Celebrating Women’s Contribution in Higher Agricultural Education in Africa


Above: Dr. Irene-Annor Frempong: Director of Capacity Strengthening (FARA)

“In 2006, when I first got associated with RUFORUM, I was convinced that this network of highly committed individuals will make a mark in Africa’s history on capacity development and would turn the tide for this continent despite the odds. It has therefore been fulfilling all these years to have had the opportunity to contribute in my small way to the RUFORUM effort and vision both personally and from the FARA platform. Serving on its technical committee has been a most gratifying engagement for me. Today, I am proud to see RUFORUM grow and well positioned within the FARA fraternity to play a major role in driving the Africa Union commission (AUC) / NEPAD instigated Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) within the CAADP and under the  auspices of the  Science Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) of the African Union Commission (AUC)” said Dr Irene-Annor Frempong.

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?
Irene Annor-Frempong is a highly talented scientist and educational leader.  An animal scientist by training, she has conducted research, taught and mentored students at multiple universities across Africa.  An outstanding researcher, she developed the first prototype of the local-closed meat kiln in Ghana in collaboration with Food Research Institute, a product that was later patented by Cape Coast University.

Throughout her career, she has assisted a generation of students and served as a successful mentor and role model for many young men and women scientists.  Through her encouragement, many of her students have chosen to advance into higher education.  At FARA, she has applied her considerable energy and leadership skills to improving the quality of agricultural research and training institutions throughout Africa.

How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers?

  1. Place more emphasis on science. Agriculture is an applied science, so training should be built around science and its application.
  2. Make students understand the context of what they are learning and make them marry theory and practice in the learning.
  3. Impart industrial knowledge to students in multiple ways—student attachments, internships, incubations.
  4. Revise the curricula to match the requirements of the society being served including the private sector and rural communities
  5. Expand scholarships offerings for girls in order to correct the currently sharp gender imbalance in agricultural sciences and promote science training among girls.

Click here to read more on the featured profile of Dr. Frempong the Week in Modernization African Food Systems.

in a separate article, you can read about Dr. Irene-Annor Frempong  and why she deserves to be the Ambassador for the Science Agenda For Agriculture in Africa (S3A) by clicking here. An article written by Menesia Muinjo, Journalist from Namibia.

You can follow the online discussions at #MakeItHappen on twitter during the International Women’s Day on sunday 8th March, 2015.


Agricultural innovations for sustainable development

“We should drop the notion that agriculture is a useless, unprofitable career: for those who are training and educated, agribusiness and agricultural science are profitable income earners.” Fredah Karambu Rimberia, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya

IFSAfrica needs more agricultural scientists, and in particular more women scientists. Since 2009, CTA, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), IFS and other partners have jointly organised Africa-wide science competitions targeting women and young professionals in science to showcase their research and celebrate their successes. The 3rd Africa-wide Science Competitions held in 2012/13 brought to light 10 extraordinary African scientists – seven women and three men, seven of  whom were under 40 years old. They are inspiring individuals with a clear vision of how they will contribute to agricultural development and economic transformation in Africa.

The winners have travelled far and worked hard to achieve their early-career goals – some have come from small farms,through primary and secondary schools, to universities – and now have begun to reap the rewards of their efforts. For the women scientists, in particular, the journey has at times been arduous, breaking stereotypes of women’s capacity to engage in science and balancing their career aspirations with their family commitments. Many of the scientists started their journey with aspirations to become a doctor, lawyer or mathematician. But for various reasons, they changed course to pursue careers as agricultural scientists. They all enjoy their research and teaching assignments and they are thrilled every time they see farmers using the results of their research. They value their collaboration with colleagues and enjoy participating in international agricultural research networks, as well as the prestige gained in winning awards and gaining recognition for their research. Download the french version or the english version of the full publication.

Celebrating contribution of African Universities to agricultural development in Africa

“African Universities are in a change process- they are no longer ‘ivory towers’, but part of practitioners championing rural transformation in Africa”

RUFORUM Exhibitions during the FARA @15 Celebrations

RUFORUM Exhibitions during the FARA @15 Celebrations

Over the years, it has become increasing important for the RUFORUM Secretariat to strengthen its brand as the focal point for Agricultural Capacity Building for Africa referred to as “Training the next Generation of Scientists for Africa”. To achieve this, the Secretariat works with its member based universities to realize its vision – “a vibrant agricultural sector linked to African universities which produce high-performing graduates and high-quality research responsive to the demands of Africa’s farmers for innovations and able to generate sustainable livelihoods and national economic development”.

Exhibitions are one of the channels that the RUFORUM network uses to profile its activities and innovations to consumers of its products and services and the wider public. The exhibition platform during the “Celebrating FARA @15” conference, 24-28 November 2014 that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, provided an opportunity for the RUFORUM Secretariat and member Universities to profile their  R&D activities.  A total of seven (7) exhibition booths were occupied by the RUFORUM network at the “Celebrating FARA@15” week. RUFORUM Secretariat arranged for seven universities from the network to participate in the exhibition, namely; Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) from Malawi; Kyambogo University from Uganda; University of Eldoret from Kenya; University of Nairobi from Kenya; Makerere University from Uganda; University of Zambia from Zambia; the RUFORUM Secretariat hosted in Uganda also had an exhibition stand. Click here to download full report

Bringing African universities to farmers

Written by Jon Spaull – SciDevNet

This film focuses on the work of researchers from Makerere University, Uganda, in Rakai district, an area of the country whose farmers are particularly prone to climate change-induced water vulnerability. As part of the WATERCAP project, they have helped transform local people’s lives. Through the introduction of low-tech innovations, the farmers now enjoy year-round access to safe water for both farming and domestic use. And the researchers have been able to augment their academic training with knowledge gained from working alongside the farmers in the field.

WATERCAP, a collaboration between Makerere University, Egerton University in Kenya and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Austria, was funded by the Austrian Development Agency. Operating in Kenya and Uganda, it has aimed to increase the capacity of participating universities to contribute to the mitigation of climate change in smallholder agriculture. It was also designed to use the interaction with local communities to improve university curriculum and ensure research is more relevant to farmers’ needs.

Read more on the article by clicking here

Landmark move West: RUFORUM becomes continental organisation

WAAt a prominent meeting of African Union (AU) officials and higher education actors from across the continent, held at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, between 23-24 November, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) announced a landmark operational move to Western Africa.

As part of a consultation exercise with Deans and Principals of African Schools and Faculties of Agriculture and related Sciences, the announcement heralded the development of the organisation’s new five-year strategic business plan for 2016-2020.  The decision to expand its operational coverage from traditionally Eastern, Central and Southern Africa was reached following ground-breaking recommendations from RUFORUM’s biennial conference held in Maputo, Mozambique, in July this year and by the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the AU Commission.

Having recently extended its research and training linkages to several countries in Western Africa, RUFORUM will now focus more closely on three anchor countries – Benin, Ghana and Nigeria – as part of a phased growth plan that has seen its higher education network increase from 10 universities in five African countries in 2004, to 46 universities in 22 nations, with the additionally announced admission of: University of Pretoria, South Africa; Nelson Mandela Institute of Science & Technology, Tanzania; University d’Abomey Calavi, Benin; University of Cape Coast, Ghana; and the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Commenting after the announcement, Professor Adipala Ekwamu, the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM, remarked: “This landmark decision by RUFORUM is a great day for agriculture in Western Africa.  It augments RUFORUM’s role as the voice of higher agricultural education across the continent, as part of a phased organisational expansion that builds upon our existing shared institutional experiences and extends our collective footprint.” Download full press release

RUFORUM Launches the African Journal for Rural Development and expands its Network to West Africa

RUFORUM organized a side event at the ongoing FARA 15th anniversary celebrations in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two day event which was a consultation with deans and principals of African Schools/faculties and related sciences was summarized with the launch of the Africa Journal of Rural Development and the announcement of the West Africa as new region to the RUFORUM network. This was at a colorful dinner hosted by RUFORUM with the former Minister of Agriculture in South Africa Mrs. Thoko Didiza and Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoad Peace is the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union in attendance.


What the African Journal for Development is all about

The African Journal for Development (AJRD), is an online journal published 2-3 times a year. It is led by Stellenbosch University in South Africa which doubles as the secretariat. It will publish, among others academic and non, academic action research issues. The main purpose of this journal is to share knowledge on all aspects that contribute to sustainable rural development especially in Africa. It aims to share lessons and experiences on working with rural communities to improve agricultural productivity and livelihoods. The Journal secretariat in Stellenbosch University is established by RUFORUM and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA). The editorial team is made up of a 12 man team mainly from the Academia in the African and Caribbean regions.

The journal was official launched by Hon. Thoko Didiza the former minister of Agriculture for the republic of South Africa who said that Access to land, technology, information, credit, infrastructure, market research and extension services are key for the success of Agriculture in Africa. She also mentioned the value and role of technology in education must not be ignored. She concluded by asking how many African students confidently quote African Scholars who have published their work? With only 0.7% of the Global research output coming from Africa, so much as to be done by our scholars to add value to the continent.

West Africa Joins the RUFORUM Network.

Prior to the launch of the African Journal for Development (AJRD), Prof. Adipala Ekwamu the executive secretary for RUFORUM announced West Africa as a new region to the RUFORUM network. He said that RUFORUM has selected 3 anchor countries; Benin, Ghana and Nigeria and added the Universities of Cape Coast and Port Harcourt respectively. He said that there is an admission of the forth University to the network which is the University of Pretoria. Also from South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Institute for education and rural development was added to the network. RUFORUM now has a total of 55 Universities as members. Dr. Frans Swanaepoel challenged RUFORUM to help University management carry out their mandate for quality research and training in Africa.

Agribusiness is the way to go for Africa. What is the role of African Universities?

As part of FARA’s 15th anniversary celebrations, RUFORUM held a two day consultation with deans and principals of African Schools/faculties and related sciences in Johannesburg, South Africa. It focused on developing RUFORUM’s second strategic and third business plan. Over 20 deans, principles and heads of Departments for Agricultural institutions and other private sector stakeholders from Africa participated in this land mark event in the drive for the promotion of Agricultural education at African Universities as Smart agricultural education strategy. With the support and commitment from Rockefeller foundation, The African Union Commission and Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to Higher education in Africa. Prof. Adipala the Executive secretary of RUFORUM welcomed the participants and gave the opening remarks.


A Participant at the Consultation Meeting

The current strategic and business plan for RUFORUM will expire in 2015 and this consultation is part of the process to initiate the strategic plan for 2016-2020. Because RUFORUM membership has since enlarged to 42 Universities in 19 African countries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, it has to take position to contribute to the new frameworks and initiatives at the continental level.

This consultation achieved the following objectives

  • Deans and principals of African Schools/Colleges and faculties were met to discuss the strategy for 2016-2020 with regard to High Agriculture education
  • The private sector was consulted to find out the specific skills and competences required for Agricultural graduates in Africa.
  • The key challenges and gaps on Post graduate training and research capacities for achieving CAADP result framework and STISA 2024 were identified
  • Strategic areas of focus for RUFORUM were identified
  • An African journal of Rural Development (AJRD) was launched and a RUFORUM Documentary premiered.

Agribusiness is the way to go for Africa.

The participants expressed a unanimous commitment and declared that Africa needs to be globally competitive in terms of Agricultural production. They are committed to contributing to the establishment of an African Agribusiness Chamber and capitalize on the opportunities that Africa has as a continent. Building skills of younger generations was something that was echoed by many. It was also agreed that the private sector has to reach out to Universities for collaboration because this is critical for partnerships. Universities need not to see themselves as Ivory towers because they cannot exist in isolation. What came out strongly was the need to teach agriculture beyond production but rather to in cooperate other skills such as using ICTs, negotiation and communication skills.

RUFORUM was commended for the good work on the continent and challenged to carry out a research to find out what happens to Agriculture graduates when they leave the Universities. What becomes of them 5-10 years later. Prof. Adipala of RUFORUM challenged the group to help mentor University students to not only think about the money but rather to change their attitudes, such that they can give back to the communities that contributed to who they have turned out to be.We need ,to ensure that Agriculture becomes the engine of Africa’s economy both socially and economically he said.

Using communication to strengthen research

Written by Linda Nordling

RUFORUM was featured among three organizations whose stories are meant to inspire institutions that would like to innovate their communication strategies. Institutions that want to showcase their research impacts and attract investors to their work. The stories were collected and written by Linda Nordling (freelance journalist, based in South Africa). You can download the full story by clicking here.

“Over the next few years, RUFORUM plans to further develop its brand and position the website as a ‘first stop shop’ for anyone looking for African generated agricultural educational and research resources” – Ms. Nodumo Dhlamini- RUFORUM ICT Manage

DSC_0035Using ICTs to boost research collaboration and teaching/outreach: When the African agricultural training and research network RUFORUM was formed about ten years ago, the continent’s universities didn’t have good ICT systems, and bandwidth and IT skills were scarce. This has changed over the past decade, and the consortium of 42 universities in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa has capitalised on these developments to build its network and help members share knowledge, practice and disseminate their research more widely. RUFORUM embarked on a programme of ICT reform in 2008 to make sure the network made use of emerging opportunities in technology and social media software. It’s been a learning curve, but the end result shows how modern technology can be used to simplify and effectivise communication in a geographically spread-out research network.

RUFORUM received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2008 for a programme to harness ICT for the improved performance of its secretariat and network. It started with a benchmarking exercise to find out how ICTs were used throughout the network. The survey showed that RUFORUM members did appreciate the importance of ICTs, and many had ICT policies, ICT units and local area network infrastructure. The challenge for RUFORUM was to leverage this capacity. The RUFORUM secretariat took the view that enabling information sharing between members was the single most important thing it could accomplish with its ICT drive.

In 2009 it launched a new website http://www.ruforum.org. This information-sharing community aspect of the website was devised to keep the network connected and create a sense of belonging. The website integrates user-friendly Web 2.0 tools such as twitter, facebook, RSS feeds, blogs, linkedin and youtube. There were challenges associated with getting senior university leaders to appreciate the need for institutional change, and support it. RUFORUM’s communications team had to work hard to persuade and create awareness of the benefits of working with ICTs. The network now also funds Web 2.0 training for its grantees. RUFORUM’s goal is to use its website to showcase the achievements of higher education in agriculture in Africa.

In September 2013 RUFORUM launched an institutional repository (http://repository.ruforum.org/) to collect the research output of the network and to enhance the visibility of African research in the agricultural sciences. All resources in the repository are freely available and can be accessed by researchers, lecturers, students, farmers, policymakers and other stakeholders worldwide. RUFORUM is now planning further innovations on its website, including using the site as a gateway to African commodity exchanges, agricultural journals, relevant donors and African research institutions. Read more by clicking here.

What type of agriculture and food systems do we wish to see in 2030?

Prof. Adipala Ekwamu joined several delegates in Vienna for the agrinatura Science Days early this year.  The agrinatura Science Days brought together researchers and practitioners concerned with family farming, food security and transformative change in a single forum.

The science days, hosted by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, offered a unique opportunity for dialoguing, learning, networking and exploring new research and higher education partnerships. Results of the Science Days contribute to the agrinatura strategy and support the International Year of Family Farming.

This short video profiles Michael Hauser, Paul Kibwika, Judith Francis and Prof. Adipala Ekwamu on their thoughts about what type of agriculture and food systems we wish to see in 2030. We hope you find this video informative.


Sharing lessons on Mobility Programs implemented in Africa

RUFORUM Supported Students during the Biennial Conference in Maputo, Mozambique

RUFORUM Supported Students during the Fourth Biennial Conference in Maputo, Mozambique

Written by Munyaradzi Makoni – The University World News

The University World News Interviewed Dr. Christoff Pauw and Mr. Richard Batte during the Fourth Biennial Conference in Maputo Mozambique. They shared their experiences from implementing Intra-ACP Academic Mobility Projects. The full article is available at The University World News Website.

The managers of Africa’s intra-ACP exchange programmes say that organising a large number of mobile students on the continent is a logistical nightmare. Worse, students complain of lack of research funding. Too many factors were not considered when European-funded mobility schemes were conceptualised for implementation in Africa.

The intra-ACP academic mobility scheme promotes cooperation between higher education institutions and supports student and staff mobility in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

It aims to increase access to quality education that will enable ACP students to undertake postgraduate studies, and to promote student retention in the region and mobility of staff while also strengthening institutions.

But managers in Africa told participants at the 4th Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture – RUFORUM – held from 19-25 July in the Mozambique capital Maputo, that while the monthly stipends students received were sufficient, many other aspects – including organisational support – were under-budgeted.

There are 15 mobility programmes currently running across Africa. They support African students to study at African universities outside their home country.

Stellenbosch University in South Africa coordinates Transdisciplinary Training for Resource Efficiency and Climate Change Adaptation in Africa, or TRECCAfrica. It is also involved in other schemes including Share Capacity to Build Capacity for Quality Graduate Training in Agriculture in African Universities, or SHARE, coordinated by Uganda’s Makerere University.

Continue reading “Sharing lessons on Mobility Programs implemented in Africa”

Reflecting upon Maputo

Written by: Moses Osiru – Deputy Executive Secretary, (RUFORUM)

Above: Dr. Moses Osiru, Deputy Executive Secretary, RUFORUM Secretariat making a presentation at the 4th RUFORUM Biennial Conference

Above: Dr. Moses Osiru making a presentation at the 4th RUFORUM Biennial Conference

Nearly two months after the conclusion of RUFORUM’s Fourth Biennial Conference, held in Maputo, Mozambique, this is an opportune time for reflection. Intended to mark the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), African Heads of State declared 2014 the year of agriculture and food security in Africa. Given that CAADP itself originated from the adoption by African Head of States and Governments of the Maputo declaration on agricultural and food security, it was only fitting that the conference was held in the Mozambiquan capital.

Held every two years, the conference is a key event in the RUFORUM calendar, bringing together key university actors, including students, and profiling the outputs and activities of African universities to policy makers, development players and donors. The meeting is hinged around the African graduate student and their research and provides an invaluable opportunity for feedback from stakeholders on the quality, relevance and strategic orientation of university research. This year the conference brought together more than 600 participants from over 30 countries globally to deliberate on how universities might better respond to the imposing African challenges of poverty reduction and food and nutrition insecurity. It was, in short, an excellent opportunity to network with stakeholders deeply interested in higher education for agriculture and to reflect on the wider CAADP agenda and how universities are integrated.

My reflections on the meeting were, first, it emphasised the importance and recognition by stakeholders of the central role that universities can and should play in stimulating and sustaining agricultural-led development. Universities are established to be critical hubs in the creation and management of knowledge and, importantly, to equip future leaders and others with the necessary skills and learning to solve current and emergent problems. There is a vitally important role for universities to play in responding to the challenges facing African agriculture and particularly in supporting rural farmers to innovate through knowledge.

Second, African universities have made great strides in strengthening their graduate programmes through the development and strengthening of new training programmes, including regional centres of excellence such as those supported by RUFORUM. These have resulted in improvements in the quality and relevance of research, as well as its uptake by stakeholders, particularly smallholder poor rural farmers. However, universities must continue to strengthen mechanisms for the effective monitoring, evaluation and marketing of these programmes, as well as the learning they produce, at all levels to sustain these improvements. Increased numbers of graduate students are also required to support CAADP’s implementation and to staff universities.

Continue reading “Reflecting upon Maputo”

Malawian president champions African agriculture


At a recent meeting at State House, Lilongwe, His Excellency Peter Arthur Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi pledged to champion the cause of agriculture and education across the continent.

The meeting with the president, who was sworn into office earlier this year and is a former Minister for Education, Science and Technology, formed part of RUFORUM’s strategy of mobilizing high-level policy support to rebuild and strengthen African universities to better serve Africa’s development agenda.  It also furthered the offer made at RUFORUM’s recent biennial meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique, by Her Excellency, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, for African Chancellors to organize a special session on higher education in Africa for the 2015 African Heads of State and Government Summit.

In accepting the invite to champion higher education generally, and promote science, technology and innovation for the modernization of agriculture specifically, the president acknowledged the important work undertaken by RUFORUM and the need for it to be recognized by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa as a lead agency for strengthening regional postgraduate education.  He also called upon African governments to support postgraduate training development across Africa through the formation of regional centres of excellence and academic mobility for students and staff.

Commenting upon the meeting, Professor Adipala Ekwamu, the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome His Excellency as a champion of our cause and share his sentiments.  Without a critical pool of highly trained scientists and professionals, made possible by African universities that are developing the necessary skills and capacities, Africa will not develop or achieve its African Vision 2063.”

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