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The RUFORUM Community Action Research Programme: A programme to link African Universities to communities and agribusiness

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Research Application Summary - The Community Action Research Programme of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is an initiative that aims to support universities in Africa to better support rural communities to improve their production systems by better targeting their knowledge and expertise to the needs of the rural communities and contribute to meeting the targets of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme. Universities have mandate for teaching, research and extension and are often staffed with a significant pool of trained experts, many at Masters and PhD level but are challenged by their inability to respond to the needs of small farm holders. This paper highlights the underlying design of the CARP Program and describes its underpinning: 1) African universities need to be able to improve their ability to identify research priorities based on local issues and challenges and mobilise the relevant funding, particularly from local sources to support research; 2) Universities should enhance their ability to learn and adapt on-going research and development efforts to ensure that they can improve the targeting of research and enhance the impacts of their research on the target population, the rural African farmer; 3) Universities should design and implement better mechanisms for integrating the lessons learnt from research into curriculum as a means of improving the sharing of knowledge and providing the next generation of leaders with the relevant knowledge required to enable them support African production for the coming generations, and 4) Universities should support the private sector through the strengthening of specific value chains to improve the competitiveness of African products. Key words: African Universities, communities, agricultural development, value chains, action research, curriculum development
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Third RUFORUM Biennial Meeting 24 - 28 September 2012, Entebbe, Uganda
Abstract
Research Application Summary
The RUFORUM Community Action Research Programme: A programme to
link African Universities to communities and agribusiness
Osiru, M.1, Nampala, P.1, Ntwali, C.1, Nambi, E.1 & Adipala, E.1
1Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture, Makerere University,
P. O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda
Corresponding author: m.osiru@ruforum.org
The Community Action Research Programme of the Regional
Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture
(RUFORUM) is an initiative that aims to support universities
in Africa to better support rural communities to improve their
production systems by better targeting their knowledge and
expertise to the needs of the rural communities and contribute
to meeting the targets of the Comprehensive African
Agricultural Development Programme. Universities have
mandate for teaching, research and extension and are often
staffed with a significant pool of trained experts, many at
Masters and PhD level but are challenged by their inability to
respond to the needs of small farm holders. This paper highlights
the underlying design of the CARP Programme and describes
its underpinning: 1) African universities need to be able to
improve their ability to identify research priorities based on local
issues and challenges and mobilise the relevant funding,
particularly from local sources to support research; 2)
Universities should enhance their ability to learn and adapt on-
going research and development efforts to ensure that they
can improve the targeting of research and enhance the impacts
of their research on the target population, the rural African
farmer; 3) Universities should design and implement better
mechanisms for integrating the lessons learnt from research
into curriculum as a means of improving the sharing of
knowledge and providing the next generation of leaders with
the relevant knowledge required to enable them support African
production for the coming generations, and 4) Universities should
support the private sector through the strengthening of specific
value chains to improve the competitiveness of African products.
Key words: African Universities, communities, agricultural
development, value chains, action research, curriculum
development
Osiru, M. et al.
1952
Le Programme de recherche d’actions communautaires du
Forum des universitaires régionales pour le renforcement des
capacités en agriculture (RUFORUM) est une initiative qui vise
à aider les universités en Afrique pour mieux soutenir les
communautés rurales à améliorer leurs systèmes de production
en ciblant mieux leurs connaissances et leur expertise aux
besoins de la communautés rurales et de contribuer à atteindre
les objectifs du Programme complet pour le développement de
l’agriculture africaine. Les universités ont le mandat d’organiser
l’enseignement, la recherche et la vulgarisation, et sont souvent
dotés d’un important groupe d’experts formés, dont beaucoup
au niveau du master et du doctorat, mais sont remis en cause
par leur incapacité à répondre aux besoins des petits agriculteurs.
Ce document met en évidence la conception sous-jacente du
programme «CARPE » et décrit son fondement: 1) les
universités africaines doivent être en mesure d’améliorer leur
capacité à identifier les priorités de recherche en fonction des
questions et des défis locaux et de mobiliser des financements
disponibles, en particulier à partir de sources locales pour
soutenir la recherche , 2) Les universités doivent renforcer leur
capacité à apprendre et à adapter la les efforts de la recherche
en cours et de développement, afin de s’assurer qu’ils peuvent
améliorer le ciblage de la recherche et d’améliorer l’impact de
leurs recherches sur la population cible, le fermier rural africain;
3) Les universités devraient concevoir et mettre en œuvre de
meilleurs mécanismes pour intégrer les leçons tirées de la
recherche au programme scolaire comme un moyen d’améliorer
le partage des connaissances et de fournir la prochaine
génération de chefs de file de la connaissance pertinente requise
pour leur permettre de soutenir la production africaine pour les
générations à venir, et 4) Les universités devrait soutenir le
secteur privé à travers le renforcement des chaînes de valeur
spécifiques pour améliorer la compétitivité des produits africains.
Mots clés: Universités africaines, les communautés, le
développement agricole, chaînes de valeur, la recherche-action,
développement de programmes d’enseignement
African Universities have an important role to play in building
Africa’s capacity, by preparing the next generation of Africa’s
leaders, entrepreneurs and agricultural advisors. Africa has
often been criticised for overseeing weak institutions, including
within the national agricultural research systems (NARS). With
recent improvements in economic growth across the continent,
strengthening the capacity of universities to do their core business
Résumé
Background
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Third RUFORUM Biennial Meeting 24 - 28 September 2012, Entebbe, Uganda
Literature Summary
of research, training and outreach is a practical and sustainable
approach towards strengthening the ability of the wider national
agricultural system. Such an approach would lead to more
efficient and effective operation of national institutions; improve
implementation of development programmes, growth of the
private sector and the expected subsequent reduction in poverty.
The focus on universities is timely:
1. Universities have mandate for teaching, research and
extension and are often staffed with a significant pool of
trained experts, many at Masters and PhD level. They often
constitute a high proportion of the country’s agricultural
human capital and we need to find ways to connect them
closely to development and policy-making initiatives;
2. Universities are burgeoning with student populations and
hundreds of universities are being established annually across
the continent;
3. Agricultural Education is now being recognised by African
governments, stakeholders, including major bilateral and
multi-lateral donors, as critical for ensuring agricultural
development.
Current university challenges can be responded to. Key
challenges are that much of the curriculums and teaching
practice remain ineffectual at supporting knowledge generation,
uptake and facilitating innovation. Curriculums are worryingly
out-dated, and many teaching staff continue to use ‘yellow’
notes to train students that often and increasingly have access
to more recent information from the internet. Other criticisms
include the low staff-student ratios and overall poor
infrastructure (and design) that limit the capacity to teach in
experiential learning approaches. The faculty themselves often
remain isolated from the rural areas, farms and food systems
that they service which makes it difficult for them to adapt
their classes for relevance. The graduates are often unsuited
to address development needs.
University staffs spend time on teaching and supervising
students, but also undertake a significant amount of research
activities, predominately donor funded (Beintema, 2010). The
impact of university research could be far reaching for effective
development, but in most cases the impact is limited and much
Osiru, M. et al.
1954
of the research is not fed into the NARS, or back to the
producers, In addition, universities have not been good at
monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of their research.
Furthermore there is a loose linkage between the generation of
knowledge at universities and their integration within the
curriculum (Hawkins, 2010). Further, as more focus is being
placed on post-production technologies, such as in food
processing and storage, traditional approaches that have been
developed to support production systems in the past are often
unable to respond. These are necessary to ensure that African
farmers are able to add value to their products and improve
competitiveness. Further, with such a high proportion of youth
and lack of matching opportunities for employment within sub-
Saharan African countries, university graduates must have
ability to create their own employment opportunities. Universities
have been known to adopt teaching material from foreign, usually
US or European Universities, without much regard for local
conditions at their home universities, resulting in a mismatch
between taught information and reality and limited learning.
The urgency for enhancing the integration of universities into
the broader agricultural development agenda at national and
regional levels has been recognised by a number of players in
the region (IAASTD, 2008). The Comprehensive African
Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) of the African
Union was designed in 2002 by African Heads of States as a
framework for responding to the challenges of improving
agricultural productivity and output on the continent (NEPAD,
2003). CAADP recognises the importance of strengthening
stakeholder engagement, including the private sector, as a means
of strengthening the agricultural sector. The CAADP further
provides a mechanism to ensure that agricultural education
stakeholders, including universities, can access local (national)
funding for enhancing the quality of higher education in Africa.
Universities and the broader TAE sector must be able to engage
meaningfully with the agricultural sector to enable them to
access funding from the sector. CAADP recognises the
importance of strengthening the private sector in African as an
engine for economic growth and poverty reduction. The Tertiary
Education for Agriculture Mechanism (TEAM Africa) is an
initiative being driven by The Regional Universities Forum for
Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), ANAFE and
FARA that is focused specifically on increasing and improving
funding for TAE, including its harmonisation at various levels.
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Third RUFORUM Biennial Meeting 24 - 28 September 2012, Entebbe, Uganda
Research Application As part of its mission, RUFORUM is keen to support African
Universities to improve their integration in the agricultural sector.
RUFORUM recognises the need for universities to be able to
deliver competent graduates and research outputs as the basis
for the improved collaboration. As such, RUFORUM recently
initiated the Community Action Research Programme (CARP),
an initiative that aims to provide opportunity of staff and students
of African universities to engage with other agricultural
stakeholders along value chains in a bid to improve understanding
of communities, and also to identify and undertake action
research. The CARP initiative also focuses on ensuring that
lessons from such university led action research initiatives are
integrated back into the university as a learning institution. The
CARP Programme is currently being piloted in three universities:
Bunda College of Agriculture of the University of Malawi; Moi
University in Kenya and Makerere University in Uganda. Each
of the universities is currently working on specific value chains
to identify specific lessons for university integration with
communities and how teaching and curriculum in general at
African universities can be improved. The CARP Programme
is currently in its second year of implementation and efforts
are being made to take stock of lessons to improve
implementation.
CARP was initiated as a mechanism to enhance the ability of
universities to improve the relevance and effectiveness of
agricultural education at African Universities. The Programme
builds on the RUFORUM Graduate Research Grants (GRG)1
that focuses on field based research and training for MSc
students offering university staff opportunity to, among others,
gain experience at managing research grants, strengthen student
supervision and mentoring and developing and delivering
knowledge and innovations (as evidenced in peer reviewed
publications) that respond to small-holder farmer needs. The
CARP provides2 an opportunity for more comprehensive and
sustained action research studies concentrated on particular
geographical areas or on selected commodities. The approach
in either case is on enhancement of value chains, strengthening
student training, responding to farmer problems through action
1The RUFORUM GRG provides up to US$60,000 for the training of 2 MSc students and relevant research
outputs. More information can be found in the Grants Manual at www.ruforum.org
2The CARP grants are for up to $300,000 over a three year period and should include the training of at least
1 doctoral and 3 M.Sc. students.
Osiru, M. et al.
1956
research, and improving feedback of these experiences into
university curricula for future training (Fig. 1). It is expected
that sustained action at postgraduate level will spill over into
curricula at African universities and similarly enhance the
capacity of teaching staff to innovate and subsequently enhance
training capacity.
Figure 1. The Community Action Research Framework.
The CARP builds on the findings of a comparative and gap
analysis on Experiential learning, action research and outreach
that was undertaken by RUFORUM in 2010 (Hawkins, 2010).
The study made practical recommendations on how to initiate
and promote experiential learning approaches in African
universities. The study found that unlike schoolteachers, most
university lecturers have had little or no formal training in learning
theory or teaching and that most of the programmes offered at
the universities visited are disciplinary focused, and oriented
towards knowledge acquisition rather than skills development.
In contrast with the RUFORUM GRG, the CARP projects are
expected to involve senior faculty who will have had previous
experience in action research initiatives, such as through the
GRG, and as such CARP has a much greater emphasis on
enhancing the involvement of non-university partners in value
chain based, inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary action research
along an innovation systems framework. The RUFORUM
National Forums are used as a means of engaging with other
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Third RUFORUM Biennial Meeting 24 - 28 September 2012, Entebbe, Uganda
stakeholders, particularly for aggregating farmer demands and
sharing of experiences, including receiving feedback on
university programmes and activities. Other mechanisms such
as use of communities of practice, the RUFORUM Alumni
towards the objectives of the CARP are also encouraged. The
CARP recognises the changing competencies and skills being
demanded by job markets on the continent and as such,
experiential learning and entrepreneurship are important
concepts within the programme. CARP hopes to improve
teaching delivery and content by bringing on board more student
centered approaches and aspects of entrepreneurship to spur
innovation, building on context specific new knowledge created
through the focused research programmes.
The pilot CARP projects currently being implemented are
expected to provide relevant lessons and experiences for
integrating these aspects into the research programmes of
African universities. RUFORUM hopes to ensure this by
benefitting from lessons of other partners with longer
experience and greater success at running such programmes,
such as Earth University in Costa Rica, Waginengen University
and Research Center in the Netherlands. However, an important
component will also be the sharing of experiences from the
pilot participating African universities (Makerere University,
Moi and Bunda College of Agriculture) in Eastern, Central and
Southern Africa (ECSA). RUFORUM also works to improve
both entrepreuneurship and experiential learning approaches
within universities by providing training opportunities for staff.
The CARP aims to improve matching of expertise and
experience that are resident in universities, including the vibrancy
of students, to the needs of African communities, particularly
rural farmers. The CARP focuses on 1) identifying senior
researchers who have a track record in undertaking innovative
research 2) supporting African faculty to co-identify and refine
with farmers relevant technologies that have been previously
produced by universities and focus on refining these for
utilisation by farmers; 3) provide opportunities for experiential
learning by moving faculty and students out of the university
and into the farmers’ fields and improve their understanding of
the challenges that farmers face; 4) enhance the linkages
between the lessons and experiences in the field with the
university curriculum by improving the feedback linkages and
5) identifying relevant experiences from other models and
institutions within and outside Africa, such as Earth University
Osiru, M. et al.
1958
References
in Costa Rica and various innovation platforms on the Continent,
that can provide lessons to improve the CARP model.
It is hoped that strengthening farmer use of knowledge co-
constructed by universities and communities by building the
capacity of African universities to incorporate these experiences
into training programmes at universities and inculcate into
African graduates experiences will enable them to circumvent
the pitfalls inherent in African agriculture and small holder
farming. The MSc and PhD students that graduate from African
universities are the future advisors and implementers of African
agriculture and by improving their capacities, we can sustainably
ensure the future of African agriculture.
The CARP approach is underpinned by four major ‘pillars’: 1)
African universities need to be able to improve their ability to
identify research priorities based on local issues and challenges
and mobilise the relevant funding, particularly from local sources
to support research; 2) Universities should enhance their ability
to learn and adapt on-going research and development efforts
to ensure that they can improve the targeting of research and
enhance the impacts of their research on the target population,
the rural African farmer; 3) Universities should design and
implement better mechanisms for integrating the lessons learnt
from research into curriculum as a means of improving the
sharing of knowledge and providing the next generation of
leaders with the relevant knowledge required to enable them
support African production for the coming generations, and 4)
Universities should support the private sector through the
strengthening of specific value chains to improve the
competitiveness of African products. Lessons from pilot
implementation are being used to refine the approach.
Beintema, N.M. and Stads, G.J. 2011. African agricultural R&D
in the new Millenium. Progress for some, challenges for
Many. International Food Policy Research Institute & ASTI.
Washington DC, Rome, Italy.
Hawkins, R. 2010. Experiential learning, action research and
outreach: A comparative and gap analysis. Regional
Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture,
Kampala, Uganda.
IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge,
Science and Technology for Development). 2008. Synthesis
Report. Washington, DC: Island Press.
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Third RUFORUM Biennial Meeting 24 - 28 September 2012, Entebbe, Uganda
NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Office
of Science and Technology). 2006. Africa’s Science and
Technology Consolidated Plan of Action. Pretoria: NEPAD.
Osiru, M.O., Ntwali, C., Ebanyat, P., Okori, P., Okalebo, R.,
Kaunda, E. and Adipala, E. 2010. The African renaissance:
Engaging communities to strengthen Agricultural tertiary
education. Proceedings of the RUFORUM Biennial
Meeting, September, 20-24, 2010, Kampala, Uganda. pp.
819 - 827.
... While traditional social and health psychology approaches are often individualistic in their orientation, CARP works with communities to identify collective opportunities for change (Murray, 2012). According to Osiru et al. (2012), the framework of this type of approach includes interaction between universities, students, and communities in terms of knowledge creation and aspiration; institutional and personal development; livelihood enhancement; experimental learning; and interaction between students and communities in response to the needs of small farm holders. ...
... With reference to the current study, livestock CARP was an initiative of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) that works with universities in Africa to better support rural communities to improve their production systems by targeting their knowledge and expertise to the needs of the rural communities and contributing to the targets of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme. This also challenges universities' ability to respond to the needs of smallholder farmers (Osiru et al., 2012). Bringing together key partners from the private and public sectors across research, extension, market, and government institutions in an iterative co-learning cycle allows communities of practice to share knowledge created from the implementation of action research (Nganga et al., 2019). ...
Full-text available
Article
This article details steps, strategies, methods, and tools used during the project formulation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and closure of a livestock CARP conducted in the Lushoto district of Tanzania’s Tanga Region. According to the study, CARP is a successful approach to managing agriculture-related community projects because it allows for the active participation of community members and all stakeholders, resulting in a sense of ownership and assurance of project success and sustainability. However, this work established that in order for the CARP to produce desirable results, a robust framework for organization and implementation must be in place; optimal methods of involving multiple stakeholders must be used; and strategies to ensure its sustainability must be set and agreed upon by all implementers during the implementation period.
The African renaissance: Engaging communities to strengthen Agricultural tertiary education
  • M O Osiru
  • C Ntwali
  • P Ebanyat
  • P Okori
  • R Okalebo
  • E Kaunda
  • E Adipala
Osiru, M.O., Ntwali, C., Ebanyat, P., Okori, P., Okalebo, R., Kaunda, E. and Adipala, E. 2010. The African renaissance: Engaging communities to strengthen Agricultural tertiary education. Proceedings of the RUFORUM Biennial Meeting, September, 20-24, 2010, Kampala, Uganda. pp. 819-827.