Business as Usual in Agriculture is no option
Deputy Executive Secretary Dr. Moses Osiru presented members with the Secretariat’s report highlighting the past year’s achievements. Notably, this included RUFORUM’s support of more than 120 Masters Students and close to 100 field attachments, reaching over 5000 smallholder farmers.
Osiru also highlighted operational improvements that include strengthening internal ICT systems and the development of a communication strategy – one of the results being an improved organisational footprint on social media.
Enhanced tracking of university performance through data collection, an impact assessment of the previous strategic plan (2006-2015) and an internal review was conducted to assess progress on targets.
A new strategic business plan that places more emphasis on focused and selective partnerships saw RUFORUM win 13 new grants amounting to $60 million for member universities.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) also noted that RUFORUM is now a continental organisation with the inclusion of the first North African member university – the University of Cairo – which was officially welcomed along with nine other new member institutions.
A number of exciting plans for the future include the commitment from member universities to train 325 PhD students over the next five years through intra-African academic mobility.
The need for new income streams was a recurring theme, with the financial report showing that despite fundraising successes to date, serious challenges loom. With the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Phase II grant closing in the next two years, RUFORUM needs to raise about $50 million to sustain its activities. As such, RUFORUM has committed to explore new resource streams such as crowd-funding platforms and aims to develop at least five new partnerships / collaborations to harness new wealth on the continent to support agricultural development.
Another recurring theme was that of developing curricula that are fit for purpose. With the dual challenge of development and sustainability, AGRINATURA President Dr. Michael Hauser, told members that training agriculture students is not sufficient anymore. He said they must also be trained to be global citizens who act morally and that this needs to be reflected in their curriculum: “Universities must ask themselves a very critical question. And this question is: our research – is it fit for purpose?”
Dr. Shadrack Moephuli, CEO & President of Agriculture Research Council, South Africa, added: “We must develop the kind of student who responds positively with energy and innovation towards enabling our communities to adapt and survive…”