In an effort geared towards fostering international collaboration and knowledge exchange, three faculty members from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) participated in a six-month and one year co-creation training program in Japan.
The initiative supported by the Africa-ai-Japan Project, was aimed at enhancing the training participants’ expertise in their respective disciplines, while nurturing enduring connections between JKUAT and Japanese academics as well as industrial sectors.
The three selected participants namely Dr. Meshack Hawi, a Mechanical Engineer with a specialization in pump fluids who is also a Lecturer in Department of Mechanical Engineering; Prof. Arnold Onyango, an Associate Professor in the field of Food Chemistry and Biochemistry currently serving as the Dean of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences; and Dr. Irene Orina, a Lecturer in the Department of Food Science and Technology, specializing in Food Science.
The trio underwent a comprehensive training program in Japan that included workshops, seminars, hands-on projects, and cultural immersion, that saw them gain deep insights in cutting-edge technologies, research methodologies and industry trends.
Dr. Hawi conducted innovative research at the Tokyo University, focusing on advancement in thermal energy conversion. His work aimed to provide effective solutions to the pressing energy scarcity issues linked with conventional fossil fuels and emerging alternative bio-fuels.
Dr. Hawi said, his contribution has the potential to elevate JKUAT’s research reputation, attract resources and enrich the academic environment for students and his colleagues.
“The programme has exposed me to high levels of research, improved my research skills and networks. Going forward, I would like to improve the academic experience of my students using the knowledge I gained while also improving my research output to secure more research grants,” said Dr. Hawi.
On his part, Prof. Onyango, during his tenure at Obihiro University, extensively researched on the relationship between chemical and bio-chemical dynamics pertaining to lifestyle diseases.
His research not only explored these connections but also delved into potential strategies for disease management through targeted nutritional interventions.
“I conducted in-depth research on the digestibility of sorghum. Despite its popularity in Africa, my research has shown that sorghum can potentially lead to reduced nutrient uptake, which might not be ideal for children who are in their crucial growth phases and have higher nutrient requirements,” revealed Prof. Onyango.
Dr. Orina made significant contributions to the field through her comprehensive research on the pasting properties of various flours. Her work shed light on the distinct characteristics and behaviours of different flour types, offering valuable understanding of their potential application across various industries.
The researchers revealed that by integrating their acquired skills and knowledge, they aim to inspire colleagues and students towards interdisciplinary research and collaborations. They recommended that local universities could borrow a leaf from Japanese universities in terms of research.
“Universities can learn from Japanese universities by implementing rigorous research disciplines, emphasizing a strong work ethic, and fostering a culture of active professor participation in research,” said Dr. Orina.
Their collective experiences emphasize the transformative power of cross-cultural learning in advancing research, innovation and sustainable development. As they embark on putting into practice the knowledge, skills and experiences, JKUAT stands to benefit from an enriched academic and research community whose perspective is global.
The three trainees expressed their gratitude to the Africa-ai-Japan Project, noting that the initiative serves as an embodiment of international collaboration between African and Japanese institutions to promote sustainable development through technology and innovation.
By sponsoring JKUAT staff co-creation training, they observed that the project empowers African professionals to bring transformative changes to their home institutions and countries.