Strengthening Agricultural Education in Africa: The Approach of the Forum for Agricultural Resource Husbandry
Patel, Bharati K
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The attainment of sustainable food security in sub-Saharan Africa requires the efforts of a large cadre of well-trained agricultural resource specialists familiar with the constraints and perspectives of smallhold farmers and experienced in interdisciplinary problem-solving. The Forum for Agricultural Resource Husbandry (FORUM) was initiated in 1992 by The Rockefeller Foundation to stabilize Faculties of Agriculture in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe by providing resources, mission and peer support, leading to knowledge contributing to improved lives of smallhold farmers. The focus of this effort is improvement in the quality of training at the Master of Science (M.Sc.) level. The FORUM is a competitive grants programme with well-defined objectives, proposal requirements and technical review procedures. Applicants must not only identify an approach to better understanding and improving a smallholder cropping system, but also to show how M.Sc. students play a central role in research. To date, 56 grants providing US $4.6 million were awarded to 40 Principal Investigators at nine universities resulting in scholarship opportunities for 121 students and the publication of 55 scientific papers. Mechanisms for improving M.Sc.-level agricultural education include distance learning in biometrics, presentation of awards to winners of student competitions, collaboration between universities in student supervision and comparison of M.Sc. programmes between universities. The FORUM approach is easily replicated and other organizations interested in strengthening the abilities of African universities to undertake relevant agricultural research are encouraged to design similar programmes.