Creating change agents through student-community engagement

Increasingly universities are under pressure to provide evidence of their contribution to society. This requires them to develop new models of engaging at various levels. In doing so, universities have to transition from merely teaching and research to include direct relations with society. University outreach has evolved and taken various forms to make university knowledge and expertise available to end users. While some universities have stuck to the traditional model of outreach focused on dissemination of research results others have gone a step further to embedding community interaction in their curricula. One such university is EARTH University in Costa Rica which has adopted a model named the Community Engagement Model.

Recently, RUFORUM hosted Prof Elmer Cantarero from EARTH University, together with two of his former students from Uganda, to share their experiences in community engagement. Prof Cantarero had just returned from a visit to Gulu and Egerton Universities to review how the two universities currently engage with communities and which practices will be incorporated in implementation of the TAGDev Programme (Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development). TAGDev is an 8-year partnership between the two universities, The MasterCard Foundation and RUFORUM.

Collaborating to create community change agents: RUFORUM staff and the EARTH University team after their meeting to discuss community engagement

According to Prof. Cantarero, university engagement with communities is important to help them support development across sectors and therefore add value to society. Community engagement, in particular, provides an opportunity to deliver social value to communities.

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Call for Proposals 2017: RUFORUM Community Action Research Programme

Deadline: Submission of full proposals to RUFORUM Secretariat by 27th March, 2017

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation is implementing an eight year programme “Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev)”. The TAGDev Programme seeks to transform African agricultural universities and their graduates to better respond to developmental challenges through enhanced application of science, technology, business and innovation for rural agricultural transformation.

This is to announce the 2017 Call for proposals for the Community Action Research Programme (CARP+) targeted to Egerton University and Gulu University and financed by TAGDev Programme. The CARP program aims to encourage universities to develop and invest in more comprehensive and sustained action research into a particular geographical area or in a selected commodity along the full value chain. The CARP+ is defined by inclusion of the TVET as part of the CARP engagement that has hitherto not been a focus in earlier approved CARP Projects. This CARP+ Call thus seeks to support projects that innovatively enhance university-led action research and impact by engaging and working with technical/ vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions. All successful proposals must include at least one TVET institution as a partner, and demonstrate how the project will responds to TVET needs.

This specific Call seeks to extend university activities to work more closely with rural communities through multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional partnerships involving key stakeholders such as research, extension and development agencies, policy-makers, the private sector and TVET institutions as a must. The Call[1] will support proposals focusing on crops and livestock sector value chains of strategic importance in Kenya and Uganda that provide opportunity for sustainably moving a significant number of smallholder farmers out of poverty and food insecurity.

For this initial call ONLY proposals from Gulu University or Egerton University will be eligible.

Potential applicants are invited to review the detailed guidelines for the Call which may be download here

Important dates for the Call are as below:

  1. Deadline for full proposals to RUFORUM Secretariat by 27th March, 2017
  2. Compliance and External Reviews by 20th April, 2017
  3. Technical Committee review by 27th May, 2017
  4. Communication to PIs of shortlisted proposals by 30th May, 2017
  5. Submission of revised proposals 9th June, 2017
  6. Final Selection and Grant Agreements signed by 15th June, 2017
  7. Funds Disbursed by 25th June, 2017

For more information please email MCF@RUFORUM unit. Email:

[1] A follow up call to award four additional CARP+ projects will be released in August 2017. The call will be open to all RUFORUM member universities.

Useful Links:

  1. Annex A: CARP+ Application Form
  2. Annex B: CARP+ Budget Template
  3. Annex C: CARP+Logical Framework

The MasterCard Foundation supported TAGDev Project Website launched


In June 2016, the MasterCard Foundation signed agreement with the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) to strengthen efforts to connect university education to the needs of rural communities. The eight year project “Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev)” is being implemented by RUFORUM and its member universities, with focus on Gulu University in Uganda and Egerton University in Kenya.

The TAGDev website will provide a portal for sharing updates on the Project, including the activities of the students who will be supported. The website hopes to demonstrate impact stories of community transformation. The website can be accessed at To keep updated with the latest discussions from this initiative, please follow the #TAGDev online discussions on social media. Click here to download the full press release.

Useful links:

CONSULTANCY: Terms of Reference to Support the Development of a Book on Tertiary Agricultural Education in Africa


The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has witnessed significant expansion over the past five years. From its creation with 10 members, the Consortium now has a membership of 66 African universities with operations across 26 countries on the continent spanning Eastern, Central, Southern and Western Africa, with a vision ‘to create a vibrant agricultural sector linked to African universities which produce high performing graduates and high quality research responsive to the demands of Africa’s farmers for innovations and able to generate sustainable livelihoods and national economic development’. Programmatically, RUFORUM has also evolved to meet the demands of African universities and to ensure that services are aligned to the needs of members. In 2014, RUFORUM signed a cooperation agreement with the African Union to support the implementation of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA 2024) and more specifically, the STISA Pillar 1 on Poverty Eradication and food and nutrition security. The Pillar 1 of STISA is directly linked to the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A).

In 2015, RUFORUM launched its Strategic Business Plan for 2015-2020 highlighting important new innovations to strengthen business focus and enhance delivery of its mission. The Plan recognized the evolutionary nature of the agricultural higher education sector and called for greater understanding of the tertiary education sector, including a greater understanding by the network of the university sector in Africa including pipelines from the secondary, vocational and post-doctoral sector. The contextual underpinning for RUFORUM’s work also continues to evolve. New and emerging challenges such as youth unemployment and related agribusiness strategies, the energy crises, climate change, urbanization and globalization all require that higher education systems are realigned to enhance their responsiveness to clients and to ensure that graduates are appropriately skilled for deployment into research and development institutions across the continent.

In 2016, RUFORUM received a grant from the MasterCard Foundation. The overall objective of the Project entitled ‘Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development’ (or TAGDev) is to transform African agricultural universities and their graduates to better respond to developmental challenges through enhanced application of science, technology, business and innovation for rural agricultural transformation. The Project is expected to lead to economic growth and development and sustainable livelihoods in Africa. This project will contribute significantly to efforts aimed at escalating skilled human resources and capacity to meet the AU Agenda 2063 as well as other frameworks such as the STISA 2024, S3A and CAADP. The Program will extend the reach of the university into marginalized communities and provide transformative education that will develop the leaders and innovators to drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Africa. The TAgDev Program will undertake  four broad activities: 1) Pilot a new model of agricultural education at early adopter universities that connects tertiary agricultural education to rural communities, with an emphasis on smallholder farmers; 2) Strengthen agribusiness/entrepreneurship at two universities and selected TVET institutions; 3) Scale the new model for agricultural education to other agricultural universities and TVET institutions; and, 4) Increase collaboration and mutual learning among institutions and agencies implementing and influencing innovative Tertiary Agricultural Education for rural transformation in Africa.


Within the RUFORUM constituency, there is clear recognition of the need for greater analysis, understanding and reflection of the tertiary education space to guide development and optimization of strategies required to achieve RUFORUM vision and mission, including informing its business plan. Trends at the global level, and indeed continental and national levels continue to evolve and yet analyses are usually inadequate. A few recent publications have been particularly useful to provide important information on the agricultural and higher education sectors. For example, the recent book on “Agricultural research in Africa: Investing in future harvests” which was published by the International Food Policy Research Institute through its Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators Program provided important information on ‘key strategies to address current limitations and inefficiencies in agricultural R&D financing, human resources, organization and management, and systems-level structuring for continued growth’. The focus was broadly on the agriculture and innovation with a chapter dedicated to capacity building efforts in Africa. An earlier book sponsored by the World Bank on ‘Cultivating Knowledge and Skills to Grow African Agriculture: A Synthesis of an Institutional, Regional, and International Review’ provided analysis on the need for skills in growing agriculture in Africa.

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