FAO Regional Office for Africa

Changing the academic landscape for sustainable agriculture and food security

FAO working with African universities for transformative development

©FAO/Samuel Creppy

19 December 2019, Cape Coast [Ghana] – As Africa continues to experience significant structural changes in the agricultural landscape and food systems, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sees that building the capacities of universities on the continent to provide new solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains a priority.

To strengthen partnership with African universities for innovation and transformative development, FAO joined other stakeholders at the 15th Annual General Meeting of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) held in Cape Coast, Ghana.

Founded as a network of various universities on the continent, RUFORUM strengthens the capacities of universities to foster innovations, which are responsive to the demands of smallholder farmers and value chains through training of high quality researchers in the food and agricultural sector.

Addressing participants at the opening of a business meeting with stakeholders during the forum, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, reaffirmed FAO’s commitment in supporting and building the capacities of universities and students in the area of research and innovation.

He further noted that FAO is currently developing an innovation knowledge platform to promote agricultural digital innovation for efficient transdisciplinary agricultural data integration, knowledge discovery as well as collaborative data production and sharing. FAO and RUFORUM initiatives aim to foster knowledge transfer between students conducting research and rural host communities through supporting graduate students in six-month Community-Based Field Attachments.

Abebe Haile-Gabriel said, “I am glad to note that ten of these attachments have been completed in communities in Benin, Kenya, Lesotho and Uganda. Students were selected through a competitive process and their research covered a variety of topics from improving child nutrition to addressing gastrointestinal parasites in sheep and goats.”

FAO and RUFORUM partnership

In 2017, FAO and the Regional Universities Forum for Capacities Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to strengthen the capacities of member universities to better contribute to food security and nutrition, increase sustainability of agricultural and food systems, reduce rural poverty and achieve the SDGs in Africa.

FAO and RUFORUM carried out a number of joint activities to increase African students’ and researchers’ access to FAO’s e-learning resources and scientific publications on food and agriculture. These activities are expected to increase African youth skills through involvement in community-based field projects and to strengthen institutional and technical capacities of RUFORUM member universities, which are critical areas in the implementation of the SDGs.  

The 15th Annual General Meeting

The recent RUFORUM brought together 114 Vice Chancellors from member universities in Africa, Ministers of States in the agriculture, science, education and technology sector in the region. Development partners working to promote research in the agriculture, science and technology sector also joined the meeting.

The Executive Secretary of RUFORUM, Adipala Ekwamu, emphasized the need to provide an effective platform for universities to support smallholder farmers through linkages with national agricultural research systems and rural communities.

“RUFORUM exists to champion national and regional policies and to advance science and technology and innovation on the African continent with the vision of transforming universities to catalyse sustainable inclusive agricultural development to fed and create prosperity for Africa” he noted.

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