Building the capacity of African university graduates to foster change through agricultural innovation

One of the primary reasons for slow development in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), it is claimed, is that researchers develop new technologies based on funding availability, donor driven or on the demand for hurried and academic technical publications, rather than based on the true needs and opportunities identified by or with intended end-users. The capacity for institutional innovation is still very limited amongst institutions within SSA. There has been limited attention in the past to cultivating such skills and attitudes within the agricultural departments and other units, which are largely organised along disciplinary lines, of African universities. This has led to a significant capacity gap for problem-solving and rural development.

Project Templates

The project will strengthen national and regional capacities to contribute to and facilitate innovation processes for rural development in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Agricultural research for development (AR4D) contributes to poverty reduction through innovative application of new and existing knowledge and practices, thus creating new knowledge for development and social transformation. Supporting the process of innovation is widely considered to be an effective pathway for stimulating development. Indeed, improved productivity, profitability and sustainability of rural agro-ecosystems all require innovation. Innovation is a change process and can be dominantly technical, organisational or institutional; most often, successful innovation combines all these elements. Market innovation, stakeholder organisation and interaction and technical innovation do occur separately, but usually, to be successful and sustainable, a combination is required.

Research can significantly contribute to, and may even be a major catalyst of, this process of innovation. However, to effectively play this role, specific knowledge, skills and attitudes are required of AR4D professionals.

This project will equip mid-career and young professionals in the field of agricultural research and development with the essential competencies, knowledge, attitude and skills to contribute to and facilitate rural innovation processes through a combination of theory and learning-by-doing.

Throughout implementation the project will ensure the participation of all stakeholders, including university lecturers, postgraduate students, university administrators, private sector, agricultural extension, civil society and farmers organizations. This involvement will allow them to articulate their demands and will empower them to take part in decision making.

Project activities consist of:

  • Enhancing partnerships for effective networking and institutional change management.
  • Assessing stakeholder demands and expertise for the innovation systems approach.
  • Developing and running a graduate course on innovation systems.
  • Establishing and implementing a part-time mid-career professional training course on the facilitation of agricultural innovation processes.
  • Strengthening the innovation capacity of university graduates for AR4D.
  • Conducting action research into innovation dynamics.
  • Building cross-disciplinary networks of expertise on the role of agricultural research in facilitating rural innovation.
  • Sharing lessons learned on the mid-career professional training course and innovation curricula.
  • Developing communication products.

The mid-career training course for agricultural professionals is composed of four intensive training blocks of 2-4 weeks, followed by a period of 1-2 months in which participants work on their case studies. The participants are expected to facilitate a multi-stakeholder innovation process.

Students attending the graduate course will follow four weeks of training using case studies from the mid-career training course. The course will however have to fit within the respective curricula of the participating universities.


  • Graduate courses on innovation approaches in the participating universities.
  • A part-time mid-career training course on agricultural innovation processes.
  • An international network of experts in the field of agricultural innovation facilitation.
  • Documentation on experiences of facilitating innovation for rural development.
  • A strategy for mentoring agricultural innovation facilitators.


  • Enhanced partnerships for effective networking and institutional change management.
  • Improved information sharing by professionals and experts in the field of agriculture.
  • Improved knowledge in the field of innovation for rural development by facilitators and experts in the created network. Better contribution by professionals in the region to international networks of contributors to agricultural innovations capacity.
  • Improved partnerships: lessons learned and better agricultural productivity as a result of better facilitated agricultural innovation systems and platforms.
  • More effective and better poverty-focused agricultural advisory services targeting smallholder farmers.
  • Stable enrolment by mid-career professionals of agricultural research and development in the training course on innovation for rural development leading to an enhancement of skills and attitudes.
  • Improved contribution of mid-career professionals to innovation for rural development.
  • University graduates in technical disciplinary agricultural sciences as well as social agricultural sciences better able to perform innovations in the field of agricultural research for development.
  • Training is embedded in regular curricula for further use in training beyond the lifespan of the project.
  • Increased visibility of universities and RUFORUM in supporting rural development.
  • Innovation-systems thinking to lead to an improved understanding and use of such approaches within disciplinary academic training. A course on the facilitationof innovation for rural development will be mainstreamed in the universities.
Grant: FED/2009/217070
Project duration: 36 months (from 10/11/2009 to 09/11/2012)- CLOSED
EC funding: EUR 997,957.00
Total budget: EUR 1,174,068.00
Project contact:

Mr. Adipala Ekwamu
Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)
RUFORUM Secretariat
Plot 151 Garden Hill
Makerere University
Main Campus
P.O. Box 7062
Tel: +256-414-535.939
Fax: +256-414-534.153
E-mail: eadipala [at]; secretariat [at]