Burundi has a desperate shortage of technically well-trained staff in agriculture. In ETAPE, a project of the Nuffic Orange Knowledge programme, Wageningen University & Research and partners are working hard to strengthen agro-technical education.
Connecting better to the needs of the agricultural sector
To improve food security in Burundi, the agricultural sector must innovate drastically. It is up to the ITABs with the help of the CdPs to support the sector in this. ETAPE contributes to this, says Caroline Desalos, advisor at WCDI: "At the ITAB schools, for example, we have invested in software and equipment. Thanks to these investments and practical guides produced through the project, teachers at the schools can now better train the necessary practical skills of an agricultural advisor and tailor their lessons to the needs of the sector. We also help teachers to improve their teaching skills."
The Centres de Perfectionnement are located 'in the field'. According to Desalos, these locations were not sufficiently equipped to offer good skills training to small farmers and the ITAB school students during their internships: "In two out of the five CdPs, the lessons used to be taught in the same space where products are stored. This wasn't a healthy situation. We have invested in separate quiet classrooms at these locations. In two other CdPs, we have invested in processing-related equipment so that better products are prepared and they set an example for students and other practical trainees. In addition to providing equipment, we're also working on improving the way the CdPs supervise ITAB students during their internships: ETAPE worked on a general internship guide and on eight technical guides on the CdP activities."
Another important theme ETAPE has invested in is creating awareness around gender and inclusion, says Desalos: "We organised various activities with partners in Burundi and students. Theatre worked very well as a way to broach the subject. For ITAB staff members and students, this theme was completely new."
Better links between education and market
The links between education and the market have also been strengthened. According to Desalos, a strong relationship between the two is needed to improve the match between what students learn and the skills actually required by employers. In January 2020, the project partners organised an innovation market in Bujumbura, the country's largest city. 41 organisations participated. The aim was to create internship opportunities for ITAB students and to share innovative practices with the education sector.
Change of mindset
Agro-technical education is still at a low point in Burundi. According to Desalos, this is partly because the Burundian government has given the ITAB schools very little support until now: "In the education sector, the the main focus has been on universities and primary practical schools and not on the levels in between. In addition to the lack of connections between the education sector and the market, the passiveness of actors doesn't help in creating opportunities for the youth: young people don't receive sufficient training in the entrepreneurial skills needed to improve food security in Burundi. They don't develop a vision for the future because they don't know what the future holds. With ETAPE we hope to give the first impetus to a change in mentality, towards taking action, being an entrepreneur and not waiting for a job, but rather creating one's own income-generating activity."
The COVID-19 crisis has, of course, hindered the progress of the project: "Since March 2020, we haven't been able to travel to Burundi to provide on-the-spot support. But fortunately, with COPED we have a hard-working local partner with an excellent network at our side. This has enabled us to actually continue working. And the investments in computers, software and associated training pay off more than once because we can now work together remotely in an efficient manner."
Equally welcome is the fact that the computer equipment installed in the ITAB schools is also being used by communities and other schools in the vicinity. "We didn't foresee this development, but we're very happy about it. It creates different contacts between the schools and their neighbourhood and may lead to income-generating activities for the ITAB schools. This creates interesting new connections and opportunities for the schools to better sustain their core activities."
At the same time, Desalos is involved in another Orange Knowledge programme's project in Mali (ReCaFoP). "Although Mali is in political turmoil and has political and safety issues, there's a lot of energy and scope for innovation in agricultural education. For example, the concept of blended learning started years ago in Mali, including in the field of agricultural education, while in Burundi it is still really in its infancy."
The project in Mali focuses on supporting two Centres de Formation Professionnelle (CFP), the Malian equivalent of the ITAB in Burundi. While ReCaFoP focuses specifically on food and nutrition security and sustainable natural resources management, both ETAPE and ReCaFoP projects aim to improve the practical side of education to improve young people's access to work in agriculture. The coming period will show how the project intends to stimulate this. Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation is collaborating with the same European partners on this project as in ETAPE.