Making GIS work for Agriculture: Experiences from a RUFORUM NASA 2015 course beneficiary

Dr. John Wasige receiving this recognition certificate upon completion of the GIS Course

Dr. John Wasige receiving this recognition certificate upon completion of the GIS Course

Dr. John Wasige was recognized by NASA for application of free & open source GIS/Remote sensing software in full automated work flow of digital satellite image processing for land use change detection at Department of Earth & Environment, Boston University USA. He was inspired to study agricultural sciences from experiences of growing up in a farming family with lots of cattle and crops (maize, millet, sorghum, groundnuts, cotton, bananas) in Eastern Uganda. “Land preparation required using oxen which I love so much” said Dr. Wasige. Bananas were always grown on sites that were previously occupied by cattle for night corralling so as to utilize the accumulated fertility from cattle manure. Crops were grown by shift cultivation in search for new fertile land areas after exhausting the fertility in previous land sites.

Dr. Wasige always remembers how nice it was seeing green flourishing fields after planting and later a busy schedule of harvesting that was always rewarding with fresh food. Through this whole process, he saw agriculture as a profitable venture that required knowledge of crop and land management. When it came to apply for courses at University, Agriculture was a top priority. “I have never looked back after Makerere University. My BSc. Agriculture has opened many international professional opportunities in Europe, USA & United Kingdom” Said Dr. Wasige.

Although his MSc. & PhD has focused more on Ecosystems science and GIS/Remote sensing, it was because of the foundation on biological sciences that he got while studying agriculture. Through it all, Dr. Wasige realized humans’ actions can cause the death of the earth. Agriculture has become a key element within the earth system as it changes global biogeochemical and water cycles, while global environmental change affects land productivity and thus future land-use decisions. “I am now curiosity to know how the Global Earth System works and a belief that we must understand the consequences of human-caused changes to the earth system, the way the earth’s living systems function and how to control the negative consequences” said Dr. Wasige.

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Enhancing the role of Universities in Agribusiness through linkages with society

Experiences from the Agribusiness Enhance Project FED/2013/320-100

EdulinkRUFORUM is an Associate Partner for the project Strengthening Universities Capacity to Enhance Competitiveness of Agribusinesses in East and West Africa – Agribusiness Enhance in short,” an Edulink project grant number FED/2013/320-100. The project brings together agribusiness educators and researchers from Egerton University, Kenya, ;Mekelle University, Ethiopia; Gulu University, Uganda; University of Port Hartcourt, Nigeria and University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

The project has just completed its second year and has up until now conducted a number of activities aiming at bringing the universities in closer contact with the actors in the agribusiness sector. Activities have included: cluster development in selected value chains; round table workshops bringing stakeholders from the agribusiness sector together to identify areas of collaboration; development of training manuals; training in innovation and entrepreneurship teaching; curriculum development; establishing an Entrepreneur Fund Scheme; and developing new models for student attachment.

The Entrepreneurs Fund Scheme aims to incentivize agribusiness graduate students to become entrepreneurs rather than job seekers only. The Fund Scheme works as follows; The students receive entrepreneurship and business plan training as part of their education. Students may be at under-graduate or graduate level depending on local conditions. They then team up in enterprise groups of 3-4 persons that develop a business plan. The plan is presented to a group of university staff and external sector experts, including bankers that evaluate and select the most promising projects for funding. Funding is provided in terms of ‘a soft’ loan with reasonable interest rate, and the loan must to be repaid within two years. These funds will function as a revolving fund for future student entrepreneurs. Currently, the businesses that students have developed include agriculture and agribusiness consultancy, vegetables production, broiler chicken production, bakery using Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) and livestock feed production among others.

Funding student entrepreneurs is a novel activity for most universities and may therefore provide an administrative challenge. At Egerton University this will be overcome by aligning the new scheme with an existing practice of a social fund for students, thus using institutionalized procedures. At Gulu University the funds are managed by a separate project account. The experience with the student enterprises has been largely successful and these have become important role models for other students considering taking the plunge into self-employment.

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Producing Entrepreneurs to support Value Chains – A story of a RUFORUM student at Gulu University


Akidi Irene Lynette is a graduate student at Gulu University, Uganda pursuing master’s degree in Agri-Enterprises Development and currently in her my second year of study. She shares her experiences studying under the Agri-Enterprise Development program in a RUFORUM member university, Gulu University.

During my first year a number of concepts were introduced to us, many of which we were practical such as developing a marketing plan for any small business, carrying out a value chain analysis on maize and sesame, develop Individual business plans from which we teamed up and selected a single plan; bakery using orange fleshed sweet potato. We are starting this project in two weeks’ time with the seed funding from the revolving fund and the students look forward to publishing papers from these experiences.

This course though engaging has made me what I am. It has greatly improved my writing skills through the semester/term paper system, allowed me to implement my individual business plan on peanut butter production. Through the attachment process, I have been exposed to various challenges that involve reviewing the farmer’s business plans, educating them on the importance of keeping records, having business plans and also marketing plans. The farmers too had problems in areas of village savings and loan association (VSLA) which I also offered trainings about. I would like to thank the developers of this curriculum who made it an interesting and beneficial fusion, and to RUFORUM for making it possible for us to sail through smoothly through the scholarships, to the organizations where we were placed for the enabling environment to practice and for them to learn. But also to the lecturers and fellow students for providing the technical backstopping wherever needed. I have the high hopes that I will graduate a changed person. Know more about the course by clicking here

President of Malawi Calls on African Leaders and Development Partners to Strengthen Higher Education for the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa

Above: An exhibition display by Moi University showcasing various items from  the university textile Industry in the University during the Heads of State Meeting

Above: An exhibition display by Moi University showcasing various items from the university textile Industry  during the Heads of State Meeting last week in New York, USA

At the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York (UNGA), His Excellency Professor. Arthur Peter Mutharika, the President of the Republic of Malawi hosted a Side Event on ‘A Strategy to Strengthen Higher Education in Africa for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals’. The side event was organised in parallel to the ongoing UNGA where Global leaders from 193 nations reviewed and adopted the 17 goals and 169 targets that make up the 2015 post-development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs aim to ensure a dignified existence for global citizens by the year 2030. SDG 4 calls for an inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all.

The President of Malawi is working with 55 Vice Chancellors of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) to advocate for the strengthening of higher education in Africa. The President commended the important role of partnerships such as the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (PHEA) have played to support capacity development in Higher Education in Africa and called upon development partners, including the African Development Bank, to increase support to higher education in Africa.

The meeting noted that Africa is experiencing strong economic growth averaging around 5% and that studies in several sub-Saharan African countries have demonstrated that investment in Higher Education is a good economic investment, producing a rate of return of over 20%. More public and private sector investment in Higher Education is therefore justified. The low participation of African youth in Higher Education (<1%) and the wealth and gender disparities among those who do access Higher Education was noted. It was agreed that there needs to be better representation in Higher Education from the lower social quintiles and from women. The event attracted Government leaders and representatives, development partners, regional organisations and higher education stakeholders.

The President called upon the African Union to facilitate the movement of staff and students between various African institutions across the continent noting that mobility can be enhanced by providing an enabling environment. He requested fellow Heads of State and Government and development partners to ensure improved and long term funding to higher education in Africa. He stressed the need for improved and relevant curricula, for partnerships for Agricultural Development and the power of ICTs to promote and support Open and Distance Learning. His final point was to stress once again the need for partnerships, South-South, South-North and triangulated partnerships between multiple Southern and Northern institutions.

A documentary on the role of higher education in development was screened and is available online at

Download full RUFORUM Press Release_UN Summit on HEA here.