The author, Prof. Mabel Imbuga is the Vice Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) a member of the RUFORUM Network

Prof. Mabel Imbuga is the Vice Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT)

Prof. Mabel Imbuga is the Vice Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT)

Higher Agricultural education is becoming increasingly important in sub-Saharan Africa. Providing a high quality higher education network that is reliable, secure, adaptable, scalable and fault tolerant has become fundamental in higher education. Higher education institutions’  access to networks is therefore critical in supporting the core mission of training, research and innovation. Networks and innovations are pivotal in enhancing reputation, competitiveness, client satisfaction, revenue, and accountability. Consequently, networking capabilities are now used in  diverse and creative ways to facilitate strategic goals such as creating unique student learning environments, operating successful e-learning programs, leveraging early adoption of emerging or experimental technologies, providing life long link to alumni, enabling cutting edge research and commercilization of research innovations. This paper emphasizes the importance of improving networking and Innovation systems in Higher Agricultural institutions particularly in the areas of teaching, research and extension. A number of examples will be given based on Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) experience.

Role of Networks and Innovations in Teaching

Networks in teaching: A great deal of energy and enthusiasm currently surrounds creating and/or joining education and research networks due to the significant increase in the demand for higher education in the last two decades. For instance, in Kenya the number of public universities have grown from 7 in 2010 to 32 in 2014. At the state and regional level, JKUAT alone has 7 campuses and centres in Kenya, and regional campuses in Arusha, Tanzania; Kaduna, Nigeria; and Kigali, Rwanda. JKUAT is extending its networks to South Sudan and Somalia Republic. This calls for a model of moving toward a regional facility based network. These regional networks provide JKUAT with connectivity to external networks. It is in the same spirit that JKUAT hosts a RUFORUM funded MSc in Research Methods and PhD in Food Science and Technology. ANAFE has  developed an innovative agribusiness curriculum which is being piloted in a number of universities  in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya the program is being piloted at Rongo University College, University of Eldoret, Taita Taveta University College and JKUAT. From the experience of ANAFE activities in UniBRAIN tracer studies, revision of agricultural  programs and imparting soft skills to students have a significant role in enhancing the entrepreneurial and practical skills of the students. Such regional programs are a catalyst to  greater staff and student mobility as well as internationalization and/or harmonization of curricula. The INTRA ACP Academic staff and student exchange program, which builds on the African Union’s Mwalimu Nyerere programme for Africa, is based on this concept.  In this Programme JKUAT is a partner in Agriculture and Engineering projects which includes more than 20 Universities in African. Over a hundred student and staff are currently participating in this program.

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By Prof. Dr. MJ Kropff, Dr. CADM van de Vijver and Dr. HJM Löffler

Dr. Martin Kropff Rector:  Magnificus of Wageningen University and Vice-President WUR

Dr. Martin Kropff Rector: Magnificus of Wageningen University and Vice-President WUR

Innovation is considered to be crucial for addressing societal and economic challenges and opportunities in the agro-food domain. This calls for high-level educated employees, for which tertiary education is crucial. Since system innovations will gain impact, tertiary education increasingly needs to embrace the development of interdisciplinary skills. Wageningen UR meets these needs by the T-shaped skills approach, indicating that each specialist is able to connect with specialists form other disciplines. Wageningen UR is committed to assist third parties in developing and implementing similar models.

Despite its tiny size, The Netherlands is the second-largest exporter of agro-food products in the world. The sector contributes 10% to the GDP, accounts for 20% of the export and employs 600.000 people in the country. It illustrates that the agro-food domain is a major driver of the Dutch economy. The key-word for the Dutch position is innovation. Developing, sharing and combining knowledge opens continually avenues for new developments, yielding new and better products, more efficient production methods, new institutions and new arrangements. Boosted after the Second World War, this innovation helped the Netherlands to build its leading position. At that time, the Research-Education-Extension model was introduced to stimulate innovation. Dedicated National Agricultural Research Institutes, together with Universities and Extension Services developed new knowledge and educated the end-users on how to implement it. However, the linear model eroded at the turn of the century. As a result of the model, end-users became increasingly educated and were not satisfied with only consuming knowledge anymore. Considering that end-users were the experts, a new interactive model was developed, leading to the concept of co-innovation. Facilitated by the government, end-users from industry and society now sit together with scientists to articulate the scientific needs, to jointly carry out the research, and to facilitate implementing innovations. This model, often referred to as the Golden Triangle or Triple Helix, serves us well and is at the basis of the Dutch economic innovation policy. One of the consequences is that public extension services virtually disappeared in the Netherlands, as intermediates between end-users and research are less relevant when the end-users interact directly with the research community. Wageningen UR responded to the new opportunities by developing a campus eco-system, attracting companies and organizations related to agro-food R&D to settle at the campus. The rationale is that meeting and greeting will stimulate co-innovation, to the benefit of all parties.

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