The Popular Knowledge Women’s Initiative (P’KWI) a farmer organization located in Eastern Uganda has worked with Research for Development teams from the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University since 1996. The CAES developed a strategic plan that among others emphasised linkages of University-based research teams with communities as part of enhancing outreach engagements. As part of implementation of this Strategic Plan, the P’KWI was identified as a partner at the grassroots with whom to work with and increase reach to farmer communities. To this effect, a memorandum of understanding was developed between P’KWI and Makerere University as a sign of formal engagement with commitment to ensure a sustained relationship.

Since this formal engagement the CAES has consistently engaged P’KWI and conducted participatory community action research on key commodity crops including among others cowpea, sorghum, cassava, groundnuts, greengram, and sesame. In the process, a vibrant research platform that entails close collaboration between university-based research teams and the community working together as mutual partners has been developed.  The partnership has yielded several achievements including among others development and release of varieties, increased uptake of agronomic practices and new technologies. In addition, the research platform has developed farmers’ capacity to effectively participate in the design and implementation of research as equal partners with researchers. The researchers have had opportunity to learn from farmers and have used participatory approaches to design and address farmer research needs.


P’KWI farmers planting cassava in rows

In 2014, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) provided a Nurturing Grant [1]to Makerere University to engage with P’KWI through the Cassava Community Action Research Program funded by RUFORUM. Specifically, the nurturing grant aimed to strengthen P’KWI’s internal structures including governance, communication, and engagement with subsidiaries. The P’KWI membership now stands at 4500 farmers and is based on an innovative model that pools together households in a club. This model provides a platform for wider reach to farmers and an appropriate uptake pathway that has among others attracted more partners to work with P’KWI.


Mrs. Norah Asiyo, in brown attire, the P’KWI Executive Director

Currently, P’KWI is working intensely with the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), particularly the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), Uganda. The focus of the P’KWI – NARO collaboration is participatory breeding of sorghum, seed multiplication and on-farm demonstrations/trials. Other key collaborations include international partners particularly the McKnight Foundation which through a grant (P’KWI 16-273) has capacitated the P’KWI farmer-research network to work closely with Makerere University and NaSARRI on Enhancing cassava and cowpea integrated pest management approaches for food and nutrition security in Eastern Uganda. One of the P’KWI farmers. Mrs. Norah Asiyo serves as the Principal Investigator for this project – The Makerere University – P’KWI collaboration has provided a platform for both undergraduate and postgraduate students to undertake their research projects and field attachment internships. The P’KWI is engaged in mutual joint activities on research and value addition with non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Industry/private sector.  The Women Farmers have had opportunity to share their experiences both at national and international levels.


Related story lines:

[1] “RU 2014 CARP 04 – Strengthening Capacity of P’KWI to Support University Training and Research Programmes”.



Participants in a plenary session

As part of mobilizing resources to scale out best practice research for development through partnership between research and non-research actors (nongovernmental organizations, private companies and farmer organisations), the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), organized a write-shop to develop proposals to respond to the 2018 Cultivate Africa’s Future – Phase 2 (CultiAF-2). The Write-shop supported by PAEPARD under the capacity building Work Package and the private sector and university engagement of the mastercard foundation Project “Transforming African Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s Development (TAGDev) took place from 12 -16th February 2018 at Entebbe Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel. It gathered 33 participants from Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Participants consisted of representatives from RUFORUM member universities, NARIs, Farmers’ organizations, Private Sector organizations, and staff members from RUFORUM Secretariat and FARA.

The CultiAF-2 focuses on issues under 4 key research areas aligned to the regional priorities of the 2014 Malabo declaration on accelerated agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods for which the fund will focus.

  • Improved productivity and incomes for farmers and communities and decreased post-harvest losses.
  • Improved gender equity.
  • Nutrition and human health; and
  • Climate change and sustainable water management.

Participants at the Write-shop

CultiAF-2 is expected to address real practical development challenges and research needs in 10 developing eligible African countries mainly in Eastern and Southern Africa – namely Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Specifically, the project will support cutting edge applied field and/or laboratory research projects with the potential to generate high impact and innovative results with particular impact on the food insecure with special interest in supporting innovative research with the potential for breakthrough results that can be effectively scaled-up and easily adopted by smallholder farmers, food processors, post-harvest handlers, and other value chain actors to improve food and nutrition security and achieve gender equality.

At the end of the write-shop which was organized into plenary sessions, topical presentations, peer reviews, and group work 16 concept notes were developed by participants.

By Gregory Ndwandwa Sikumba, RUFORUM alumnus


Gregory Ndwandwa Sikumba

I first developed an interest in research for development while studying for a bachelor’s degree in animal science at the University of Namibia. After graduation, I joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development in Zambia in 2008 as a Tsetse Control Biologist in Copperbelt Province. As a biologist, I realized that I needed to be skilled in research and survey design; data management and analysis; and statistical modelling in order to become a fully-fledged researcher. This strengthened my desire to enroll for postgraduate studies in Research Methods.

In 2010, after numerous unsuccessful attempts at applying for scholarships, I was awarded a RUFORUM scholarship to study a master’s degree in research methods at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Nairobi, Kenya.

I assumed I would easily transition to the course, but I was wrong. MSc Research Methods was taught in a modular system making it a very rigorous, though highly stimulating course. We were assessed every two weeks and exams involved critical thinking. Our cohort was diverse, with 32 students from nine different countries, but we were able to cope with the challenge of this diversity because many of our assessments required us to work in groups. I credit the training programme for giving us a unique opportunity to learn from one another and nurturing my soft skills in team work and conflict resolution.

Upon completion of my course work in 2012, I was awarded a graduate fellowship by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where I was attached to the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) Project for my thesis research. The EADD is a regional dairy industry development programme whose goal is to help families living on small 1-5 acre farms lift themselves out of poverty through more profitable production and marketing of milk. My thesis research therefore was on “Socio-economic analysis of dairy feed technologies promoted in the Kenyan highlands”.

Reaping the benefits of the MSc Research Methods

The skills I acquired during my master’s training helped me to excel in my work as a graduate fellow and later as a consultant on dairy productivity, which I embarked on after graduation. As a fellow, I handled with ease large-scale data assessment to measure productivity, impact, and identify gaps in the dairy value chain for 3 countries (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda). It was this experience that opened my eyes and made me appreciate the quality of analytical skills the MSc Research Methods course offers.


Training extension staff in collecting GPS coordinates using mobile devices

Complementary to my experience working in the field, the master’s degree provided me with rigorous training on identifying gaps in the agricultural value chain and developing research proposals using an integrated approach. Moreover, the curriculum was in line with my interest in sustainable intensification of agricultural technologies for small holder farmers and has greatly facilitated my career in research for development.

Working with the team of highly skilled multidisciplinary scientists at ILRI and its partner organisations, as well as JKUAT faculty staff gave me exposure and contributed to my growth as a scholar. I have gained invaluable experience in monitoring, learning and evaluation, report and scientific writing and research proposal development. I am now competent in designing surveys with modern data collection methods (using tablets and mobile phones), participatory research methods, econometric analysis, and developing models.

Finally, and most importantly, after completion of my master’s degree, I got an ILRI/DAAD Scholarship in 2014, under the AFRICA RISING Project, to pursue a PhD in animal nutrition at the University of Nairobi, which I hope to complete soon.

Final reflections

The MSc Research Methods offers excellent preparation for a career either in academia or in research for development. However, being new, the course needs to be marketed in order for stakeholders to appreciate it and to make its graduates marketable to employers.

For me, the course has been a launch pad to greater things and I count myself lucky to have pursued it. Through it I have grown socially, academically and made friends across Africa. I now look to the future with lots of optimism as I already see the numerous opportunities that will open up for me upon graduation from my PhD studies; all thanks to the seed that was sown by this RUFORUM Regional Programme.

The Master of Science Degree in Research Methods hosted by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is one of the six collaborative regional master’s degree programmes established by RUFORUM. Launched in 2009, the programme was established in response to the large unmet demand in the labour market for professionals skilled in agricultural research methods. To date, the programme has graduated more than 100 graduates from 15 African countries

Related stories on the MSc Research Methods and its impact:




%d bloggers like this: