An inter-university Partnership to Strengthen University Food and Nutrition Sciences Training and Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (PASUFONS) was launched at JKUAT Main Campus, Juja, Wednesday, June 4, 2014.
The initiative which is supported by the ACP-EU EDULINK II, brings together Makerere University (Uganda), Stellenbosch University (South Africa) and JKUAT (Kenya), seeks to enhance the universities’ capacity to address malnutrition on the continent which is attributable to among others, inadequate food availability, insufficient levels of some essential nutrients in staples and a dearth of nutritional knowledge among the populations.
Making a presentation during the launch, PASUFONS Project Coordinator Prof. John Muyonga, who is also the Dean School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering, Makerere University, said the overall objective of the project is “to enhance the contribution of higher education institutions to food and nutrition security of communities in Eastern and Southern Africa.”
The scholar further observed that “high post harvest losses, low produce quality and dismal value addition which have for a long time limited the benefits derived from food production in Africa.”
Prof. Muyonga outlined project activities that will be undertaken in the three institutions which include: review of existing food and nutrition sciences academic programmes, joint research, development of course material, short term courses for technical and academic staff, joint teaching through use of virtual teaching and learning facilities, and dissemination of project outputs among others.
Speaking during the project launch, JKUAT Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga, who was represented by the Dean, Faculty of Agriculture Dr. David Mburu, said, PASUFONS could not have come at a better time when “better strategies of improving the training in the fields of food science and nutrition are top on the agenda.”
Prof. Imbuga noted that “the fields of food science and nutrition are critical in growing economies and especially in societies that have not attained food security and are thus still grappling with serious issues of malnutrition.”
The Vice Chancellor observed that the collaboration’s, e-portal, a virtual forum for undertaking joint academic activities envisaged under PAFUSONS “will expose students to the very best from the three universities” and urged staff in these institutions to leverage on available opportunities to conduct high impact joint research.
On the review of postgraduate curricula, the VC noted that “although JKUAT already has a policy of reviewing programs at the end of every cycle, reviewing them under the PASUFONS project will raise the bar for the reviewing process that would by all means lead to development of high quality programmes,”
Prof. Imbuga thus challenged the industry “to play a key role in determining the kind of graduates coming from the universities by giving their input during the curricula formulation rather than wait to complain about half-baked graduates after training.”
Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension Prof. Esther Kahangi, urged participating institutions to cast their net wider beyond issues of postharvest losses and production, and focus on food nutrition in an effort to underscore the significance of food nutrition to people’s health.
“Although in Africa, food nutrition is not advanced,” Prof. Kahangi observed that there “was need to benchmark with the best practices in the world and ensure that populations eat quality food,” a situation she decried, was acutely lacking in the feeding habits of the urban youths, and she consequently implored partner institutions to educate and sensitize people, particularly the urban youths on the benefits of eating quality food.
Under PASUFONS, JKUAT will spearhead the review of academic programmes tailored to produce highly skilled food and nutrition graduates in the region. Under this work package, JKUAT will identify skills’ needs; evaluate current curricular and undertake curricular revision.
The function drew local and international industry players, stakeholders and scholars in the fields of food and nutrition from Uganda, South Africa and Kenya.
Others who spoke at the forum from JKUAT include; the Project Coordinator at JKUAT Prof. Kamau Ngamau; Head of Food Technology and Nutrition Department Dr. Arnold Onyango, among others.