Ag Sciences researchers part of award-winning Africa research team

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Two scientists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences are part of a research team that recently was named the winner of the 2013 Africa Collaboration Challenge Prize.

Sjoerd Duiker, associate professor of soil management and applied soil physics, and Ephraim Govere, research support associate and manager of the college's Soil Research and Cluster Laboratory, are part of a joint Penn State-Global Knowledge Initiative team that was awarded a $20,000 prize.

Other team members are Michael Kansiime and John Kabasa from the African Institute for Strategic Animal Resource Services and Development. Also known as AFRISA, the institute is housed at Uganda's Makerere University.

The team won the research competition for its proposal, "Youth Employment and Income Enhancement Project: Haymaking as a Business Opportunity." An international technical committee selected the plan as the best in a field of proposals from teams that emerged from the Africa Collaboration Colloquium hosted by Penn State and the Global Knowledge Initiative in August 2012.

With seed funding of $20,000, the project will combine AFRISA's expertise -- developing skills in value addition and entrepreneurship -- with a hay-baling business incubator Penn State started with the Zawadi Youth Enterprise, a community organization in Nyeri, Kenya.

"This partnership seeks to tackle the high rate of unemployment among youth in Uganda and Kenya," said Deanna Behring, director of international programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences. "The initiative will organize workshops to train Ugandan and Kenyan students in skills needed to start their own haymaking businesses."

With this prize, the Youth Employment and Income Enhancement Project plans to establish 10 new haymaking businesses across both countries.

"We hope that their work will serve as a model for future youth employment projects and will showcase how a partnership that began in Pennsylvania at the Africa Collaboration Colloquium might contribute to spreading economic and social benefits to young people throughout East Africa," Behring added.

The Africa Collaboration Colloquium brought together researchers from East Africa and the United States committed to forging smart, focused partnerships aimed at addressing critical challenges pertinent to food security in Africa. Over two days, participants engaged in knowledge sharing, relationship building and skill development.

The colloquium's technical committee prioritized innovations with the greatest potential to create measurable change within a year, Behring noted. Penn State and the Global Knowledge Initiative will work with the Youth Employment and Income Enhancement Project team over the next year to monitor progress and identify opportunities to leverage additional resources and partnerships.

Organizers are planning a follow-up Africa Collaboration Colloquium, to be held in early 2014 at Makerere University.

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Last Updated May 28, 2013