GFAR and Partners take Collective Action on Transformational Learning & Student Leadership Development


From 27 to 29 September 2017, at a meeting held at the University of Nairobi, GFAR and Partners will take the next step in developing a Collective Action to transform learning in agricultural and life sciences universities across the globe, to better equip graduates to meet today’s demands in a changing sector.  In partnership with RUFORUM and the University of Nairobi, the meeting will aim to formulate a holistic reform model for university education in Africa while integrating the crucial component of effective leadership development for students.

In addition to RUFORUM and the University of Nairobi, GFAR partners from the private sector in Africa, civil society, farmer organizations, local rural youth and women associations and agricultural students associations are participating. Working back from the outcomes they want to achieve—ensuring that their graduates meet the identified demands and bring value to their working environments—the participants in the three-day meeting will take part in group work and write shops to set out a common model for reform. A proposal will then be developed for the practical steps to be taken to bring about the needed changes to the visions, strategies, governance structures, curricula, instructional techniques and student life programmes of the participating universities.  Together they will also identify potential sponsors and donors for the collective action.

The context

Agricultural and life science universities and departments around the world are keen to continuously review their programmes to adapt to changes in their dynamic environments. Still, a gap exists in producing the right caliber of university graduates that fits the existing market and societal demands. New graduates face challenges in integrating into their professional and decision making environment, and in finding channels to impact the change processes of their societies and the world. They also may feel unprepared to venture into uncharted territory to start their own agricultural enterprises.

Comprehensive transformational learning and student leadership development schemes are needed in our agricultural and life science schools, to develop not only academic skills, but also the intellectual, professional, spiritual and emotional aspects of the students. The schemes should inspire, guide and equip the students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet their aspirations, access resources and grow into qualified and prepared graduates. They must demonstrate employability, leadership aptitude and entrepreneurial agility. They must be able to innovate and lead the integration of their specialized research into society for real developmental impact.

The Nairobi Meeting

This GFAR collective action – whose first meeting will be held in the University of Nairobi in September 2017 - will result in the following outputs:

  • Establishing a representative platform of stakeholders of higher education from among the different constituencies of GFAR and RUFORUM who are willing to join hands on this initiative
  • Identifying the reform to be undertaken by the participating universities based on representative and equitable dialogue – innovation platform style – of the multi-stakeholders concerned
  • Formulating a shared model of reform that allows for sharing experiences, stories, challenges and opportunities experienced by each university
  • Fundraising for the initiative through a joint multi-stakeholder proposal of this collective action
  • Working together towards an established and jointly agreed results framework with action timelines and milestones to achieve the agreed reform in the participating universities, taking into consideration their different local environments and their specificities
  • Monitoring and Evaluation and Documenting the experience and the expertise developed
  • Scaling out to other GFAR partners in other regions in the near future

It is expected that the outputs of this continued partnership of multiple stakeholders that starts in the Nairobi meeting in September, will include reformed curricula, restructured governance, rewritten school missions and strategic plans. Integration of co-curricular activities that focus on the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and professional development of students will be a core of this reform together with development of student leadership, mentoring and continuous evaluations schemes.Direct engagement of students will help link agro-industries and present opportunities from new technologies and service industries with universities and their neighbouring communities.All will lead to measurable outcomes including qualified adaptable global oriented graduates who meet the identified demands and expectations, who are enthusiastic and committed to use their learning for agricultural research and development, and who are recognized as value-added in their environments, leading to impactful innovative agricultural and rural transformation around the world.

The GFAR Collective Action on transformational learning and student leadership development aims at scaling out this reform to other regions through South-South learning and exchange – in its second phase – building on the experience gained in Africa.

Building from previous actions

One of the key actions determined by participants in GCARD3 was the formation of a new alliance for curriculum reform and student leadership, in order to address the chronic problem of young people turning away from agricultural careers and their perceptions that agriculture does not offer the rewards to be found elsewhere. The GFAR Secretariat built upon these ideas in partnership with the Global Confederation on Higher Education and Research in Agriculture, GCHERA, the global network of national agricultural university associations, a Partner in GFAR. This partnership led to a Global Dialogue at the RUFORUM Conference in South Africa in September 2016, in which GFAR used EU support to enable the participation of a range of non-university stakeholders, to express their concerns and needs to the university sector and avoid the discussion being internal to the university sector. The meeting in Nairobi will build from this multi-sectoral needs identification to carry forward actions to create the agricultural leaders of tomorrow, equipped with skills and a sense of self and the importance of their calling that go well beyond technical skills alone.

News by Iman Elkafas, Capacity Development Advisor, GFAR Secretariat and coordinator of the Nairobi meeting. For more information, please contact her at Iman.Elkafas[at]fao[dot]org

Watch this interview with Agnes Mwang'ombe and Ian Maw, representatives of the Higher Education Constituency in the GFAR Steering Committee on the occasion of their participation in the GFAR Strategic Workshop and Steering Committee held in June. In the interview, they share the aims of the Nairobi meeting on Transformational Learning and Student Development.

Please also check back to the GFAR Blog for updates on the outcomes and next steps from the Nairobi meeting.