Knowledge for Development

Relevant publications

Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of global research rises

Sub-Saharan Africa’s contribution to global research output increased from 0.44% in 2003 to 0.72% in 2012, suggesting a reversal of the trend reported in 2007 that Africa’s contribution to worldwide research was declining. Focusing on research output and citation impact, the World Bank report, 'A Decade of Development in Sub-Saharan African Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Research' reveals that while research in the region has doubled over the past 10 years (most research in Africa focuses on agriculture and the health sciences, as the continent is battling serious diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and most recently the Ebola epidemic), research in the physical sciences and in the  science, technology, engineering and mathematics based fields has lagged behind other subject areas. STEM research makes up only 29% of sub-Saharan Africa’s output, leaving a gap in many countries' ability to enhance sectors like energy, transport, light manufacturing and the extractive industries.      Report: World News, 02/10/2014)


Agricultural education and training in sub-Saharan Africa

This book clarifies the challenges, issues, and priorities of agricultural education and training (AET) in sub-Saharan Africa, and provides suggestions for practical solutions that can help guide organisations interested in furthering AET for agricultural development. Edited by Frans Swanepoel of Stellenbosch University, South Africa and colleagues, "Towards Impact & Resilience: Transformative Change In and Through Agricultural Education and Training in Africa" discusses (i) the African context within which a transformed AET system needs to be located; (ii) analyses African and international experiences that are relevant to identified AET needs and challenges; (iii) dissects AET models that may hold important lessons; and (iv) addresses the main critical issues that will impact upon AET in sub-Saharan Africa. The concluding chapter synthesises the ideas, experiences, and evidence from the preceding chapters in order to highlight critical issues for success as well as possible solutions. The publication is uniquely positioned to add to a call to action on AET, to pull together state-of-the-art knowledge from within and outside sub-Saharan Africa, and to advance 'out of the box' thinking about the principles, values and character of AET for development.   (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014)


Universities as potential actors for sustainable development

In their paper, Michael von Hauff and Thuan Nguyen of the Technische Universität in Kaiserslautern, Germany argue that Universities can contribute to solutions for major challenges of the 21st century such as increasing environmental and socio-economic crises, inequalities of income and wealth, and political instabilities by integrating the concept of sustainable development (SD) in research, organisation, and by educating future decision makers. Through university curricula, future decision makers can learn the competences needed to solve ecological, social, and economic problems in societies. The authors discuss the observation that universities in Germany fall behind internationally in implementing sustainable strategies and present an approach to how universities can implement the holistic concept of SD. They further analyse the current state of implementing sustainability strategies at universities, and how the success of these implementation efforts can be evaluated and fostered.    (Sustainability, 19/05/2014)


Higher education and globalisation: challenges, threats and opportunities for Africa

This publication, by the Maastricht University Centre for International Cooperation in Academic Development (MUNDO), The Netherlands, is the result of a two year process during which university leaders, from eight African universities, developed strategic plans for their institutes to counter the impacts of globalisation and to benefit from the opportunities it presents. For universities in sub-Saharan Africa, where management and administrative capacities are already limited, responding to changes in the global knowledge system is particularly difficult. The strategy papers developed by the leaders of the eight universities take into account their countries’ diverse economic, historical, educational, social and political dimensions both to develop and to strengthen the capabilities needed to create and disseminate knowledge, and thus to increase their competitiveness in the global knowledge marketplace.   Related:  (ACP EDULINK, 2012)


First major study of science granting councils in Sub-Saharan Africa

In February 2014, the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch published the first comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the roles and functioning of science granting councils (or equivalent bodies) of 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study found that dedicated funding councils were largely characteristic of the science systems of Anglophone countries. Francophone countries, such as Rwanda and Cameroon traditionally do not have ST&I funding councils. However, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal do have efficient funding agencies particularly in agriculture. The study identified a number of models that capture the most commonly found organisational arrangements for public research funding: The paradigm principal-agent model (delegation of responsibility for research funding to a autonomous body); the sector-differentiated model (different research funding councils for different sectors in the science system – causing challenges around coordination in science funding); the multiple principal-agents model ('non-government' science funding channels, usually international donors – there is no coordination between these channels); and the embedded principal-agent model (an extension of government with no obvious independence). The study developed ‘milestones’ in the areas of science and technology governance and policy development to allow for comparison between countries’ S&T trajectories.    (University World News and Stellenbosch University, 17/01/2014)


Training workshop on Open Access Publishing Using Open Journal Systems: Proceedings, 2013

From a series of sub-regional workshops on ICT/ICM/IKM that APAARI conducted together with FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, GFAR and other partners, it was identified that the capacity to make research journals open access was a main hindrance among most NARS in this region. This publication details eight hands-on training sessions on: (i) overview and feature of Open Journal Systems (OJS), (ii) hosting journal and journal set up, (iii) user roles and navigating OJS editorial process, (iv) user interface customization and notification, (v) user management and the role of an editor, (vi) statistics and reports, publishing, back-up and restore, (vii) database of reviewers, and (viii) increasing visibility of OJS and setting up a Community of Practice. This publication could be useful to professionals who are involved in editing and publishing agricultural research journals, planners, administrators and researchers in the Asia Pacific region.    (APAARI, 12/2013)   


How the future demand for food should be met

Two recent working papers by the World Resources Institute (WRI) are the first in a new series leading to the World Resources Report 2013-14: Creating a Sustainable Food Future. One paper, ‘The great balancing act’ assesses the scope of the challenge posed by the need to feed a growing population in the near-future while reducing pressure on the environment. Priorities and solutions must focus on poverty alleviation, gender, ecosystems, climate and water, it argues. Another paper, ‘Reducing food loss and waste’, explains how efforts to reduce postharvest losses and waste perform against each of the sustainable food future criteria. It offers a thorough overview of waste and loss problems and severity and it describes how changes at the level of the value chain – some still to be researched and put into practice – can create immediate benefits to society and the environment.(WRI, 01/07/2013)


Guidelines: access and benefit sharing in research projects

These guidelines describe the type of agreements that can be used in access and benefit sharing in research projects. Target audience are scientists working with crop genetic resources and related traditional knowledge., 12/04/2013)


Building new agricultural universities in Africa

This paper calls for upgrading the training, extension, and commercialisation functions of existing national agricultural research institutes (NARIs). This would build on a strong research tradition, ongoing training efforts, connections with the private sector and farmers, and extensive international partnerships. Upgrading NARIs in this manner would also lay the foundation for the emergence of the first generation of research universities in Africa with an initial focus on agriculture. The creation of agricultural innovation universities would serve as a starting point for broader efforts in Africa to strengthen the role of science, technology, and innovation in economic transformation. The paper provides a roadmap that can be used to guide the proposed reform efforts.  (Harvard Kennedy School, 06/2012) 


Climate-smart agriculture: Possible roles of agricultural universities in a strengthened Norwegian climate change engagement in Africa

In addition to industrial emission control, Norwegian efforts to restrict climate change have focused on mitigation through forest protection (REDD+) and clean energy (Energy+). A third area of attention is climate-smart agriculture. Producing food in a more ‘climate smart’ way is seen as having three advantages: 1) Providing food for an increasing population, 2) maintaining food production under a changing climate, and 3) reducing greenhouse gas emission from agriculture while absorbing carbon in vegetation and soil. This report explores how Norway can support Africa’s efforts to make agriculture more climate-smart through support to African universities.(Via Eldis, 2012)


The role of agricultural R&D within the agricultural innovation systems framework

The Agricultural Science & Technology Indicators Initiative (ASTI) / International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) / Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Conference Working Paper No. 6 traces the evolution of the innovation systems framework within the agricultural sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, and presents a conceptual framework for agricultural innovation systems. The difference between innovation ecology/ecosystems and intervention-based innovations systems is highlighted, given that these two concepts are used at different levels in promoting and sustaining agricultural innovations. The role of open innovation, innovation platforms, and innovation intermediaries in catalyzing, enhancing, and facilitating the innovation process are discussed, as is the role of R&D in the innovation process. The paper goes on to consider the interconnection of the innovation systems perspective and value-chain analysis in agricultural R&D processes, before summarizing the current status of agricultural R&D in Sub-Saharan Africa, lessons from past experience, and implications and key challenges confronting development practitioners in institutionalizing the agricultural innovation systems concept within the agricultural R&D in the region.(IFPRI, 28/6/2012)


Histoire de la recherche agricole en Afrique tropicale francophone

Histoire de la recherche agricole en Afrique tropicale francophone traces the path taken by agricultural research over thousands of years. It shows the route taken by technological development, which was initially ‘obscure and silent’, towards organised, scientific research, which became established as of the end of the 19th century, with a constant objective: to satisfy people's food, economic, social and cultural requirements. The six volumes of a history of agricultural research in French-speaking tropical Africa are now online on the FAO archives website.


On being a scientist: A guide to responsible conduct in research (3rd edition)

The scientific research enterprise is built on a foundation of trust. Scientists trust that the results reported by others are valid. Society trusts that the results of research reflect an honest attempt by scientists to describe the world accurately and without bias. But this trust will endure only if the scientific community devotes itself to exemplifying and transmitting the values associated with ethical scientific conduct. This book was designed to supplement the informal lessons in ethics provided by research supervisors and mentors. It describes the ethical foundations of scientific practices and some of the personal and professional issues that researchers encounter in their work. It applies to all forms of research – whether in academic, industrial, or governmental settings – and to all scientific disciplines. A continuing feature of this edition is the inclusion of a number of hypothetical scenarios offering guidance in thinking about and discussing these scenarios.


Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering

The National Science Foundation funded a synthesis study on the status, contributions, and future direction of discipline-based education research (DBER) in physics, biological sciences, geosciences, and chemistry. DBER combines knowledge of teaching and learning with deep knowledge of discipline-specific science content. It describes the discipline-specific difficulties learners face and the specialized intellectual and instructional resources that can facilitate student understanding. Discipline-Based Education Research is based on a 30-month study built on two workshops held in 2008 to explore evidence on promising practices in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This book asks questions that are essential to advancing DBER and broadening its impact on undergraduate science teaching and learning. The book provides empirical research on undergraduate teaching and learning in the sciences, explores the extent to which this research currently influences undergraduate instruction, and identifies the intellectual and material resources required to further develop DBER.


RUFORUM Newsletter: Special focus on SCAIN (Strengthening Capacity for Agricultural Innovation)

The testimonies of the students who graduated through the SCAIN programme, some of which are featured in the RUFORUM December 2011 special issue, show how much they valued the wide range of training activities that was provided. This went far beyond the standard curricula of the universities and included workshops on personal mastery and soft skills, scientific data management and writing proposals and technical papers. Outputs from both SCARDA and SCAIN are also available on an electronic platform hosted on the RUFORUM website.


RUFORUM Newsletter: Special focus on SCARDA (Strengthening Capacity for Agricultural Research in Africa)

The November 2011 edition of the RUFORUM newsletter features SCARDA (Strengthening Capacity in Agricultural Research and Development in Africa) case studies and commentaries. The SCARDA project aimed to enhance the performance of selected research and educational organisations in ten countries. Particular emphasis was placed on strengthening linkages between these organizations and their research partners to help foster agricultural innovation. One of the major components of the project was strengthening the quality of science in the target organisations and support for postgraduate studentships in priority topics was the key activity in this.


Growing knowledge: Access to research in eastern and southern African universities

The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Papers. Policy and Research Unit. 06/2011.Researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa commonly highlight poor journal access as a serious hindrance to their academic work. But thanks to partnerships between librarians, publishers and a number of access initiatives, academics and students in east and southern Africa – and across the wider continent – have an impressive range of high-quality peer-reviewed material available. While availability and electronic access is improving dramatically in many universities, actual usage amongst staff and students does not appear to be keeping pace. The study explores a series of interrelated issues which help to explain why availability has not yet translated into high levels of access and use in some cases: technology and connectivity, the discovery of academic resources, library leadership and staff development, and relationships within the university. It offers a series of recommendations for librarians, ICT staff, university managers and external support and funding organisations, suggesting practical ways in which they can help to strengthen research and teaching by encouraging greater use of available online resources.


Capacity for knowledge-based smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia: Linking graduate programs to market-oriented agricultural development: Challenges, opportunities and IPMS experience

Lemma, T., et al. Improving Productivity and Market of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) Working Paper 29. 2012.Graduate Programs in agriculture and allied disciplines in Ethiopia are expected to make concrete contributions towards achieving market-led and knowledge-based transformation of smallholder agriculture. Hence, strengthening capacities of graduate programmes and attracting policy attention is crucial. This paper discusses key challenges of the graduate programmes to realize their mandates and to meet ever changing expectations. It also presents a case study linking graduate programmes through research by students to commodity value chain development and actors, and discusses qualitative and quantitative indicators of outcome in terms of enhanced research and learning experience. The paper draws out some lessons and identifies strategic and practical options that may help to improve learning and research in the graduate programmes.


RUFORUM Policy briefs: Building institutional capacity for advanced degree training in agriculture and the natural sciences

Experience over the past five years of implementing the RUFORUM regional programmes has shown that some factors are key to establishing successful regional post-graduate programmes. This Policy brief highlights two key factors namely (i) Curriculum design, delivery and quality assurance, and (ii) Curriculum content and skill enhancement. A strong monitoring and evaluation element will also enable regional PhD and MSc programmes to adapt and improve, with consequent benefit to university teaching and research.More RUFORUM Policy briefs are available here:


RUFORUM Policy briefs: Quality assurance systems in selected universities of Europe: Lessons for RUFORUM

Fundamental components of RUFORUM’s strategic and operational plans are to develop competitive high quality regional MSc and PhD programmes for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. A RUFORUM workshop on Quality Assurance raised the following issues (1) The new RUFORUM supported PhD programmes need to be developed using knowledge from other experienced systems, and (2) The RUFORUM regional PhD and MSc programmes are hosted by universities with different quality assurance systems at various levels of sophistication. The programmes are now being implemented, drawing resources from regional and global centres of knowledge through partnerships brokered and maintained by RUFORUM. Programme implementation requires a quality assurance mechanism that fosters high standards within the spirit of learning and co-sharing of knowledge. This brief draws on a scoping study commissioned by the RUFORUM Secretariat among selected Universities in Europe to draw lessons for a regional quality assurance and credit accumulation transfer system. More RUFORUM Policy briefs are available here: