By Francois NDWANIYE, Assistant Lecturer and Deputy Coordinator
My name is Francois NDWANIYE, Assistant Lecturer and Deputy Coordinator of the NICHE RWA 185 project Capacity building for food security through sustainable potato value chain development in Rwanda at the University of Rwanda (UR-CAVM).
I joined the Nuffic NICHE-RWA-185 project in its 3rd year in October 2017, replacing Mr. Patrice Mugenzi who went for his further studies. My responsibility was to assist the Project Coordinator, Dr Obedi Nyamangyoku.
Prior to my appointment, I had participated in the implementation of the various project activities as a volunteer and beneficiary. I was much involved in achieving project output 1.1 (Development and implementation of policies to guide education, research and outreach on potato value chain) where I fully invested my knowledge and expertise in gender needs assessment, gender policy strategy/action plan development and implementation. I worked with Q-Point experts to train CAVM staff on gender mainstreaming in curriculum, research and outreach.
Problem-based Learning (BPL) was another experience for me. I learned about it and shared experiences with colleagues and students in the final year agribusiness and rural development, especially how to develop learning case studies in collaboration with our field partners. The process of adopting PBL continued as we developed a dissemination/training plan.
I have organised workshops and ToTs as planned, strengthened partnerships with potato cooperatives and processing companies. I supported the development of the Farmer’s
Potato Handbook and the applied potato research agenda, as well as the review of the short-course programme for income generation. I dedicated enough time to activities related to research infrastructure development (lab equipment, greenhouse and seed store).
Major challenges of the project included inflexible procurement and money acquisition policies and UR restructuring delayed implementation. Core activities like construction of research & education facilities and establishment/running of a potato pilot/demonstration fields to students and farmers were heavily affected. However, UR-CAVM learned good lessons to prevent this from happening in the future. A potato innovation and learning centre was started and still requires technical and financial support for its sustainability.