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.

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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.

RUFORUM

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


Malawi

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.”

Tweeting on about agriculture


Written by: Joan Apio- Communication Officer (RUFORUM)

H.E Dr. Martial De Paul Ikounga: African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, S &T handing over certificates to the Social Media Reporters at the 4th RUFORUM Biennial Conference

H.E Dr. Martial De Paul Ikounga: African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, S &T (Right) handing over certificates to the Social Media Reporters at the 4th RUFORUM Biennial Conference

In a discipline that has existed for eons, there is a legitimate question: “Why should agriculture care about social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube?”

Michele Payn-Knoper, a self-described Community Catalyst, Advocate, Farm and Food Connector who established the US-based Cause Matters Corp., has a simple and powerful answer: “It’s really quite simple. Mass influence. Facebook reached 150 million users nearly three times faster than a cell phone. If you’re not at the table, you can’t be a part of constructing the conversation about nutrition, science and agriculture.”

In Africa there was a time when farmers congregated at the local feed mill, talking about the weather, developments in the world of agriculture and in their neighborhood. Back then, communicating with others was called socializing. It was undertaken on a face-to-face basis and it was generally local.

Nowadays, however, the continent has a growing mobile ‘phone user population – a ready audience for information dissemination and exchange and advocacy. People, farmers included, spread the word – whether personal or business – using social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and blogs. Indeed, social media is the agriculturalist’s newest work tool.

For RUFORUM, this changed communication landscape opens up the potential for social media reporting. The network, currently comprised of 42 African universities, has been ‘socialising’ for the last 10 years through physical meetings and conferences but never through social media channels. During the 4th RUFORUM Biennial conference held in Maputo, Mozambique, from 19-26 July 2014, the network experimented with the use of social media to report on the conference’s proceedings.

The initiative was championed to create visibility for research, innovations, policy implications and the role of networking in the area of higher agricultural education. A small unit at the RUFORUM Secretariat, led by Ms Nodumo and myself, was thrilled at the possibilities this initiative would present to the network as well as the opportunity to train and encourage cross-learning among young social media reporters.

Continue reading “Tweeting on about agriculture”

Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture turns 10


Written by: Senior University World News writer Munyaradzi Makoni

This article has been reproduced from the University World News website as part of the stories that were covered during the 4th Biennial Conference.

Prof. Levi Martin Nyagura: RUFORUM Board Chair  (Left), H.E Tumusiime Rhoda Peace: Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union (center) and Prof. Adipala Ekwamu: Executive Secretary - RUFORUM (Right)

Prof. Levi Martin Nyagura: RUFORUM Board Chair (Left), H.E Tumusiime Rhoda Peace: Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union (center) and Prof. Adipala Ekwamu: Executive Secretary – RUFORUM (Right)

Budgeting woes hit European-funded mobility schemes
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.

Agriculture training key to meeting continental needs
Higher education in agriculture must provide training that allows Africa to feed itself, accommodate women, advise policy-makers, make use of innovative technologies, multiply fully trained researchers and turn research results into practice. This was the central message from the biennial meeting of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture, RUFORUM.

New science blueprint for agriculture takes shape
New directions for harnessing science for agriculture to meet goals in innovation and social transformation have been proposed in a plan to promote efficiency and productivity in agriculture.

Producing postgraduates for sustainable development
An Education for Sustainable Development in Africa initiative with a three-pronged masters programme is helping to build the next generation of researchers and leaders skilled in sustainable development. The project, supported by Japan and involving eight universities in five African countries, has kicked off after years of planning and development.

Piloting graduate studies in post-conflict countries
The return of peace after civil war has provided an opportunity for three universities in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar to rebuild agriculture expertise by establishing three postgraduate training programmes.

Boosting African agriculture with open access
African universities should work towards establishing open access policies, to enable their research to be more accessible to the wider scientific community.

Mentorship portal to deliver market-ready graduates
A regional platform to train and mentor university graduates could produce highly skilled people who meet the demands of the agriculture industry by 2016. Research to develop the platform, which is being led by Egerton University in Kenya, started in February this year.

Why consider Women in Agriculture Education?


Written by Maureen Agena – Social Media Consultant

Conducting a training for social reporters and journalism students

Conducting a training for social reporters and journalism students

I was recently in Maputo, Mozambique attending the 4th Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) biennial conference. RUFORUM is a consortium of 42 Universities across Africa and a platform for catalyzing change is African Universities.  I had gone for a consultancy to train young social reporters and journalism students in Mozambique who had been tasked to cover the proceedings of the event in real time via social media.  I have in the past conducted similar trainings but this was a special one given the nature of the trainees. It was a mixture of English, French and Portuguese speakers. After successfully completing my trainings, I had an opportunity of attending some of the plenary sessions as I monitored my ‘students’ do their work.

It was not a surprise that one of those sessions that I chose to attend, focused on the role of women in Agriculture and why they should not be ignored in institutions of higher learning and specifically Agricultural education.

In her opening remarks, Her Excellence Dhlamini Nkosazana Zuma the chairperson of the African Union commission mentioned that transforming Agriculture in Africa required innovative scientific research, educational and training approaches.  She added that transformation demands a bold vision backed by bold actions.  Ms. Dhlamini said that Africans from all walks of life must contribute to a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth, so that Africa can take its rightful place in the world. By 2025, all young persons under 25 in the world will be African. They must therefore be intellectually empowered with relevant skills especially in science and technology. she added. On the role of women in Africa’s development, Ms. Dhlamini had this to say

“Women not only make up half of Africa’s population but also produce the other half, they form 70% of African workforce. We must empower them. We must have deliberate strategies to ensure girls’ access to higher education and more women in the academia”

She challenged participants when she mentioned that no country has ever developed on primary education alone and emphasized the value and need to focus on Higher education. In her opinion, Africa needs to have its own agenda and pursue it. “We do not need the UN to tell us to take our children to school” she said. Click here to read more

The Future of Agriculture and Its Skills Requirements in Africa – In Response to the African Union Vision 2063


Written by Bongiwe Nomandi Njobe – Executive Director at Tiger Brands Ltd and RUFORUM Board Member

Above: Bongiwe Nomandi Njobe - Executive Director at Tiger Brands Ltd and RUFORUM Board Member

Above: Bongiwe Nomandi Njobe – Executive Director at Tiger Brands Ltd and RUFORUM Board Member

As part of the celebrations to mark the 10 year anniversary of RUFORUM at the Fourth Biennial Conference held 21-25 July in Maputo, Mozambique, selected individuals provided reflections to RUFORUM network stakeholders. The following speech was delivered by Dr. Bongiwe Njobe, a member of the RUFORUM Board to RUFORUM Vice Chancellors at an evening event.  

I would like to start by expressing my deep appreciation for the opportunity to join – what I am coming to respect as a formidable – deeply rooted and oriented African led organisation – RUFORUM at the board level.  When I accepted to join I was not aware that part of my induction would be the need to – make a maiden speech – clearly I now know that there are no free dinners at RUFORUM. Whilst I appreciate the chance to share my thoughts on the future of agriculture and its skills requirements for our continent – I am also humbled by the challenge, as my intimate knowledge of all the recent advancements in the agricultural higher education sector is really limited and probably influenced by my experiences in South Africa and the SADC region. So whilst I will not ‘take the fifth’ on what I am about to say I do apologize in advance – in case any comments I make are out of context.

Synchronicity – a term originally coined by Carl Jung during his research into the phenomenon of the collective unconscious, has come to mean ‘the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection’. The holding of this RUFORUM Biennial Meeting on its 10th year of existence may have been a simple timing matter flowing from the biennial planning cycle; that it is held in Maputo where the African Heads of State adopted CAADP may be a coincidence, furthermore that it is also held during the year that the African Union (AU) has declared and celebrated as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security as part of the celebrations for CAADP at 10 may have been deliberate and if I may humbly add that this is also a year in which I find my way back to the area of my passion – African Agricultural Development – and that in my book – amounts to Synchronicity.  Irrespective of how we see the overlap in these reasons, I would like to start by adding my congratulations to the founders of the concept, implementers of the ideas and the beneficiaries of the programmes who are now the inspiration for reflection. Click here to read more

Grand vision for an African-owned drive on food security


Written By Jon Spaull- SciDevNet

Image credit: Sven Torfinn/Panos

Image credit: Sven Torfinn/Panos

[MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE] “Your granary will never be filled by your neighbour.” This is a Mozambican saying that was used by Graca Michel, member of International Panel of Elders and a former Mozambican minister of education, to illustrate the point that Africa cannot rely on outside help to achieve food security.

It was a recurring theme at the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Africa (RUFORUM) conference here in Maputo at which I heard her speak: Africa must take ownership of the responses to the challenges it faces in the twenty-first century.

It was a theme also elaborated on by Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chair of the African Union Commission.  While appreciating the assistance of foreign donors she said it “cannot be the mainstay of our development — no country has ever developed on donor money”.  As the UN post-2015 development goals were in the process of being finalised, Africa needed its own vision and goals, she said.

“We must tell them what we need to do post-2015. We must know what we want and do it irrespective of what other people say,” she told the audience. Read More

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