Institutionalisation of Participatory Innovation Development (PID) methodology in the universities of Sudan: draft paper

By Nageeb Ibrahim Bakheit

Note: The article below is one of the first ‘draft papers’ on Curriculum Development for PID in education.

Most of what are now known as State Universities in Sudan are located in rural areas. This is particularly true of the Faculty of Agriculture (Abu Naama) in the University of Sinnar. Moreover, when Abu Naama College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was first established in the late 70s, the site was chosen only 2 km from Kinanna Research Station. But this locational advantage was never effectively tapped for the development of rural communities near these localities, except for some linkages between the earlier teaching staff and the researchers.

A bibliography of Sudan agriculture revealed that traditional agriculture had rarely been taught within the curricula and has been totally ignored by researchers and extensionists (ILEIA LEISA Magazine, 2001), though excellent documentation existed since the first half of the last century (e.g. Tothill, 1948).

The Faculty of Abu Naama has one department for extension, agricultural economics and rural development. There is one course on rural sociology and another one on rural women taught within the Department beside the normal course contents of Agricultural Extension and Economics. Another course on general agriculture is taught in the Department of Plant Production. The nature of all course contents in the Faculty is theoretical. Besides these theoretical aspects, there is the problem of mobility, particularly during the rainy season (the time of cultivation) for the staff to reach the small-scale farming communities near the University. Nevertheless, the Department is trying to seize every opportunity for collaboration with the small-scale farmers within Sinnar State. The objective of this paper is to raise awareness among the teaching staff of the University for promoting local innovation and to tap abundant natural and human resources for PID processes:

  1. There are close links between the University and the farming community near Abu Naama. These relations are represented informally by social personal relations between the University staff and the Research Station staff and formally by the employment opportunities which the University offers to the community. A large group of the University is part of the local community. This counterbalances the heterophillous attitudes or xenophobia which local people might feel against outsiders. In fact, local people here have a stake in the University. They are real stakeholders as they recently rejected a move to shift the Management of the University to an urban area.
  2. It is written in the terms of reference of some universities that their curricula would be community-based, as for example, the University of Gezira (U of G).
  3. There is at least one course taught for the under- or post-graduates in the Department of Extension and Rural Development on extension participatory approaches e.g. farmer field schools (FFSs). An apt option is to try university extension which could be adapted to local conditions in collaboration with the State Ministry of Agriculture in Sinja, the capital town of Sinnar State. Specialists in the four major departments, Plant Production, Animal Production, Entomology and Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, would act as resource persons or Subject Matter Specialists (SMS) and pay visits to different farming localities within the State.
  4. Research graduation projects for the students could be directed by PID methodology.
  5. Examples of things to try out are breeding aspects of early-maturing sorghum varieties, drought resistance and waterharvesting techniques. This is because most farmers in the State, particularly those in Jebel Moya Area, west of Sinnar are vulnerable to rainwater shortages. The ‘Gisheish’ local variety of sorghum is very popular in many parts of Sinnar Kassala in eastern Sudan and in other rainfed sorghum-growing areas of Sudan. The origin of this variety is a small community near the capital town of the State. Perhaps it deserves to investigate the materials and methods of these farmer sorghum breeders.
  6. The last point indicates that there is already some sort of existing farmer-based extension. These networks can be strengthened by experimenting with farmers, exchange visits and training farmers to build their capacity for managing experiments, analysing them and sharing results with others. The roles of other stakeholders such as the Farmers Unions (for the demarcated or un-demarcated areas), State Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Agricultural Extension and Technology Transfer) and other community-based organisations (CBOs) should be coordinated.
  7. The ultimate aim of the Faculty of Agriculture in Sinnar University is to gather all information, document the process and methods of experimentation and diffusion, and finally put it as part of the curricula.
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