For years, the College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) at the University of Rwanda (UR), has been instrumental in the development of agricultural sector in Rwanda by providing competent graduates to the labour market, initiating, and conducting relevant research, developing innovations out of research outputs, and engaging in community and outreach activities. CAVM stands for advancing knowledge, promoting teaching and research, and helping the society discover innovative solutions to overcome its most pressing problems, that include climate change, food insecurity, food commodities value chain management. We are grateful to Strengthening Education and Agriculture Development project (SEAD) for the support provided in delivering upon this mission.
The SEAD project took off in August 2015 and since then has provided notable support to staff and students of CAVM, the college, but also to the education and agricultural sector in Rwanda. The project supported review and development of several programs in the college, including the BSc programs in Irrigation & Drainage; Agricultural Mechanisation; Food Sciences and Technology; Veterinary Medicine and Animal Production as well as the PhD by Coursework Program. Through these reviews, the college was able to strengthen the collaboration with the private sector and local authorities, key actors to ensure a relevant and quality education. Moreover, by closely working together with the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Colleges (IPRCs), we were not only able to learn from their labour market-oriented curriculum development and review approach, but it also led to a better alignment between related technical education and university courses.
The project’s Research Innovation Capacity Development (RICD) component was uniquely tailored to support our young academicians in gaining experience in initiating, conducting, reporting, and presenting research, by teaming up with their colleagues from the IPRCs, the district and sector agronomists and veterinarians, as well as with the private sector that included farmers, cooperatives, or other actors in the value chains that the SEAD project was targeting. We need to commend SEAD for opting for this approach, rather than aiming at our high-profile academicians who already have a wealth of experience in this field. SEAD was truly a capacity development project and held on to that cause throughout.
Education institutions, universities included, must be at the centre of society, interact with its environment so that education programs and research are aligned with the challenges and problems of society. The SEAD project made it its mission to have the college strengthen its role in the extension system of Rwanda, the Customized Agricultural Extension System (CAES). A pool of academicians was groomed in the development and implementation of tailor-made training programs that were targeted at farmers, cooperatives, agribusinesses and the agronomists and veterinarians from the districts and sectors. SEAD’s approach did not only provide the agricultural sector with the much-needed skills upgrade, but it also reminded us that a strong involvement in extension can trigger relevant research and inform our education programs. Education, research, and extension are mutually reinforcing components, warranting a quality and relevant education system.
CAVM strongly appreciates the establishment of the Service, Training, and Innovation Centres (STICs) that were set up for the Potato and Dairy value chains, in collaboration with IPRC Musanze (potato & dairy) and Alpha Milk Company Ltd (dairy). It is not only the facilities that were provided by SEAD that are valued, but also the change in organisational mindset and behaviour that is to be praised. Establishing these Education-Enterprise Partnerships, where the private sector brings the management and commercial aspects into the venture and the college can focus on the activities related to education, research, and extension, is what made it unique. We hope the STIC concept can be further sustained, scaled, and replicated to ensure the technical and financial sustainability of the facilities, and at the same time ensure that the university remains relevant and delivers upon its mission.
University of Rwanda, College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine