Haramaya University has this year won a competitive World Bank grant amounting to 6,000,000 (six million) US Dollars to establish an African Center of Excellence in Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation. A team of senior staff members from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, namely, Prof. Nigussie Dechassa (PhD), Dr. Bobe Bedadi, Dr. Kibebew Kibret, Dr. Tesfaye Lemma, Dr. Mitiku Eshetu, Dr. Lemma Wogi, Dr. Wassu, Mohammed, Dr. Yishak Yusuf, and Dr. Yoseph Tadesse, worked hard and drafted aconvincing proposal in response to a call made by the World Bank last year. In the process, this team was also supported by a team of experts from Purdue University through the facilitation of Professor Gebisa Ejeta (PhD), Distinguished Professor/2009 World Food Prize Laureate. Proposalswere submitted to the World Bank from a number of universities across Eastern and Southern Africa region in October 2015.
Initially, more than 100 proposals made their way to the World Bank, which were finally whittled down to 24, among which our proposal stood firmly. The selection was done after a lengthy and rigorous process as well as based on results of on-site visitsmade by World Bank expertsto assess the readiness offacilities of candidate universities to host the intended centers of excellence. The desk assessment of the proposals as well as the on-site visits to the universities was madeby panels of internationally renowned experts drawn from around the globe by the World Bank. Selections of the ACEs were generally made through an open, objective, transparent and merit-based competitive process based on the following criteria: (a) proposal that addressed a specific challenge in one of the five priority areas in the region – industry, agriculture, health, education and applied statistics; (b) proposal of the highest quality; (c) hosting institution had evident capacity; (d) selection that provided for geographical balance; and (e) the hosting country had International Development Association (IDA) funding eligibility and availability.The news that our university has won the project was announced at the end of May 2016.
The project is aimed at producing skilled human capital to tackle challenges posed by climate change through quality post-graduate education and research in partnership with universities across the Eastern and Southern African Region as well as with other institutions of higher education in the World. The general objective of the ACE II project is to strengthen selected Eastern and Southern Africa higher education institutions to deliver quality postgraduate education and build collaborative research capacity in the regional priority areas.The selected ACEs are expected to address specific development challenges facing the region through graduate training in Master’s, PhD, and short-term courses and applied research in the form of partnerships and collaborations with other institutions and the private sector.
All these ACEs are expected to perform the following tasks:
(a) build institutional capacity to provide quality post-graduate education with relevance to the labor market; (b) build institutional capacity to conduct high quality applied research, relevant to addressing a key development challenge/priority; (c) develop and enhance partnerships with other academic institutions (national, regional and international) to pursue academic excellence;
(d) develop and enhance partnerships with industry and the private sector to generate greater impact; (e) improve governance and management of the institution and set up a role model for other higher education institutions; and (f) deliver outreach, and create an impact, to society by delivering excellent teaching and producing high quality applied research.
Over the project duration of five years, collectively these ACEs are expected to enroll more than 3,500 graduate students in the regional development priority areas, out of which more than 700 will be PhD students and more than 1,000 will be female students, publish almost 1,500 journal articles, launch more than 300 research collaborations with private sector and other institutions, and generate almost US$30 million in external revenue.
Haramaya University is expected to enroll and graduate a total of 30 PhD students and a total of 80 MSc students at the end of the project year in 2021, at least one-third of whom will be female.
The planned PhD program at Haramaya University is one (Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation) and will have four sub-specializations (crop, livestock, soil and water, and policy, institution and innovation). The intended MSc programs will be five in number, with two new (Climate Smart Agriculture, Biodiversity and Ecosystem management) and three already existing regional ones(Agrometeorology and Natural Risk Management, Agricultural Information and Communication Management, and Collaborative Master’s Program in Agricultural and Applied Economics).
Research will be focused on priority areas (crop, livestock, soil and water, and policy, institution and innovation; agricultural information and communication, natural risk management, biodiversity and ecosystem management, agricultural and applied economics). In addition, short term training programs will be conducted targeting various stakeholders and partners, including technical staff, students, and faculties from regional, international, and national partners aimed at enhancing their knowledge and skills in climate smart agriculture and biodiversity conservation. Regional, international, and national research partnerships will also be established and joint research conducted and publications produced in priority areas in the region
The specific objectives of the African Center of Excellence in Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation at Haramaya University are the following:
- Produce skilled MSc and PhD graduates in ‘climate smart agriculture and biodiversity conservation’ that are able to address current and emerging developmental challenges.
- Generate new knowledge and quality research outputs as well as promote technological innovations to address national and regional development challenges.
- Enhance knowledge, skills and scholarship and research culture of faculty and technical personnel at universities to lead a more effective, result-oriented, and high quality post-graduate training with cutting edge research.
- Upgrade teaching and research facilities (laboratories, ICT services, greenhouses, lath houses, meteorological stations, research farms, etc.).
- Strengthen national, regional, and international collaborations and partnerships to enhance exchange of science and technology skills, experience, and expertise.
- Foster specialization in specific areas of excellence and collaboration with emerging higher education institutions.
- Establish a program for continued funding to sustain high quality postgraduate training and cutting edge research in climate smart agriculture and biodiversity conservation in the region.
The project will operate under the overall guidance and oversight of the Regional Steering Committee. RSC comprises members from participating countries, the private sector, and academic experts of international stature.
It is envisaged that at the end of the project, all centers will have developed sufficient capacity to become sustainable regional hubs for training and research in their specialized fields, capable of leading efforts to address priority development challenges and improve lives in the region. The ACE II project is expected to close in October 2021.