FRIK SUNDSTOL, AREGAY WAKTOLA, FRED HAAKON JOHNSEN, STEIN R. MOE
Agricultural University of Norway, Centre for Environment and Development Studies, Norway
In most Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) developed by countries in Sub Saharan Africa, agriculture is said to be the key factor for economic growth. How can higher agricultural education, research and outreach help turn this potential growth into real growth?
A study has been carried out to investigate how government policy and action plans regarding PRSPs have influenced and supported five universities in Eastern and Southern Africa, and to what extent these universities have responded to their national strategies for poverty reduction in terms of changes in their teaching, training and research programs.
The study is based on interviews with relevant persons in ministries, universities, the private sector, farmers' organisations, NGOs and others. In general, the respective Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers contain little about tertiary education, particularly about agricultural higher education. In the Tanzanian PRSP agricultural education is not mentioned at all. In the Malawian strategy paper a reduction in the reliance of higher education on Government subventions is proposed.
The findings indicate that higher education policies to promote economic growth in the agricultural sector are less than optimal, and that support to primary education and health is taking the lion's share of development budgets
Further, the results indicate that while higher education institutions in agriculture are committed to their work, limited financial resources are hampering their efforts. There is a clear intention to improve the relevance of curricula by including entrepreneurship to equip students to become job creators rather than job seekers. According to students, there should also be more emphasis on practical training.
The universities were criticised by NGOs and the private sector for not being up to date. More interaction between higher education institutions in agriculture, the private sector and society at-large is desirable.
Keywords: Agriculture, higher education, participatory learning, poverty reduction strategie papers (PRSP)