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Symposium Strengthens Partnership with East African Countries

A total of 16 experts from Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania visited NC State for a three-day symposium to foster sustainable agricultural development and improve health and well-being in rural East African communities.

Guests of the East Africa symposium at Howling Cow Creamery
After touring the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory, the symposium guests enjoyed ice cream at Howling Cow Creamery.

NC State hosted 16 agriculture and health experts from Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania for a three-day symposium Sept. 18-20 to exchange ideas and strengthen partnerships with NC State researchers. This symposium built upon several years of partnership and existing funded projects in Kenya and more recent partnerships in Malawi. These partnerships focus on sustainable agricultural development with an emphasis on aquaculture and African Indigenous Vegetables (AIV) as part of the CREdO initiative.

“There is no doubt this has been a one-of-a-kind symposium, not only a first for NC State but it has been a true grass-root initiative where scientists, extension professionals, administration, and practitioners have come together to work on solutions that are holistic and systemic, all under the CREdO framework. It has been our East African partners who set the path for development, and we are happy to collaborate,” says Jose Cisneros, director of International Programs in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Three key strategic priorities emerged from the symposium:

  1. Interdisciplinary Collaboration
  2. Linking Research and Extension
  3. Climate Change

“We need to connect the counties in North Carolina to communities in Africa in the villages so we can understand the common challenges we face, the common solutions that are being used and learn from each other so as to move forward.”

– Festus Murithi, director of socioeconomics and policy development at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)

The differences in size and number of farms in the four East Africa countries compared to in North Carolina and the United States necessitates different solutions or similar solutions at different scales. The importance of smallholder farms in East Africa, especially in the face of climate change, makes it important for communities in these places to learn from each other and share their knowledge.

Avg. Farm Size% Smallholder FarmsNo. of Farms
Malawi1.7 acres75%2.5 million
Kenya2.1 acres81%4.5 million
Uganda3.7 acres89%4.1 million
Tanzania4.7 acres83%5.9 million
North Carolina184 acres48%*45,000
United States445 acres2 million
* Small farms in North Carolina are defined as 1 – 49 acres.

1. Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Disciplines identified as necessary for integration in research and grants:
Data science, engineering, gender studies, anthropology, economics and humanities.

“You talked about interdisciplinary efforts and that’s what is at the core of what we are doing at NC State. You have my commitment that I will be bringing the other colleges at NC State on board for these partnerships.”

– Garey Fox, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, addressing the symposium guests.

2. Linking Research and Extension

“One problem in Africa is that we keep blaming our scientists that their research is dying on the shelf, but you know, it is not our work to take it to [farmers]. Somehow, when we go back home, we should find a way of institutionalizing Extension so that we rightfully have officers who are paid and enumerated to do their work. I think that is the missing bridge.”

– Sheila Okoth, professor at the University of Nairobi

Return on investment of NC State Extension

“Research and extension have urgent needs and I think demonstrating the value for money [of extension] would be a solid argument one can present. That information is normally not available to policy makers.”

– Teddie Oliver Nakhumwa, national coordinator for the Agricultural Commercialisation Project in Malawi

3. Climate Change

“Climate change is a big issue and our weakest link is solving for this unpredictability. We don’t have good early warning systems right now.”

– Alice Murage, assistant director of research methods and analytics at KALRO

We should at all costs promote climate smart agriculture.

– Rodwell Mzonde, director of planning for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi

“We need to be creative in order to adapt to climate change. One of our priorities is to support young faculty involvement to ensure long-term partnerships. For those relationships to work, we need support from politicians and people in authority to buy into this thinking.”

– Martin Banda, agriculture attaché, Embassy of the Republic of Malawi to the USA

Garey Fox, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, highlighted NC State’s commitment to interdisciplinary efforts through the Plant Sciences Building, the new Integrative Sciences Building groundbreaking, the Food Animal Initiative, the Water Initiative, the Data Science Academy and the Global One Health Academy.

What you’re talking about are the same things we’re talking about, which creates a wonderful partnership opportunity. We know we’re good but we also know there is another level we can get to and we need your help. We need to learn from you while you’re learning from us.

– CALS Dean Garey Fox, addressing the symposium guests

The symposium was jointly organized by CALS International Programs and Global One Health Academy. It was supported by North Carolina Biotechnology Center, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and NC State Office of Research Innovation.