Engaging youth in agriculture through ICT – Case in Point; Nigeria


Sixth grader Madey Madey raking the soil at The Healthy City

Sixth grader Madey Madey raking the soil at The Healthy City


By Adebola Adedugbe, Farm Ideas Nigeria

In Nigeria, agriculture is done more on subsistence level with low input and poor output. Agriculture is largely traditional and practiced by smallholders and pastoralists. This type of agriculture is predominantly rain-fed, has low yielding production and lacks access to critical information, market facilitation and financial intermediation. The role that ICT can play in addressing these challenges is increasing; as personal ICT devices such as mobile phones or tablet PCs, are becoming more widely available. Farmers lack access to credit facility and fertilizer.

The ‘Agriculture Transformation Agenda’, (ATA) embarked upon by the present government in Nigeria, has improved the agricultural sector. The trouble-free access of farmers to agricultural inputs and information has been possible because of the transformation in the agricultural sector through ICT. Youths in agriculture and farmers now receive subsidies on fertilizers and information about price and weather directly through a cell phone based system, which was developed to send subsidies via electronic vouchers. This technology first launched in Nigeria and West Africa has reached 1.5million farmers including the youth in agriculture and 7.5million felt the impact in the first year. A data base of farmers was developed with 10 million registered. Continue reading “Engaging youth in agriculture through ICT – Case in Point; Nigeria”

Reaping what you sow: agricultural partnerships are key


By Richard Powell, RUFORUM Communications Consultant

Richard Powell

Richard Powell, RUFORUM Communications Consultant

The stereotype of the impoverished African smallholder farmer, two-fifths of which are female, has always struck me as a figure requiring deep sympathy in the face of the apparently onward march of monolithic agribusiness, where their needs are superseded by those of anonymous corporate self-interest.

But my ignorance of the actual and critical contribution of this group was addressed in 2012 when reading a small report from the UK-based Guardian newspaper.1  The author of the piece stated that smallholder farmers account for 80% of food production in sub-Saharan Africa, and there is an increasing recognition among large private sector food retailers that they need to be nurtured to safeguard their future and protect their contribution – primarily raw materials – to the continent’s and global needs.  Part of this nurturing process entails mentoring in training and technology to increase agricultural production, achieved to an extent by effective partnerships with higher educational institutes, enhancing the value chain to enable them to move from a subsistence existence to one making profit. Continue reading “Reaping what you sow: agricultural partnerships are key”

Our partners for the Biennial Conference

The 4th RUFORUM Biennal Conference is one that we are all looking forward to. We are delighted to have very many partners on board.  The ones that are listed here below will be hosting side events at the Conference. We are looking forward to having interesting dialogues and conversations with them.

CABI:The session is titled “Building Linkages between education and practical knowledge resources” and will be hosted on the 22nd July, 2014 for a duration of 90 Minutes. For more details, please contact Julia Dennis at Dennis@cabi.org

SAFE-AFAAS/GFRAS:  The session is titled “Extension education and training: A link for translating outputs of agricultural science to meet smallholder farmers’ needs in Africa” and will be hosted on the 22nd July, 2014 for a duration of 5 hours. They will be sponsoring 29 participants. For more information, please contact Dr Jeff Mutimba – SAFE/Winrock at jmutimba@field.winrok.org or Mr Max Olupot – AFAAS at molupot@afaas-africa-org. Continue reading “Our partners for the Biennial Conference”

Community Action Research Grants: Connecting Universities to Rural Producers

This is our sixth issue in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. Download by clicking on the following issues to access the previous issues; RUFORUM Small Competitive Grants; GRGs – Graduate Research Grants (fifth issue) RUFORUM Network: Changing Pedagogical Paradigms, Priorities, and Practice (fourth issue),  Briefing note on the 4th biennial conference (third issue), RUFORUM’s Developmental Roots (second issue) and  RUFORUM@10 (first issue).

If agricultural transformation is to be a central component in achieving the African Agenda 2063,   there needs to be a significant increase in the skills available in rural areas to ensure a radical improvement in the quality and focus of the services supporting the sector.   Universities already house a wealth of highly qualified professionals and can produce the research and graduates to fuel sustainable agricultural growth and rural incomes, provided these universities are tasked, and equipped, to respond to actual demand, sharing their knowledge in ways that reach small farmers.

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), through its network of 41 universities in eastern, central and southern Africa, is engaged in linking smallholder farmers and their servicing agencies much more closely with faculty and students. These links are both to enable the farmers to articulate their demands and also to make the ideas, research and skills of the universities available in ways that directly assist the farmers to increase output and profitability in sustainable ways.

In 2010 RUFORUM expanded its Competitive Grants (CGS) programme to incorporate 3 pilot Community Action Research Projects (CARPs).  These $350 000 projects, each led by a professor as the principal investigator (PI), fund a PhD student, 3 M.Sc students and 10 undergraduate students to work with primary producers¹ in a participatory research framework, on a platform that includes other agricultural service agencies². These action platforms are expected to become an integral part of university outreach nationally, and the lessons learned are then shared across all the RUFORUM universities. Click here to view or download the full issue.

¹Including smallholder farmers, fisher-folk, foresters, and also small processors, traders etc
²Relevant service agencies providing inputs, advice, support etc – government, civil society, private sector and international.

Celebrating RUFORUM@10 – RUFORUM Small Competitive Grants; GRGs – Graduate Research Grants

This is the fifth in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. Download by clicking on the following links to access the previous issues;  ICT in the RUFORUM Network: Changing Pedagogical Paradigms, Priorities, and Practice (fourth issue),  Briefing note on the 4th biennial conference (third issue), RUFORUM’s Developmental Roots (second issue) and  RUFORUM@10 (first issue).

A universally common feature of the post-independence economies of Africa was the near absence of well qualified and experienced professionals in almost all fields – health, education, policy, and agriculture. In many important disciplines, severe deficits of professionals remain today. Many African universities are crowded, poorly resourced, and often unable, even with the best of staff, to provide the quality of education that Africa needs.  Professions, such as agricultural research, where local conditions can be demanding and the rewards (in the absence of adequate facilities and support) are poor, are unable to attract the most talented Africans they need.

Consider the situation which faces the newly trained professional in agriculture returning with a fresh doctorate from a top international university. That person will typically enter an empty laboratory. Transport to the field – to collect samples or data, to meet with farmers and suppliers, and to allow students to undertake field trips – will be limited and of poor reliability. The overcrowded undergraduate programme imposes a challenging teaching load; the demands of university administration further erode the available time for effective field research. There are two common outcomes – either professors simply repeat the experiments that they learned as part of their overseas study or they give up research, take on consulting assignments to supplement their (usually modest) incomes, and neglect their teaching duties. Students become disillusioned and few are attracted to further studies. The skills gap in the vital agricultural industries remains unfilled. Click here to view or download the full issue

The RUFORUM Network: Changing Pedagogical Paradigms, Priorities, and Practice

The road to Maputo: 21-25 July 2014.
This is the fourth in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. The authors for this issue are Nodumo Dhlamini (ICT Program Manager,  RUFORUM) and Lisbeth Levey, (Consultant, ICT for Development)  Download by clicking on the following issues to access the previous issues; Briefing note on the 4th biennial conference (third issue), RUFORUM’s Developmental Roots (second issue) and  RUFORUM@10 (first issue).

When, Where, and How It all Started
When the FORUM project began, connectivity was not taken for granted the way it sometimes is today.  Email utilization on a measurable scale only began in the late 1980s.  The story of ICT in Africa is one of profound need coupled with intense creativity to drive the rapid spread of these technologies.  The FORUM and now RUFORUM epitomize this principle.  In order to understand just how far RUFORUM has come, a few examples are highlighted below of innovative ICT deployment in universities in the five FORUM countries (Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zimbabwe).

  • In 1990, the Bunda College of Agriculture library created an automated bibliographic database of research carried out in Malawi relevant to maize production.  This was one of the first such bibliographies created anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Also in 1990, the small computer center at Eduardo Mondlane University installed an email system, first for the university and then for the entire country, using a dedicated telephone line and a painfully slow modem (1200 bps).  These early experiments paid off.  In 1995, UEM became the second university north of the Limpopo to achieve full Internet capability.
  • In 1991, the University of Nairobi, Makerere University, and the University of Zimbabwe joined an ambitious effort to provide email to their university communities
  • In the mid ‘90’s, Rockefeller Foundation helped selected FORUM university faculties and departments create special computer labs and networks, equipped with CD-ROM, in order to access bibliographic and abstracting databases in the agricultural sciences, particularly TEEAL, the full-text CD-ROM agricultural library of about 130 journals.  RUFORUM has continued to work with its network—organizing training workshops and subsidizing subscription costs.  Because these universities have recognized the importance of TEEAL, more than half of them are paying for their own subscriptions, now that RUFORUM is no longer covering the costs.
  • Not content with CD-ROM, the Rockefeller Foundation helped FORUM postgraduate students at Makerere University organize an information retrieval skills workshop in 1997 on using the Internet and search engines to access research information in the agricultural sciences.  RUFORUM workshops such as this one continue.
  • In 1993, the African Journal of Crop Sciences began as a print journal in the department of crop sciences at Makerere University.  It is now fully online and freely accessible worldwide (http://www.bioline.org.br/cs).  It was an important vehicle then for publishing FORUM research output and remains so today for RUFORUM.

Key findings from RUFORUM ICT studies

  • In 2009 86 percent of the RUFORUM universities surveyed had a campus backbone; 58 percent had ICT policies in place; and 60 percent had central ICT units to manage and monitor ICT projects.  However, the Colleges of Agriculture lagged behind in use of ICT for teaching, learning, and research in comparison to other disciplines within the university.
  • In 2011 59 percent of the 29 universities surveyed had a rationale in place for e-learning within an explicit institutional plan; 45 percent had e-learning policies compared to 26 percent in 2009; and 32 percent had e-learning units.  The situation for the Colleges of Agriculture, however, remained the same—teaching content in agriculture was almost negligible on institutional learning management systems. Click here to view or download the full issue


Briefing Note on the RUFORUM Fourth Biennial Conference

The road to Maputo: 21-25 July 2014.
RUFORUM’s DEVELOPMENTAL ROOTS was the second in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. Click here to read or download this issue

Once every two years, RUFORUM organizes an Africa-wide week-long conference with the aim of fostering networking among its member universities and to link universities to other actors in the Agricultural and Tertiary Agricultural Education sectors.  The Fourth RUFORUM Biennial Conference will take place from 19 – 25 July 2014 at the VIP Hotel in Maputo, Mozambique under the theme African Higher Education Week: Celebrating the contribution of African Universities and Partners to agricultural development in Africa.The Fourth Biennial is special in many ways:

  • It coincides with the 10 Year anniversary of RUFORUM, and will thus provide an opportunity to reflect on the progress made over the years, and visioning on the growth path for the next decade;
  • The Biennial will be held in Maputo, where 10 years ago African Heads of States and Governments signed the CAADP declaration. The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) is the blue print agreed upon by African Heads of States and Governments for achieving 6% economic growth through agricultural transformation.
  • It falls within the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security which was declared by the African Union, as part of celebrating CAADP at 10.  This Biennial provides an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of African Universities and Partners to agricultural development and food security in the continent.

This year’s conference will particularly focus on the future of agriculture and Agricultural Tertiary Education in Africa and will include the launching of RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship Programme, an initiative by Vice Chancellors to increase the pool of PhD trained scientists in Africa. The conference will bring together close to 500 delegates from across Africa and beyond, including development partners and senior African Policy makers. Click here to view or download the full issue

RUFORUM Launches Mobile App for the Upcoming 4th Biennial Conference 2014

There’s an app for just about everything nowadays, and RUFORUM is excited to announce that the 4th Biennial Conference 2014 has one too! Our mobile app will bring the experience at the 4th Biennial Conference 2014 to a new level. Attendees will be able to see more, do more, and get more value out of the event—right from their mobile devices.
Features of the app include:
  1. The full event schedule sorted by day, speaker, and/or track, and the ability to rate the sessions directly on the app
  2. Connect and exchange contact details with other attendees
  3. Share your event experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  4. Follow the event on Twitter using #RUFORUM
  5. Find session and exhibitor locations with maps of exhibit halls and session rooms
  6. See details about all the exhibitors and sponsors
Notifications about networking opportunities, contests, and other breaking event news pushed directly to your device
  1. To download and install the app,follow the steps below;
  2. For apple and andriod users, please click here directly from your phone
  3. For BlackBerry, Windows Phone users, and Desktop computers, please click here to view using  from your device. 
  4. You can search in the apple store or Google play for RUFORUM or Biennial and the application will be listed in your search results

This app performs optimally whether or not there’s an Internet connection. For Blackberry users, the app version will be online. When connected, the app downloads updates (like a schedule or room change). Once downloaded, all of the data is stored locally on the device so it’s accessible even if there’s no Wi-Fi.

Celebrating RUFORUM@10: RUFORUM’s Developmental Roots

The road to Maputo: 21-25 July 2014.
This is the second in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our 10 year anniversary. The author, Joyce Moock, is a former Associate Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation and was instrumental in founding FORUM, the predecessor programme to RUFORUM. Click here to see our first release where we announced the anniversary celebrations.

In over a little more than two decades RUFORUM has evolved from a regional, crop-based network of five agricultural faculties into a blockbuster regional consortium of 32 universities in eastern, central and southern Africa.  It is now a wholly African governed and managed network with a Secretariat, housed at Makerere University, which provides the platform for catalyzing change in African higher level capacity building.

The RUFORUM model is deliberately based on a high leverage concept that brings about broad change in universities. Through competitive sub-grants, specialized training sessions and intensive knowledge sharing, it exposes universities to both demand and opportunities to produce more relevant graduates and research to serve poor rural communities. RUFORUM’s learning network has been able to impact attitudes, curricula, pedagogical standards and university partnerships with smallholder farmers and with a wide assortment of agricultural development agencies.  By operating in a network mode, RUFORUM creates economies of scale in delivering these services.  To date, it has served over 1197 postgraduate students (1005 MSc and 192 PhD) and 2,340 faculty, with nearly 40% of the student grants awarded to women. Its Biennial Conferences attract over 600 participants from inside and outside Africa.  Its impactful community action programs have drawn support from numerous funders. And the innovations keep coming.  Most recently, nine of RUFORUM’s member universities have committed to host a graduate teaching assistants exchange whereby the host university waives fees and provides accommodation for PhD students and staff nominated by their universities. The sending universities provide travel, stipend and research funds.  In turn, the host university is eligible to send staff for specialized training to a sister university under the same arrangement. Click here to view or download the full issue


Celebrating RUFORUM@10: Special Issue

In 2014, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) celebrates 10 years as a network of universities and 22 years of addressing tertiary agricultural education issues in eastern, central and southern Africa. The Network was created to provide university support to the implementation of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), an initiative by African Heads of States and Governments to revamp the agricultural sector and ensure food and nutrition security on the continent. During this period, RUFORUM has worked with universities, small farmers, policy organs and other partners to ensure high quality graduates and research that is relevant to sustainable agriculture and rural development in eastern, central and southern Africa.  2014 marks the tenth anniversary for both RUFORUM and CAADP.

RUFORUM has grown under the guidance of senior African professionals, from a crop-based Rockefeller Foundation programme (FORUM) into a regional broad-based consortium of 32 universities in 18 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa (see Box 1).  Its strategic goals are based on two assumptions.  First, development is more likely to occur where there is an active, well-informed critical mass of locally based agricultural professionals to conduct relevant problem-solving research.  Second, the results of such research are more likely to be applied when based on strengthening a demand-driven research agenda – via linkages to smallholder farmers, community organizations, service agencies and policy makers to ensure research relevance and impact on the one hand and matching training and education to the potential job market on the other. Click here to read more on the RUFORUM Celebration@10

Announcing the 4th RUFORUM Biennial Conference

Universidade Eduardo Mondlane

The Hosting University for the 4th Biennial Conference, 2014

The 2014 RUFORUM Biennial Conference is the fourth in the series. Its main objective is to provide a platform for agricultural research to development stakeholders in Africa and elsewhere. The biennial aims to allow participants to exchange findings, experience, and lessons learned in order to improve the performance of the continent’s agriculture sector and impact on people’s livelihoods. It is especially dedicated to the network’s postgraduate students and their supervisors, grantees in RUFORUM’s member universities, and members of the RUFORUM alumni family. It is a platform for peer review, quality control, mentorship, networking, and shared learning.

This year’s biennial coincides with RUFORUM’s tenth anniversary and the African Union Commission decision to celebrate 2014 as a year of agriculture and food security in Africa and to mark the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Thus, the 2014 Biennial will provide an opportunity to African universities, researchers, development practitioners, and others to reflect on progress over the last decade and device strategies or options for accelerating agricultural progress on the continent. RUFORUM anticipates over 300 participants from within and outside Africa. The 2014 Biennial will link stakeholders in agriculture to new products and trends, with a particular focus on strengthening partnerships for higher education in agriculture. Biennial participants will have an opportunity to showcase their contributions to agricultural development in Africa. Young researchers will be exposed to innovative agricultural research and will have an opportunity to strengthen their communication skills through participation in special workshops, poster sessions, and participation in panel sessions.Read more by clicking here

Web 2.0 Learning Opportunity at Haramaya University 25 February-1st March 2013

Three RUFORUM Secretariat staff members (Nodumo Dhlamini, Joan Apio and Rebecca Mwima) traveled to Haramaya University in Eastern Ethiopia to conduct Web 2.0 Training for 27 female post-graduate students. The training has been supported by both RUFORUM and CTA.

In 2012 RUFORUM awarded Haramaya University in Ethiopia a grant to support female post-graduate students in a number of areas. The grant is being implemented by the Gender Directorate at Haramaya led by Dr Emebet Belete Negatu and Dr Jemal Yousuf. The activities of this project include providing E-resources and E-tools training for Research Management for female postgraduate students. This includes training in web 2.0 tools for research and development.The activity is in line with RUFORUM’s vision which focuses on “High performing African universities that produce skilled, proactive graduates, demand driven research outputs and innovation in response to local, regional and national agricultural development priorities”

RUFORUM has been working with CTA and COL (Commonwealth of Learning) since September 2008 to implement Web 2.0 Tools for Research Support and Networking training within its network.

Please read more about the event from:

  1. Web 2 for Development Gateway
  2. Web2forDev Face Book Group
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