AER project presents video on new master’s program in agroecology and other achievements

11. May 2021
AER team members and farmers
Following the finalization of the AER Project a new video introduces the recently launched master's programme in Agroecology at Mountains of the Moon University (MMU), Uganda

You can access the video here or in the column on the right hand side

The APPEAR project Strengthening of Higher Education, Research and Community Outreach in Agroecology in the Rwenzori Region in Western Uganda (AER) was designed to build capacities at the Mountains of the Moon University (MMU) – a relatively young, however dynamic and innovative, community-embedded institution located in the city of Fort Portal – in higher education, research and community outreach in the field of Agroecology (AE) in the Rwenzori region. The project, which lasted from May 2016 to November 2020, was drafted and implemented by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) and MMU to reach two main objectives: First, to build capacities in knowledge and skills in agro-ecological principles and systemic understanding of agricultural systems in higher education, research and community outreach at MMU by training and equipping of MMU staff itself and facilitating MMU to develop and integrate a stakeholder- and demand-driven MSc curriculum in Agreocology. The second objective was to empower communities to adopt sustainable agriculture production methods based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture, and local food system experiences and the elaboration of entrepreneurial and marketing skills along the food chain by the creation of strong ties to MMU. This included the establishment of a participatory gender sensitive action research, communication and feedback framework between MMU and the stakeholder communities.

Throughout the project life span, the following results could be achieved:

  • A prospective team of teachers, trainers and researchers at MMU has been cross-disciplinary trained to enable a systemic understanding of the complex environment smallholder farmers are embedded in.
  • A new Master of Science program in Agroecology could be developed and accredited. The MSc. AE programme was officially launched on 5 February 2020 by Prof. Edward Rugumayo, the Chancellor of MMU. The development process was participatory in nature and based on the needs and demands of the consulted stakeholders unlike the traditional top- down process/experts consultation in Uganda. The curriculum was accredited by Uganda National Council for Higher Education in September 2020. Details about the Msc. AE programme and the project are available on the website.  and presented in this video
  • The creation of a participatory gender sensitive action research, communication and feedback framework allowed AER project to initiate a continuous exchange process between MMU and regional non-academic stakeholders.
  • The project also supported the set-up of an agroecological demonstration farm (AER demonstration farm) at the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. It was modelled to justify the feasibility of a small scale farm to effectively and sustainably meet the social and economic needs of an average household in the Rwenzori region without compromising ecosystem health. The agroecological demonstration farm serves as an agroecological innovation hub for MMU staff, students and external stakeholders to enable practical trials on locally adapted solutions for the farming systems and to serve as an outreach centre for the local community. Ten other community demonstration farms were established in the different districts of the Rwenzori region to facilitate action research in agroecology.
  • The project also developed deliverables/outcomes such as; the Manual Pedagogical Philosophy and Approaches in Agrofood Systems Education (established by BOKU in cooperation with colleagues in other APPEAR projects); the Gender mainstreaming manual at MMU; the Conceptual framework for stakeholder participation which is very key for MMU’s community engagement projects; the action research tools that could prove useful for the development and implementation of action research at MMU; the agroecology training manual based on the MMU agroecology demonstration unit and a catalogue of measures for upgrading traditional farms to agroecological farms.
  • The APPEAR programme enabled the AER project to select two PhD students from Fort Portal, Mary Ekyaligonza (Organic Matter Management and Cropping Systems for Soil Fertility Improvement in Rwenzori Region, Uganda) and Thaddeo Tibasima (Developing a Systems Model for Sustainable Soil Erosion Control in the Rwenzori Region, Uganda) to study at BOKU. The two APPEAR PhD Scholarship holders momentarily are finishing their PhD.

The project ended in November 2020 and MMU school of Agriculture and environmental sciences took over the management of all project outputs. This project offered a first step towards the establishment of an international research centre for agroecology at MMU. The future is bright and with this first step, the opportunities are enormous. The project team from BOKU and MMU currently is implementing further activities (preparation of joint publications, submission of project proposals, etc.) to attract local and international researchers to MMU so as to contribute to MMU’s vision of “being a centre of excellence in teaching, research and community engagement”.