I welcome you to RUFORUM’s 13th Annual General Meeting (AGM) to be held 25-27 October 2017 in Lilongwe, Malawi. Since the signing of the MoU between RUFORUM and the African Union Commission (AUC) in 2014, which requested RUFORUM to play a greater role and provide support at the continental level, particularly in the implementation of the Science Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024, RUFORUM has continued to grow.
The AUC requested RUFORUM initially through its then Chairperson, HE Madam Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and more recently through the current Chair, HE Prof. Moussa Faki Mahamat, to identify and implement strategies to increase the contribution of universities to delivery on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Agenda 2063 – The Africa We want, while recognising the principle of subsidiarity. The AUC was well cognisant that as a sector, universities hold the largest pool of trained professionals on the continent and should be the central component of implementing the STISA 2024. They also provide opportunity to take advantage of demographic dividends.
In response to this, RUFORUM has continued to grow both in scope and scale. From a membership of 42 universities in 2014, to 54 member universities at the last AGM in South Africa, RUFORUM membership is now at 66 universities in 26 African countries across the Continent. This expansion has been both within and across countries, and also in scope of the network. Key issues that we responded to were:
- how to enhance the participation of rural youth in agricultural development, including generation of new agribusiness -led employment opportunities. How can universities package and brand Agricultural programs in a way that is “Cool” for young people and encourage greater participation in ‘profitable’ agricultural value addition;
- how to enhance university relevance and quality against a backdrop of an expanding university sector;
- how to increase the impact of university activities on rural development and indeed the SDGs;
- how to enhance staff capacity development, particularly at PhD level by escalating postgraduate training recognising that a number of staff continue to retire; and
- how to enhance government financing for research/ knowledge generation/postgraduate education to support a science led development agenda in our continent.
“PAEPARD has significantly contributed to enhanced, more equitable, demand-driven and mutually beneficial collaboration between Africa and Europe for agricultural research for development with the aim of attaining the Millennium Development Goals”
Representatives from all partner institutions involved in the PAEPARD Project gathered in Cotonou, Benin for a Reflection Workshop from 2–6 October 2017. The workshop aimed to reflect on PAEPARD multi-stakeholder partnership processes with emphasis on the User-Led Processes and draw lessons learnt, and on the way forward to ensure sustainability of the achievements realised over the last 7 years of extensive collaboration. The workshop was organized by the Sojagnon Consortium which brings together, like all the other consortia and Farmer-Based Organisations under PAEPARD, various stakeholders including practitioners, universities/academia and civil society. The workshop attracted a total of 95 participants from a wide range of PAEPARD partners and stakeholders. Mr Amadou Barassounon Ali, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, representing the Minister, presided over the opening ceremony. Discussions during the workshop revealed that PAEPARD has significantly contributed to enhanced, more equitable, demand-driven and mutually beneficial collaboration between Africa and Europe for agricultural research for development. The Farmer-Based Organizations are now more equipped to engage with researchers and research institutes. Further, the reflection Workshop appreciated the importance of mobilizing and building capacity of consortia to develop Research for Development proposals through the execution of the ‘Capacities’ Work Package.
The Platform for African European Partnership for Agricultural Research and Development (PAEPARD) is an eight-year project that was launched in 2009 initially for three years before an extension of one year and another of four years was granted. It is supported by the European Union and aims at building joint African-European multi-stakeholder partnerships in agricultural research for development by contributing to achieving the Millennium Development Goals -now Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals. The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is engaged in PAEPARD as leader for Work Package Capacities. The co-leader for Work Package Capacities is the International Centre for Development Oriented Research (ICRA).
For more information about the PAEPARD Project visit: www.paepard.org
Prof. Achille Ephrem Assogbadjo of the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, is one of 52 individuals nominated for their outstanding contributions as African researchers in 2017. Nominated by the institutions for which they work, the 52 nominees are acknowledged by the Africa Science Report for their phenomenal scientific work towards addressing poverty unemployment and inequality. Prof. Assogbadjo is particularly recognized for his efforts in sustainable resource management.
He is an agronomist and forester with a special interest in non-timber forest products. He holds a PhD in Applied Biological Sciences and has experience in population genetics, ethnobotany, conservation and domestication of forest genetic resources used by indigenous people.
He belongs to more than 10 scientific networks such as the medicinal and edible forest plants network of the South Saharan African Forest Genetic Programme, the Society of Economic Botany, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission specialist group on wild crop relatives for which he is a regional leader for the sub-Saharan Africa region.
He has been awarded more than 20 individual research grants and 10 regional and international research projects, including from RUFORUM where he is the Principal Investigator for a baobab research team that is exploring the use of this iconic tree to address human nutrition and fodder needs of communities in Benin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy9rd1T2pok). He has been involved in several other projects on ecosystems management, sustainable management of natural resources and/or endangered plant species conservation and domestication.
He has participated in more than 70 international conferences and 20 training workshops. To date, he has graduated more than 60 BSc, 60 MSc, and three PhD students with eight MScs and eight PhDs currently registered.
His research since 2000 has yielded more than 120 scientific publications in international peer-reviewed journals, books and proceedings of scientific conferences.
His research has earned him four international prizes: the Ebi Kimanani Memorial Fellowship Award in 2008 (Peru), the Heinz and Johannes Prize for the best scientific research paper on ecology in Africa in 2009 (Germany), and a prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation in 2010.
In 2014, he was awarded the honorary title, The Name in Science, by the Socrates Committee (Oxford, UK).
Adapted from the Science in Africa Report