AEDE Professor Stan Thompson traveled to Tanzania from August 6-10, 2012 to present a five-day workshop at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania focused on research methods for the social sciences. The workshop was sponsored by the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI), a USAID Feed the Future project in Tanzania, which AEDE Professor Dave Kraybill oversees as the iAGRI Project Manager.
iAGRI is an ambitious five-year program to improve agricultural productivity and food security in Tanzania. The $24 million project will provide agricultural and nutrition training to 120 Tanzanian graduate students over the project lifespan. Currently, there are six Tanzanian students pursuing either MS or PhD degrees in the US as part of the project. Additionally, of the 58 students sponsored this year, 29 will pursue MS and PhD degrees in agricultural and nutritional sciences at the six American universities that are part of the project consortium (The Ohio State University, Michigan State University, Virginia Tech, Tuskegee University, University of Florida, and Iowa State University). Nineteen trainees will pursue Bachelors and Master’s degrees at Sokoine University of Agriculture, and ten trainees will pursue MS and PhD degrees at African universities outside of Tanzania. The project also facilitates and funds collaborative research on food security and nutrition between faculty from the project’s consortium universities and Tanzanian researchers who are part of iAGRI.
Besides Professor Kraybill, Professor Thompson was the first consortium faculty member to travel to Tanzania to teach a workshop to the Tanzanian students. The workshop included over 40 participants and aimed to give students who will be leaving Sokoine University of Agriculture to study at other universities this fall a basic overview of the purpose of social science research, appropriate approaches to research methods, and the criteria by which research procedures and results are evaluated and communicated. The workshop, which was comprised mostly of lectures, met for three to four hours a day for five days and had a great retention rate with most students attending all five days despite the fact that this first workshop was offered as a voluntary, non-credit learning opportunity. Additionally, after each day of the workshop Professor Thompson met with a number of students to discuss their research projects – Professor Thompson noted that the students were “very hungry for information.”
In the coming months, Professor Kraybill hopes to welcome more consortium faculty members to Sokoine University of Agriculture for learning exchanges with the Tanzanian students. Additionally, Professor Kraybill plans to incorporate long-distance learning components into the iAGRI project with the goal of continuing to build on the momentum of the in-person exercises in Tanzania, allowing for greater periods of intellectual exchange.