Africa’s university colleges current agriculture curriculum that promotes a weak base for local innovations is set to change to incorporate topics on Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS).
According to Professor August Temu, a forestry expert, the new curriculum is being developed to invest more in vocational and technical training in agriculture in order to strengthen innovation and industrial skills.
“The ages old curriculum that we have been using gives emphasis on professional oriented training that dwells much on developing visions, strategic planning and management of institutions as opposed to laying emphasis to development in small and medium scale enterprises in rural areas,” Professor Temu said in Nairobi.
Professor Temu noted that traditional plants and crop varieties have been deemed to be old-fashioned and unattractive in comparison to modern, exportable crops produced in much simpler production systems yet they have advantages too.
The new curriculum that has been developed through the assistance of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) suggest approaches to integrate NUS value chains in education curricula.
Strategies and tools for integrating NUS into higher agricultural education curricula has been agreed with universities and colleges, and shared through African educational networks.
It is to help enhance capacity of young African scientists to conceptualize and design inter-disciplinary research projects on NUS value chains, and to communicate research results to farmers, processors, researchers and private sector.
Most educators have been sensitized to integrate NUS into higher agricultural education as the curricula enhances the competence of future graduates.
“The strategies and methods for strengthening NUS research, education and policy have already been communicated to university officials, agricultural experts and government officials,” Mr. Per Rudebjer, NUS Project Coordinator said.
Rudebjer revealed that the two year project that is supported by the ACP’s science and technology program and funded by the European Union has already selected three Universities namely, University of Nairobi, African University in Zimbabwe and University of Abomey Calavi in Benin where already the curriculum is being implemented.
The three universities are hosting capacity development in the regions before it is rolled out to 142 Universities in 18 countries.
“It is evidenced that the universities in Africa has paid little attention for the neglected crops yet they are capable of feeding the growing population in the continent and also thrive against climate changes that disrupts agricultural productivity of the continent,” Rudebjer said.
Dr. Cris Muyunda, an agricultural development expert from Zambia said that imported equipments from Europe are not suitable for the continent as they often break down and forcing the projects to collapse.
Dr. Muyunda noted that it would be important if the universities develop their own machinery and trained its own personnel to man them.
“The new curriculum development is expected to promote agribusiness education by bringing on board innovative ways of farming in the continent,” the Chief Executive of African Network for Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE) Professor Aissetou Yaye said.
She said that the universities will be required to sign memorandum of understanding amongst them in finding a solution to how best they can iintegrate topics on NUS in higher agricultural education curricula and in on-the-job training for working professionals.
The institutions capacity will also be strengthened to lead and facilitate NUS research and development, within a broader agricultural development agenda.
In the new curriculum, technical and vocational training are emphasised because this promotes technical and practical know how, innovations and industrial skills.
Participants at the conference observed that African universities have a committed a serious fault in failing to incorporate the curriculum that identifies itself with the traditional crops and species.