Ruben Muasya is a 57 year old Kenyan currently working in South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU) in Kitui, Kenya as a Professor of Agronomy and seed science. He has been teaching and conducting research in the University for the last 21 years in various positions, including supervision of postgraduates as well as being involved in community outreach to improve agricultural productivity in Kenya.
The Project and its relevance
The main purpose of the project was to enhance nutrition and food security in East and Southern Africa through regionally coordinated capacity building of agricultural higher education institutions. The actions forseen were to develop relevant themes for training in food and nutrition, strengthen academic staff in curriculum development, teaching skills and integration of modern technologies. A focus was also on the building of management and adminstrative capacity to handle grants and international programmes. Stakeholders have been engaged in curriculum development and developing inter-institutional networks facilitated between agricultural HEIs in ESA and the EU. The project has involved 11 universities in Kenya 3 in Uganda 4 in Zimbabwe, 1 in Italy and 1 in Germany.
Agriculture is the source of livelihood for most people in Sub Sahara Africa, many of them women and aging, who depend on farming for food, medicine and income. Stagnated economic growth has reduced options for Africa’s increasingly educated youth and many look to agriculture for opportunities. Thus, agriculture remains critical to the wellbeing and success of Africans and their aspirations. To enhance food and nutritional security, the capacity of the HEIs to address curriculum development, effective teaching and research to produce graduates well equipped to address food and nutritional deficiencies in the region is essential.
As a professional this project has helped build the capacity of teaching staff and managers on quality delivery of curriculum to address the critical needs of food and nutrition.
How did you become involved?
We responded to the call by EDULINK. I was involved in the development of the ideas based on my many years’ experience in project management and teaching in the University.
The Project and your role?
I carried out a survey to determine the level of preparedness of various Universities teaching agriculture in Eastern Kenya namely Meru, Chuka, Karatina, Embu, Pwani and SEKU. I also attended various workshops in Uganda, Kenya, Zimbambe and Italy to share ideas and experiences of teaching agriculture effectively. I also reviewed a postharvest postgraduate curriculum as well as some teaching manuals. In SEKU I helped to set up a model teaching laboratory and a greenhouse.
What advantages does working with international partners bring?
Engagement with the EU HE institutions in this project has helped to build capacity of ESA institutions especially in emerging areas of scientific research and management of research grants.
The fact that this project involved south-south and south-north partnership meant that there was a lot of learning and sharing of experience which lead to further collaborations and building capacity of staff and students. For us to fight food and nutritional deficiencies, more research, sensitisation and capacity building is still needed to make agriculture a key discipline in our Universities.
What are your expectations from the results?
The project has helped to create awareness on the quality of teaching in the universities of the region and especially regarding the materials and equipment required to effectively teach agriculture and associated disciplines. Through the project we also obtained feedback from the students and as a result were able to engage the management of selected universities to sensitize them on the level of teaching agriculture in the Universities. This sensitization has enabled some of the Universities to invest in the teaching of agriculture and related fields.
Have you identified any impact to date?
Through the experiences gained, I have changed my way of teaching to make it more practical and issue based which the students are likely to encounter in the field. The sensitization programmes we conducted aimed at faculties of agriculture and management has improved the attention and resources that agriculture is being given at the participating universities. A draft postgraduate in postharvest technology has been developed as well as teaching manuals in various disciplines. We have developed teaching facilities and through the technical visits, a lot of experience in research management has been achieved and is now being implemented.