Celebrating the success of Strengthening Education for Agricultural Development in Rwanda
On March 29, MSM and its project partners celebrated the success of the project “Strengthening Education for Agricultural Development in the Western Province of Rwanda”, better known as SEAD West, during the official closing event in Kigali, Rwanda.
Over the past 4 years, the SEAD West project has carried out many activities to strengthen the agri-tourism value chain in the Western Rwandan province, Karongi. It was a journey with ups and down, where the Covid-19 pandemic caused serious project delays and obstacles to overcome. Through ownerships and close collaboration between MSM, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Holland Greentech (HGT), IPRC Karongi, Rwanda Polytechnic, the University of Rwanda and Dutch consortium partners, Q-Point bv., HAS and Aeres the project was able to reach its envisioned outcomes.
A new accredited horticulture degree program and a Service, Training and Innovation Centre
The name “Strengthening Education for Agricultural Development”, clearly states the focus of the project being on strengthening the agricultural value chain in Rwanda. The project focused on four lines of intervention:
- Curriculum development / review, formal and informal
- Strengthening the applied research & innovation capacities of the partner institutions
- Strengthening the outreach services of tailor-made training for surrounding communities
- Establishment of the Service, Training and Innovation Centre (STIC) in agri-tourism
One of the key outputs linking back to the first intervention line, was to develop a new horticulture degree program for IPRC Karongi that enthuses youth to develop a career in the agricultural sector and strengthening linkages to the private agri-sector. Under the SEAD West project, a level 6 and 7 horticulture degree program was developed for IPRC Karongi, with support from HAS Green Academy. The developed horticulture program is an advanced diploma that trains students in horticulture technology in which they learn how to garden crops such as fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants. We can proudly share, that two groups of in total 47 students have now officially enrolled in the program. Furthermore, as the program is officially accredited by the Rwandan Higher Education Council (HEC), the program can also be implemented and taught at other IPRCs in Rwanda.
Putting theory into practice is also part of the advanced horticulture degree program. Therefore, the SEAD West project has invested in a Service, Training and Innovation Centre (STIC), which is a joint facility and operation between TVET education and a private sector public private partnership. For the SEAD West STIC the partnership is between IPRC Karongi and Holland Greentech Rwanda.
The STIC exists out of two parts, an agri-zone and tourism-zone. As part of the agri-zone, the SEAD West project has realized an advanced demo-farm that includes:
- 4 greenhouses to grow crops
- 1 nursery to propagate and grow seeds to plants of a usable size
- 1 shade net greenhouse to protect cultivated plants
- Laboratory with equipment to perform standard tests such as an agricultural soil test
- A water basin to collect rain water for the irrigation of the greenhouse facilities
- Office / residential house for Holland Greentech to carry out their commercial activities from
In this demo-farm that is commercially operated by Holland Greentech Rwanda, the students from the IPRC Karongi horticulture program can put theory into practice by learning how to cultivate and grow crops as well as carry out tests in the laboratory.
Besides the developed horticulture degree program at IPRC Karongi, also EAV Kivumu, VTC Bumba and GS Gisovu were supported. The schools programs on food processing and crop production have been reviewed and all teachers of the schools as well as IPRCs have been trained on among others competency based and problem based learning to improve the teaching methodologies. Futhermore, EAV Kivumu and VTC Bumba have received food processing equipment and GS Gisovu a greenhouse. The latter, is already growing their second cycle of crops and has entered the Karongi Exhibition to showcase their grown tomatoes.
Developing knowledge and skills of students, farmers and surrounding communities through the Agri-Tourism STIC
The STIC is a main output of the SEAD West project. The STIC is a public private partnership (PPP) between IPRC Karongi and Holland Greentech Rwanda and brings them together in a production centre. In this STIC, The education, training, research and outreach training/extension services come together in an orchestrated operation, where the education and private sector partners have committed themselves to a long-term partnership, serving the interests of both the education and private sector.
The SEAD West project predecessor, the SEAD Project developed four STICs in the fields of Dairy, Poultry, Potato and Horticulture. The SEAD West STIC focuses on the agri-tourism value chain. The reason to focus on agri-tourism is to channel tourism to the beautiful Kivu shores and strengthen local agricultural production for the hospitality industry.
Before the SEAD West intervention, very little amounts (less than 5%) of fruits and vegetables for the hospitality industry were locally grown. Farmers in the neighboring countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, etc.) have been more successful in linking to tourism, supplying 20% of fruits, 23% of vegetables. This can be attributed to a regional agro-industry established by a strong entrepreneurial elite. With the STIC facilities available, the entrepreneurial mindset of local farmers can be strengthened.
Consumption of local food is an essential part of the tourist experience and the majority of the country’s poor inhabitants live in rural areas. In this context, linking small-scale farmers with tourism initiatives can have a pivotal role in fostering local rural development since agriculture is a prominent source of Rwanda’s livelihood.
Agri-tourism is an innovative agricultural activity related to tourism and agriculture both. It has a great capacity to create additional source of income and employment opportunities to the farmers and provide them with practical knowledge on how to evolve with the fast changing economy. The Karongi district is one of the unexploited tourist areas in Rwanda and there is large scope and great potential to develop agri-tourism as tourism has great capacity to generate large-scale employment and additional income sources to the skilled and unskilled.
The SEAD West project strongly believes that the promotion of agri-tourism will bring many direct and indirect benefits to farmers, surrounding communities as well as students. With the investment in the agri-tourism zone, IPRC Karongi and Holland Greentech Rwanda will disseminate knowledge and skills, advice and guide students and farmers, carry out research, innovate and run a commercial agri farm. Sustainable agritourism will encourage farmers to implement suitable land reform policy, like land consolidation and help in boosting food production. Farmers are going to be encouraged to use and be supplied with quality inputs and will be given enough practical knowledge to ensure good yields of their crops which in a long run will ensure the success not only of the project but also farmers and other stakeholders of the project.
Tourism at Lake Kivu
The tourism-zone that has been developed exists out of four safari-tents and a coffee shop where tourists can enjoy a relaxing holiday with breathtaking views over Lake Kivu, enjoying locally grown produce.
Where the agri-zone provides IPRC Karongi students with practical experience, the tourism-zone provides IPRC Karongi’s students from the hospitality and tourism program with likewise practical knowledge and skills. It is vital to link the learning experience of the students to the STIC and assure the optimization of available features of the campuses while leveraging this new and emerging sector.
Strengthening capacity and outreach services
Besides the degree program and the STIC the SEAD West project has carried out many training activities to strengthen institutional, educational community and research capacity.
Institutional capacity was strengthened by the development and review of curricula and strengthening the knowledge and skills of management and staff in the fields of management and leadership, gender and social inclusion, curriculum development and business incubation management. In total 23 training activities were carried out to strengthen institutional capacity.
When it comes to educational capacity strengthening, 17 training sessions were carried out among others on food safety and quality management, competency based and problem based learning and advanced food processing.
Furthermore, the SEAD West project also focused on strengthening the outreach services, more specifically the offer of tailor-made training. Several Train the Trainer (ToT) workshops have taken place, where cooperatives, farmers, SME’s or educational staff was trained to disseminate knowledge and skills to a wider community. After these ToT’s, replication trainings have been developed to train and strengthen the skills of the community, reaching 1040 individuals linked to the agri-business value chain.
Topics of these trainings were for example:
- Managing cooperative strategic and business plans
- Business counselling for SMEs
- Farming as a business
Last, but definitely not least, research and innovation was strengthened. Intervention line 2 focused on strengthening the applied research & innovation capacities of the partner institutions. This was done through the Research and Innovation Capacity Development (RICD) program under the lead of MSM prof. Meine Pieter van Dijk. Participants of the RICD program took part in several training sessions where they learned about research methodologies, development and design as well as SPSS and how to write a paper. Five research ideas received a 5000 euro grant through the SEAD West Research and Innovation Fund to carry out their research idea and write a paper that eventually should be published.
Under SEAD and SEAD West in total five RICD cycles took place. To display the findings of these research activities, the Scientific Symposium on “Applied Research for Agricultural Development in Rwanda” was organized. The research symposium took place on March 28 and brought together around 100 participants including researchers, professionals, policymakers, private sector actors & innovators. The event was a mixture of opening remarks, panel discussions, keynote speeches, parallel sessions, papers presentations and a student and teacher exhibition booths.
The closing of four collaborative years
On the 29th of March, project partners and stakeholders came together to look back at the achievements reached over the past years, but also to look ahead. Speeches were given to show-case the outcomes achieved as mentioned in this update, but also discussions were started on how to ensure the sustainability of the projects outcomes. There was especially attention for the developed STICs, as they have high potential to strengthen the agricultural value chain in Rwanda. The STICs can support sustaining food security in Rwanda, by enhancing the agricultural production, value chain management and agribusiness development, through the facilitation of knowledge- & technology transfer.
The STICs are the base for valorization of the knowledge and expertise available in Rwanda Polytechnic and the University of Rwanda and can drive future knowledge development and provide productive interaction between the knowledge sector and business community. They drive technology transfer and innovation, they feed can feed into fundamental and applied research and facilitate student research as part of entrepreneurship development and incubation.
Watch the video recap of the closing event here.
We like to thank all parties involved who have closely collaborated and worked hard to make the SEAD West project a success!
Orange Knowledge Programme
This project is part of the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) which is funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed by Nuffic. For more information click here.
MSM's Expert Centre on Emerging Economies
This institutional collaboration project is part of MSM's Expert Centre on Emerging Economies. The department is an expert centre on local economic development in emerging and developing markets. We capacitate managers and professionals from government, private sector, NGOs, and post-secondary education in Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Latin America. We offer consultancy and customized training programs, and we manage complex projects in key sectors, e.g. water, agriculture and health. For more information click here.
Scientific Symposium on “Applied Research for Agricultural Development in Rwanda”
SEAD West beneficiary G.S. Gisovu entered exhibition with tomatoes grown in project supported greenhouse
Training of Trainers on Quality Assurance systems for Vocational Education and alumni engagement in the Agri-Tourism value chain
Deepening trainees’ knowledge on gender and building their skill towards gender sensitive and responsive institutions