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INSAM homepage until September 2012

Last modified October 01, 2012 09:34

INSAM homepage until September 2012

Dear Members of INSAM,

in the course of last year, Prof. Sue Walker and myself were nominated into the Board of Proprietors of the private “Southern University” in establishment in Choma, southern Zambia. This was on behalf of the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Arica, and my Agromet Vision respectively. In March this year we flew to Livingstone and drove to Choma with our local colleague, Dr. Durton Nanja, for a meeting with some of the other Board members.

These other Board members told us their dream of establishing a University that was actually very different from all existing Universities in Zambia, and as far as they and we know quite different from what exists in the whole of Africa. We visited the piece of 750 ha of abandoned savanna farm land that had been bought from a local church for building the University. We then at various meetings  in various compositions discussed the planning of this new and different University. Here is some of the outcome of these discussions.

We think of establishing a Rural University of Applied Sciences focused on (the livelihood problems of) local Communities. This University will do interactive applied research on solving these problems and meeting the related needs, and must therefore educationally be set up starting at this very farming livelihood level. The Southern University will also aim directly at collecting knowledge for supporting a climate compatible regional development strategy. We proposed the following aims:

a. Interactive applied participatory research on these livelihood needs and other problems, as well as their immediate solutions feasible under present and improved future conditions of rural development;

b. Problem solving community based education, containing examples of livelihood services and solutions established and found elsewhere in emerging countries as well as at SU straight from the beginning;

c. Environmental improvement oriented climate compatible development, steering

a. and b. under conditions of a changing climate.

These aims will determine the degrees to be offered at SU. We learned from work on new agrometeorological curricula recently published by WMO (2009) (http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/dra/etrp/documents/258_vol1_Supp_2_1.pdf) and in my “Applied Agrometeorology” (http://www.agrometeorology.org/topics/books-in-agrometeorology/applied-agrometeorology-1), how the separation of basic agrometeorology and applied agrometeorology, that I proposed in our 2007 WMO/EMCIAM meeting on these curricula, in New Delhi, completely changed the proposed outlines of applied agrometeorology. We decided to engage in doing the same here and suggested to teach natural sciences only in the context of applications. Applied natural sciences (Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology) will not to be offered as independent subjects but will be used as supporting courses and degrees for addressing the relevant aims of SU. [Examples: Applied Physics in Rural Problem Solving; Mathematics in Rural Development; Applied Chemistry in Support of Local Agriculture, Including Industrial Applications; Biology in Improved Agricultural Practices.]

A consequence of this decision would be that the SU would only have a School of Agricultural Applications and a School of Rural Livelihoods and that the natural sciences would be taught in those contexts. Under this School of Agricultural Applications the following Departments and Degrees were already recommended:

(i)     Livestock and Wildlife Management supporting relevant aims from those mentioned under a), b) and c) above;

(ii)    Agrometeorology and Agronomy, including agroforestry, related to the same or other relevant aims from those mentioned under a), b)     and c) above;

(iii)    Applied natural sciences, as described above;

(iv)     Natural Resources (Soil, Water, Land and Air) Management in support of these same aims;

(v)    Agricultural Business and Marketing (economics, trade, transport. etc..) again related to these same aims.

Under the School of Rural Livelihoods the following departments and degrees were recommended:

(vi)     Improvements in rural livelihoods;

(vii)     Education (educational psychology, teaching methods, curriculum development etc.) also in support of selected relevant departments under (i) till (v) above and the problems faced in their establishment;

(viii)    Village Business, also idem;

(ix)    Conflict and Peace, also idem;

(x)    Social Interactions (sociology and social work), also idem;

(xi)    Communication and Drama, also idem;

(xii)    Para-medicals (nurses, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition), also idem;

However, we also realized that many students coming from rural secondary education would need remedial science classes “to learn what scientifically is available in the scientific language and approach to problem solving”. This would make it possible to use only that applied and basic science that is actually needed in the solving of rural problems in the livelihood of farmers. It is also our experience that it is quite often relatively simple applied science that must be used innovatively in such problem solving.

We subsequently proposed that what professors, lecturers and students have these days available as reviewed up to date knowledge on the (broadband accessed!) internet can be a considerable source of inspiration, knowledge and applications in a huge number of fields of applied sciences. A recent example is that myself and Prof. Yunita Winarto, in a paper “What climate change means for farmers in Asia”, in Earthzine (fostering earth observations & global awareness) 5 (4) (http://www.earthzine.org/2012/04/04/what-climate-change-means-for-farmers-in-asia/), could use very recent Wikipedia reviews on ENSO phenomena and on Farmer Field School approaches respectively, that made a lot of literature searching unnecessary for educational purposes. This can be applied to several if not all fields of applied sciences and means much more up to date curricula than when using any existing text books (unless less than say five years old). Books could be tied to courses only. Money spent on usually quickly aging books and decaying libraries should this way largely be used for giving professors, lecturers and students ample (broadband) access to downloadable applied sciences that they can use in their lecture notes and other syllabi.

The above would definitely mean a new approach to higher education in the rural areas of Zambia and elsewhere in rural regions.

May I finally remind you on my request for help that I sent you earlier this month and that you can find now on: http://www.agrometeorology.org/topics/agromet-market-place/we-need-help-on-better-understanding-of-extension-problems

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