A new project that seeks to ensure that courses taught at institutions of higher learning are directly linked to farmers in their respective communities has been launched.
The project will ensure that research carried out at university directly responds to the problems faced by farmers.
The 5-year project dubbed, ‘Strengthening Education for Agricultural Development’ (SEAD), aims to build up curriculum development in both formal and informal institutions of higher learning, training of trainers, development of research and community outreach and technology.
Speaking at its launch in Kigali last week, Pudence Rubingisa, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration at the University of Rwanda, commended the project, saying it would make laboratory research by academia practically beneficial to the farmer.
“Transfering knowledge from the lab to the field is lacking; applying the knowledge acquired from the classroom to the extent that a TVET student applies it and then transfers it to the farmer. We, from the academia, have been criticised for not passing on knowledge to the farmers ,” he noted.
Antonia Mutoro, the Executive Secretary of the National Capacity Building Secretariat (NCBS) said the project will offer support in terms of curriculum development, research and equipment, so that after 5-years of the project, Rwandans will have capabilities to teach agriculture and animal husbandry courses effectively with an aim to benefit the farmer.
Youth in agri-business
Mutoro noted that the project largely targets the youth and how they can create agribusiness jobs, stressing that mindset change to ensure that the youth engage in agriculture sector development will be emphasised in curriculum development.
“For this project to have a positive impact, there should be many youths engaging in agri-business, which is not the case in Rwanda and other countries,” she said.
The executive secretary of the National Co-operative Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR), Gerald Ngabonziza, said he is very much impressed to see this project bringing in skilled youth to join cooperatives. He said it will develop the youth qualitatively and quantitatively.
By 2017, government targets to have aleast 90 per cent of Rwandans in cooperatives.
According to Pieter Dorst, Head of Development Cooperation at the Dutch embassy in Kigali, said, “The difference is that education will focus on what happens at the farm level.
“What are the problems that farmers in Rwanda face and how can they be solved, both from a scientific and vocational point of view? ” he said.
A 10 million Euro project, funded by the Government of the Netherlands under the framework of Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Development in Higher Education (NICHE), aims at ensuring food security and water management with a focus on six value chains namely; irish potatoes, dairy, poultry, horticulture and maize.
The project is implemented through a co-management arrangement between NCBS and Mott Macdonald, a Dutch firm providing engineering, management and development services.
Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture show that, during the financial year 2015/16, agriculture output was Rwf1,512 billion, representing about 30 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to projections by Rwanda Development Board (RDB), agriculture sector is expected to grow from 5.8 per cent to 8.5 per cent per annum by 2018; people living under subsistence agriculture are expected to reduce from 34 per cent to 25 per cent amid increasing focus on agro processing; exports will increase, on average from 19.2 per cent to 28 per cent per annum, while imports will be maintained at 17 per cent average growth.