6 January 2012 | EN
The conference called for more collaboration between research, training and extension service providers
[KAMPALA] East and Central African countries should establish a new generation of innovation-oriented agricultural universities that would help integrate research, training and extension services, a conference has agreed.
The recommendation came at the close of the first General Assembly of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), held in Uganda last month (14–16 December).
The ASARECA assembly agreed to foster partnerships within individual countries and across the region, including closer collaboration between research, training and extension service providers, and more private sector engagement in commercialising research outputs.
The new universities, said the recommendation, should be anchored in ministries of agriculture but linked with other ministries such as education, environment and transport. That would eradicate the disconnection between National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) and training in various faculties of agriculture at existing universities.
Currently, NARIs report to ministries of agriculture, while faculties and colleges of agriculture report to ministries of education.
"There is an urgent need to create a new generation of innovation-oriented agricultural institutions that bring together in an efficient way agricultural research, training, commercialisation and extension," wrote Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development at the Harvard Kennedy School, United States, in the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation.
Juma said Africa is dominated by fragmented approaches where separate, and poorly-linked, institutions often report to different ministries.
This, he said, can be overcome by adding research and extension components to existing agricultural universities, and creating the new generation of agricultural universities recommended by the assembly. Their core functions would be upgraded training, extension and commercialisation for existing NARIs, and agricultural innovation.
All these options, he said, need high-level political commitments.
Paul Kibwika, a senior lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Extension Education at Makerere University, Uganda, agreed that political commitments would be essential. And he added that new policies would also be required: "In most countries [in the region] the ministries of education accredit the universities — how would they share this mandate with the agricultural ministries?"
Eldad Tuhakirwa, deputy executive director of ASARECA, said the organisation can only promote the idea but does not have the money to finance it.
"This was a dialogue between the different stakeholders at the meeting and they came up with that recommendation. Our role is to promote the idea through our network so that governments that have the money can implement it."
ASARECA was established in 1994 and its member countries are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. It works to promote science and technology and innovation to help feed the region in the 21st century.
Dr.Andrew Matovu ( United Kingdom )
9 January 2012
Sub-Sahara Africa is blessed with low population, fertile land lakes,rivers and swamps. We cannot continue blaming outside forces for the the continuing famine - most recently in Somalia that has afflicted us. Our political leaders have not demonstrated vision and the necessary initiative and motivation to efficiently plan and use the vast expanse of fertile land in most of Sub-Sahara Africa. The legacy of good agricultural institutions left by the colonial masters in most of these countries have been neglected and not fully supported financially to educate and expand the use of our land and provide food to those countries, such as Ethiopia and Somalia which often experience drought. There is an urgent need to address the lack of initiative among ASARECA (founded in 1994) counties. Its the politicians who should agree on a budget to set up agricultural institutions, but conferences every few years will not solve this problem.
Jagua ( Nigeria )
9 January 2012
The recommendation is applauded as a move in the right direction. We already have these universities of agriculture in Nigeria, and the result has been encouraging. They used to be under the Ministry of Agriculture, under which they were much better funded, but are now under the Ministry of Education. Pressure is still on from some quarters, to return them to the Agriculture Ministry where they enjoy much better National and international patronage.
Justin Mabeya ( Kenya )
11 January 2012
This a great recommendation as far as linking research and extension actively goes, irrespective of which ministry hosts the universities. Key to this is; one the need of changing mindsets in the research, academic and extension components in the whole continuum and two, a deliberate effort of making sure that farmers are actively on board in generation and consumption of technologies. Farmers should not be spectator end users. As long as this has not be got right, agriculture will forever be a cause of poverty, considering that majority of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is rural.
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