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SEMCA: A Community of Practice linking those involved in capacity development
September 2007
Sustainability, Education and the Management of Change in Africa (SEMCA)


SEMCA is dedicated to the transformation of Higher Education in Africa for a new generation of graduates working closely with rural communities to research and produce innovative, sustainable development options and implement changes.

SEMCA is a new community of practice that has been established to assist in linking higher education networks, universities, faculties, graduates, students as well as research, policy, development and other agencies all with an interest in capacity development - making research and education more relevant to both smallholders and to the modern, gobalised, knowledge economy. SEMCA derives from a collaboration amongst EARTH University, the Salzburg Seminar, Noragric and UNDP which held a series of international seminars, SEMCIT1, to discuss the changes needed to make agricultural university graduates in the tropics relevant in the 21st Century.

The SEMCA Community of Practice provides an interactive platform that will include workshops, advocacy, sharing experiences and the opportunity to work together to develop and access materials that inform transformation. SEMCA will use both the internet and e-communication to support these efforts, providing access to those with limited internet facilities. SEMCA will be launching a webpage on the UNDP Information and Learning Network that hosts a local-level integrated information system for Africa. The ILN-Africa/LIIS aims to link local communities with access to information and empower them to leverage technical and other assistance in their efforts to take advantage of globalisation. In the future SEMCA will help to link universities directly with relevant communities in a spiderweb of inter-related knowledge cross-points. The primary goal of this SEMCA Community of practice is to assist in developinga new generation of graduates able to work with farmers and rural communities to produce innovative, sustainable solutions and implement changes. There is a need to harness Africa’s creativity to serve development and use her abundant resources to improve the conditions of the poor and tap into new technology to assist the process.

Why a Community of Practice on Transforming African Universities?

There has been a strong call for increased networking and exchange at Jinja Uganda and many other fora. At the FARA (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa) General Assembly in June 2007 (www.fara-Africa.org) it was once again stressed how important dialogue and networking are to ensure that higher education, research institutes, regional and international networks involved in rural development and capacity development in Africa all contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Internet connectivity can be both time-consuming and expensive in some parts of Africa, so there is a need to provide direct links where the opportunity for surfing is limited. There is also a need to make new information more easily accessible, get better access to regional workshop and seminar discussions (recent and forthcoming meetings include CHEMRAWN XII, Dec 2007, www.chemrawn.co.za RUFORUM, May and August 2007 www.ruforum.org, and FANRPAN, September 2007 www.fanrpan.org). It is also critical to keep abreast of what is happening internationally e.g. the international trade in carbon credits – for instance, do graduates know how to help farmers and poor rural communities take advantage of the changes due in 2012? see CTA, FAO and World Bank as well as www.earthtrends.wri.org. What are the new ways of providing incentives for encouraging agro-biodiversity? What are the implications of bio-fuels to smallholder producers or to net-food importing countries? How would farmers tap into the organic and fair trade markets – learn from other regions www.clac-pequenosproductores.org. How to work with communities to set the research agenda? While none of these issues is the primary role of the SEMCA Community of Practice – they are all part of the changing world we need to keep in touch with. We also need to play an advocacy role and ensure that university authorities, policy makers in government and funding agencies are aware of the key role universities must play in capacity development. Universities need to adapt to the needs of the modern world and this requires reinventing themselves.

The SEMCA webpage on the ILN Africa site and SEMCA e-service communications will concentrate on news about transforming our universities to make them more relevant both in accessing and using modern technology and linking to the world as well as ensuring that they understand and can work with small, under-resourced farmers. A bi-monthly newsletter will be sent giving highlights of what is happening on transforming universities and provide links to information of particular interest in agriculture, environment, research, rural development and of course higher education. It will also inform members of the papers available on the web. Summaries of information and papers on the SEMCA site will be made available by email on request to those with slow or expensive internet access.

If you have information to be included in either our next newsletter or the web site, please send material to the e-mail address below! All inputs are welcome. To reduce unwanted email traffic, this is not an interactive list-serve so your reply will only come to the list manager. It will then either be placed on the web page or incorporated into the next newsletter as appropriate. There will be interactive spaces on the web and in workshops and exchanges that will encourage direct communication between members.

Please forward this to any colleagues you feel may like to receive the newsletter. They should send an email to and we will add them to our list.

To assist those with poor dial-up internet access our e-communication and Newsletter will have no colour or photographs and the format will be kept simple – the web pages will be more exciting!

Ndey-Isatou Njie – UNDP Regional Capacity Development Adviser, Africa
Jacob-Gyamfi-Aidoo – UNDP ILN-/-LIIS Adviser, Africa
Kay Muir-Leresche - SEMCA facilitator



Footnote:
  1. Sustainability, Education and the Management of Change in the Tropics held seminars and workshops in Austria, Costa Rica, Uganda, Senegal, Thailand, Indonesia and Norway and their findings are available on www.changetropics.org

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