Zimbabwe hosts pan African universities forum for agric research Prof Theresia Nkuo-Akenji

Sifelani Tsiko

Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor

Zimbabwe is this week hosting the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) which aims to explore ways to produce high – performing graduates and high-quality research that meets new and changing needs for farmers on the continent.

In a statement, RUFORUM board chair and vice chancellor of the University of Bamenda in Cameroon – Prof Theresia Nkuo-Akenji said the 18th RUFORUM annual general meeting will strive to also find solutions and strategies to enhance Africa’s agri-food systems in the Post COVID-19 Era.

“As members of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) we come together yet again to engage on issues that affect livelihood, human capital development in general and higher agricultural education in particular,” she said.

“The founding of RUFORUM in 2004 was rooted in the need for home grown solutions that address the challenges facing the African continent, starting with capacity in the university subsector.”

While the overall context is shifting, she said, the purpose towards: “a vibrant agricultural sector linked to African universities which can produce high-performing graduates and high-quality research responsive to the demands of Africa’s farmers for innovations and able to generate sustainable livelihoods and national economic development” has not wavered.

“Universities have to be grounded and connected to the real world,” Prof Nkuo-Akenji said.

“The onus is on us as universities to come up with initiatives that ensure that science, technology and innovation is customized and domesticated meaningfully.The AGM is an opportunity to share lessons and build on the strengths of each other within a multi-stakeholder environment to chart the most plausible way forward.”

The meeting which runs from December 12 to 16 this week will be held under the theme: “Strengthening Africa’s Agri-food Systems in the Post COVID-19 Era – Opportunities and Challenges.”

RUFORUM, which was formed in 2004, has a membership of 161 Universities in 40 African countries spanning all the five geographical regions of the continent.

This biennial meeting brings together university leaders, researchers and graduate students to interact with each other but also with other actors including policy, industry and development practitioners.

RUFORUM seeks to broaden scope and galvanize dialogue on key areas, such as the response to the UN Food Systems Summit and how to harness global partnerships for advancement in higher education, research and development.

Its other purpose is to transform the mode of leadership, teaching, training, research and outreach in African universities faculties, colleges of agriculture and related sciences.

RUFORUM is coordinated by a secretariat hosted by Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

President Mnangagwa is expected to officially open the meeting this week.

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