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.

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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.

Ghana Minister of Education at the High level Dialogue meeting / Photo by Maureen Agena

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