghana, called for a favorable environment and education framework that recognizes the individual talent.
You will agree with me that these, similar to the awards yesterday, provide a glimmer of hope for our continent. We need to nurture this entrepreneurial spirit and capacity of our youngsters. It is then, and only then that we can hold our heads up high and know that there will be a future for the African continent, He said.
The meeting dubbed the Vice Chancellors forum was part of the side events at the 15th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting, 2-6 December 2019 hosted by the University of Cape Coast – Ghana. The meeting that attracted 155 participants met at the School of Medical Sciences, University of Cape Coast, Ghana and discussed avenues for “enhancing delivery of Africa’s Universities’ Agenda for Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI)” and “re-engineering Universities in Africa to deliver transformative graduates and innovations.”
Prof. Joseph Ghartey Ampiah, Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Coast-Ghana delivered the welcome address to the Vice Chancellors forum. In his opening address he commended the forum as a platform for consensus building on issues of common interest to RUFORUM member institutions and other higher educational and research institutions on the continent. “This meeting affords us the opportunity to contemplate in detail how we propose to lead our respective universities and countries as well as RUFORUM to become regionally and globally competitive in terms of the outputs that characterize the work we do-teaching, research, and outreach”, He said. He further elaborated five defining characteristics of robust higher educational systems and amongst these included the tendency towards autonomy; a right balance between freedom of academic enquiry, faculty independence, and a style of university leadership; complexity; clearly defined communities of which they are part; and, ability to embrace and indeed to forge new styles of partnership. He concluded by sharing two types of institutions that are most likely not to succeed and amongst these included universities which refuse to change, which become imprisoned in their own traditions, however hallowed, and allow opportunities to pass them by; and, those which follow trendily every new initiative and become prey to the virus of mere enthusiasm.
The meeting was presided over by Dr. Brian Mushimba, Minister of Higher EDUCATION, Republic of Zambia who delivered the key note address. Hon. Prof. Aiah Gbakima, Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Sierra Leone was the Lead speaker and a team of five panelists from Ghana, Namibia and Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega Deputy Executive Secretary RUFORUM. Mushimba applauded RUFORUM for creating a platform where African universities can share progress towards contributing to the development agendas of the respective countries. The minister called upon African nations to undertake more investment in higher education due to the increasing population that does not match with the available resource envelop. The Minister noted that Zambia is currently implementing 7th National Development Plan with four strategic objectives including; to diversify and make economic growth inclusive; improve competitiveness and innovativeness; strengthen governance and institutional mechanisms to navigate the country towards Vision 2030; and, enforce sustainable environmental social and economic principles. He concluded by highlighting several actions that could be undertaken to strengthen Agricultural Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (AHESTI) and amongst these included the need for prioritizing research and development; human resource development and accreditation of curriculum; incentivizing researchers to attract research funds; collaborating with partners implementing continental and regional initiatives to strengthen STI; and, recognizing the role of RUFORUM.
The general discussions resulted into generation of several issues including incentivizing researchers, limited research infrastructure, parity in promoting research in both public and private universities, preparing Science students for undertaking leadership positions, male domination in the science disciplines, and recruiting innovative students into the Universities to make science work for Africa. During the Panel discussions, Prof. Kenneth Matengu, Vice Chancellor, University of Namibia highlighted several recommendations for a competitive higher education system amongst which included empowering students to undertake leadership in contributing towards solving imminent problems facing the continent; and the need for universities to teach ethics, entrepreneurship and sustainable development across all degree programmes.
Prof. Kwesi Yankah, Minister of State for Tertiary Education, Ghana highlighted several issues affecting technical education in Ghana including the conversion of Polytechnics into technical Universities. He noted that such challenges have been tackled through enactment of the National Research and Innovation funds bill to support research related to national priorities; increase of lecturer-student contact hours in sciences by 54 hrs; and, publicity of polytechniques through international events.
Prof. Aba A. Bentil Andam, President, Ghana Institute of Physics recommended the need for collaboration and regarded the PhD as the end of the apprenticeship. Further suggested the need for financial backing from African governments to support research; offering liberty to students to select own supervisors. We need to get speaking to each other in English, Portuguese and French.” He said.
Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega, Deputy Executive Secretary, RUFORUM Secretariat recommended the need for connected universities, promotion of Community Action Research Programmes (CARP) to attract Youth into Agriculture. Further noted that the Regional Anchor Universities under the RUFORUM RANCH Flagship Programme are vital in promoting research excellence in Agriculture, while the GRADUATE Teaching Assistantship Programme promotes Africa based support, beyond the external support received. She requested members to think about the measures to take towards protecting intellectual property in the Universities.
During the session on re-engineering Universities in Africa to deliver transformative graduates and innovations Prof. Jose Zagul, President Emeritus, EARTH University, Costa Rica presented a lead paper that highlighted several lessons for strengthening higher education including providing opportunity to academically weak students with demonstrated leadership qualities; and, the need to exploit experiential and participatory learning to make a big difference in the educational process. The discussions generated several issues including existence of age-limits for retooling professionals which may render several above-age professors unqualified, the need for scientists to embrace social science skills as part of community engagement, the need for multidisciplinary approach on the curriculum including community engagement to address societal problems, and the need to undertake experiential learning, education to consider ethical issues through embracing student-centered learning, connecting students with local communities whilst embedding various practical topics in the curriculum; and, retooling university faculty.
Visit http://www.ruforum.org/AGM2019/ for more details
Kampala 21, January 2020 As part of the 15th Annual General Meeting activities held in December 2019 at the University of Cape Coast Ghana, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) organised a Joint Meeting of Ministers responsible for Agriculture, Education & Training, Science, Technology and Innovation on 5th December 2019 and Development Partners. This Ministerial Policy Dialogue Round Table focused on promoting Africa wide cooperation in the Field of Agriculture, Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation.
The Dialogue was a follow up to the previous Ministerial meetings held in October 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa and in October 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya. These meetings agreed on key action points and tasked RUFORUM to consult with Member States and other Actors to develop Regional/ Continental initiatives to strengthen Higher Agricultural Education, Science, Technology and Innovation in African universities, so that the universities are better placed to contribute to meeting development needs of the Member States and attainment of Agenda 2063.
In the same vein, the Committee of Ten Heads of State Summit (C10) of November 2018 in Lilongwe, Malawi tasked RUFORUM to engage African universities to respond to key development challenges and strategies aimed at accelerating attainment of the aspirations outlined in key continental frameworks especially the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA), amongst others.
The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) presents to you the Country Statements and Ministerial Communique as outcomes of the Ministerial Policy Dialogue Round Table dialogue which deliberated on the participation of Member States in five continental initiatives that were developed by RUFORUM Secretariat based on the recommendations of the Ministerial meetings of October 2016 held in Cape Town, South Africa, October 2018 held in Nairobi, Kenya, and tasks assigned to RUFORUM by the Committee of Ten Heads of State Summit (C10) of 2-3 November 2018 in Lilongwe, Malawi. The RUFORUM Secretariat will reach out to the Member States and Development Partners to follow up on the key recommendations of the Ghana deliberations and C10 tasks assigned to RUFORUM.