AgriENGAGE Summer School as a Model for Entrepreneurship Education in Agricultural Schools
As agriculture in Africa impacts the economy at both micro and macro level, mainstream entrepreneurship research and education is increasingly focused on the agricultural sector, while graduates of entrepreneurship programs are seeking to apply their profession to the agriculture sector and other related industrial domains (Mupfasoni et al. 2018). Agriculture is one of the largest sectors in the world, employing more than one billion people and accounting for 3% of the global GDP. With nearly 900 million hectares considered suitable for agricultural activities, Africa is home to 60% of the world’s arable land. However, just a small portion of that land is being fully, or even smartly, cultivated. According to the Economist, the proportion of African workers employed in agriculture has fallen from 66% to 57% since 2002. Yet, although in this period the real value of agricultural production has grown at an average pace of 4.6% a year, the region still has great potential given that most of the increase comes from using more land, rather than improved productivity.
With the emerging geopolitical challenges of climate change and food security, among others, entrepreneurship education in the agriculture contest is gaining the attention for its sought-after socioeconomic impact. Agri-Entrepreneurship programs are recognized by extant research (Kashyap et al. 2022) as crucial to building up entrepreneurs and management staff to deal with the agricultural industry across the world (Bairwa et al. 2014) and to contribute to the development of economic practices, and farmers’ education (Singh, 2013).
In these lines, Strengthening Agripreneurship and Community Engagement Training in East, West, and North Africa, AgriEngage, is an Erasmus+ funded project, that engages higher education in building African Agribusiness capacity. Besides developing academic and extracurricular programs in Agri-entrepreneurship, the project aims to bring the local communities’ agricultural wisdom to university students through community engagement education and training.
AgriEngage Summer School is a model for entrepreneurship education in Agricultural Schools that is worthy of being brought to light.
Fully taught in English, the sixty-hour, two-week intensive program in Agri-entrepreneurship and community engagement took place in Morocco from the 4th to the 17th of July 2022 on the Campus of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) in Ben Guerir. AgriEngage Summer School brought together thirty-seven students and twelve faculty members from Kenya (Egerton and Pwani Universities), Benin (University of Abomey Calavi, and National University of Agriculture), Uganda (Gulu and Uganda Martyrs Universities and RUFORUM), Italy (University of Pavia), Denmark (University of Copenhagen), and Morocco (UM6P and IAV).
As entrepreneurship is an art and a science, today’s new enterprise must adopt both scientific measures and human-centered methodologies to understand the needs, specifically if operating in the African agriculture communities. Thereby, the eleven partner universities revised the innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum enhancing it with data science and community engagement. The research-based curriculum of AgriEngage Summer School integrated knowledge
from scientific articles with recognized educational methodologies practiced in business schools and startup incubators. The students were motivated to put their learning into practice addressing problems facing agricultural stakeholders in Africa, including farmers, NGOs, government, and industry. Working in groups, they developed solutions as Agri-entrepreneurship projects presented in an open Restitution Day to a jury of experts.
AgriEngage Summer School is a unique experience for students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and practice their community engagement and communication skills while exchanging ideas, forging partnerships, and designing innovative projects. The 37 students were composed of nine groups of diverse nationalities, educational backgrounds, languages, ages, and gender to raise cognitive diversity. Merging a variety of specializations and shifting toward English's sole common language created two main drivers to think creatively and address problems from an out-of-the-box perspective. Here is what Silvia Kimathi and Marwa EL Graoui, two students from Kenya and Morocco respectively thought about their experience during the summer school:
Silvia: “During summer school we had to work in groups, with every member coming from a different country. We were from diverse disciplines; we had various ideas, perspectives, experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and preferences which was something we needed to embrace to work together. I experienced the group dynamics and learned how to appreciate the diversity of cultures. It was a great opportunity for us to exchange ideas, forge partnerships and design very innovative projects and this really demonstrated the power of unity.
It was not a walk in the park working with my team. However, we learnt to appreciate our different abilities and potential. We were able to work together, and our project was a success. Our hard work and tireless commitment bore fruit-our project, “LACA-Lift and Clean Africa” which was the 3rd best project for the AgriENGAGE Summer School 2022.”
Marwa: “The AgriEngage summer school exceeded my expectations in many aspects. We were introduced to, which was to some of us, a completely new territory. I was amazed by the quality of the content and lectures, which enabled me to reflect on my own career interests.
These two intensive weeks involved afternoon workshops during which we got to build and develop as a team, agri-entrepreneurial projects from scratch, based on what we learned in the interactive morning sessions. The support of the organizing committee and mentors and the way they channeled their passion into their teaching was incredible. It was a memorable experience during which I made new friendships and connections.”
Taught by 13 professors from 7 countries, the following 19 interactive educational workshops laid the ground for a continuous exchange among students:
ü Innovator’s DNA to introduce the innovation behaviors with Dr. Bisan Abdulkader
ü Design thinking to explore key entrepreneurial opportunities and challenges in the African agricultural context, with Professor Carsten Nico Hjortso and Dr. Gergana Petrova Romanova.
ü Disruptive Agricultural technologies as a vector for inclusive growth, with Professor Maria Sassi
ü How to use market research tools to assess the opportunities and threats related to a given market, with Professor Basil Mugonola
ü Brainstorming, visualization, clustering ideas into themes, conceptualization, and prototyping with Professor Carsten Nico Hjortso
ü Business model archetypes and startup finance basics, with Professor Florence G. Gachango.
ü Community engagement in agriculture with Professor Mohamed Laamri
ü Pitching and storytelling with Ms. Jessica Kang
ü Data science and community engagement with Professor Maria Sassi
ü A training on statistical analysis of big data in agriculture with Dr. Alice Bonou and Mr. Edwin Otieno Ondiege
ü Public speaking and storytelling techniques by Mr. Emmanuel Okalany and Mr. Joseph Ssekandi
On Restitution Day, the students presented their Agri-entrepreneurship projects to a jury of agribusiness experts. All participants received advice and suggestions to advance and finance their innovative projects. They worked diligently and it was great to see them receive recognition and appreciation for their efforts. Working in teams for long hours under deadline pressure the students appreciated teamwork and peer learning.
Beside the hard work, students had fun participating in cultural events and activities. On the third day of the summer school, a traditional attire event took place on the UM6P campus. In this multicultural event, an authentic Moroccan dinner was served while participants enjoyed the invitation by wearing the traditional outfits of their countries.
As part of their experintial learning, the students visited a cooperative producer of quinoa and goat cheese. They had the opportunity to exchange with the president of the cooperative Mrs. Saadia Abderma, who illustrated the success stories of a local social Agri-enterprise.
A team-building trip was organized in a natural location at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, only thirty minutes away from Marrakech. Under the supervision of instructors, the students collectively fought their anxieties and built up their self-confidence and friendships by practicing adventure trail activities. They constantly supported and encouraged each other as they completed each trail.
UM6P hosted the AgriEngage Summer School in July 2022, aligning with the Morocco’s “Generation Green 2020-2030” strategy, aiming to improve entrepreneurship education across Africa and to engage local communities in the socio-economic development mission of the continent.
1. Bairwa, Shoji Lal & Lakra, Kerobim & Kushwaha, Saket & Meena, Lokesh & Kumar, Pravin. (2014). Agripreneurship Development as a Tool to Upliftment of Agriculture. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publication.
2. Kashyap, Poonam & Prusty, A K & Panwar, A.S. & Kumar, Sunil & Punia, Peyush & Ravisankar, Natesan & Kumar, Vipin. (2022). Agri-Entrepreneurship Challenges and Opportunities.
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4. Singh A P. 2013. Strategies for developing agripreneurship among farming communities in Uttar Pradesh, India. Academicia: An International Multidisciplinary Research Journal. 3(11): 1-12
5. The Economist, Africa needs a green revolution, 2018 november 3rd https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/11/03/africa-needs-a-green-revolution