Innovation story

Mainstreaming climate information services and climate-smart agriculture in African higher education systems

Over 1,500 university lecturers and staff — including 30 percent women — from 37 African countries benefited from capacity development training on new modules on climate services and climate-smart agriculture, to ensure the next generation can scale initiatives that make African agriculture more resilient to climate change. And a new Master’s degree specialization has been created at the Felix Houphouet Boigny University in Cote d’Ivoire with a view to use the new modules to generate next expertise to transform African agriculture and food systems.

Capacity building in climate information services (CIS) and climate-smart agriculture (CSA) will provide research and evidence-based solutions to ensure food security and build resilience of farming systems in the face of climate change in the region.

By integrating climate-smart agricultural practices into curricula, supporting climate information services research, and training the next generation of professionals in agriculture, higher education systems in Africa can play a transformative role in addressing the issue of climate change in Africa. 

With a focus on CSA technologies and CIS, the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project is making the science and cutting-edge practices, technologies and tools developed by CGIAR—the world’s largest publicly funded research network for food security—available throughout Africa, especially in regions extremely vulnerable to climate change. 

Adoption of these technologies will enhance the resilience of ecosystems to climate change and improve food security on the continent. 

To achieve this objective, the project includes an important capacity development component for the benefit of six countries in Africa and works with the African Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) and the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) who are regional partners.

AICCRA collaborates with RUFORUM and WASCAL to develop curricula and training materials that will make accessible to other Sub-Saharan African countries, the knowledge on CSA and climate agro- advisory services generated in the six intervention countries.

Identifying and filling gaps in university curricula

WASCAL and RUFORUM conducted national and institutional gap assessment in capacity building for the development of curricula or training programmes in CIS and CSA. 

This assessment involved meetings that included 11 countries including—in addition to AICCRA’s six focus countries—such as Benin, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya Uganda, and Zimbabwe. 

National consultations were conducted to identify and prioritize the training needs on CSA and CIS. The outcomes of the consultations were consolidated, and a continental priority training was drawn and validated during a meeting designed to build consensus.  

Group Photo at a validation meeting organised by WASCAL

The identified thematic courses for the capacity gap filling include: 

  • An introduction to CSA and CIS

  • Policy frameworks for CSA and CIS

  • Climate-smart crop-livestock-aquaculture integration

  • Climate-smart nutrient and water management in crop production, 

  • Soil-carbon sequestration; and 

  • Crop production

These courses required development of their training materials. 

A pedagogic expert on curricula and course modules was then identified to support the developers, later reviewed by subject experts, then refined and revised. 

These revised modules were then tested through a series of online sessions attended by university lecturers and staff, and then by university faculty deans and other experts in an in-person side event organized during a biennial RUFORUM conference in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2022. 

Capacitating university lecturers and staffs

Following the validation of the curricula, a series of capacity building training events took place across Africa targeting university lecturers, to create awareness on how the modules will be offered and to build consensus on the format of offer and possible integration of CSA/CIS in the academic curricula. 

With technical support from AICCRA, these ‘Training of Trainers’ workshops gathered 1,530 university lectures and staffs, including 30% women from 37 African countries, drawn from the RUFORUM and WASCAL networks, trained to teach the curricula modules.

WASCAL alumni attending the training

Dr Djigbo Félicien Badou, a researcher and lecturer at National University of Agriculture of Benin said the workshop was “Very instructive”.  

His take home message, he said, was “mainstreaming CSA at university should be a smooth and long-term process”. 

He added that “We can start with short term courses, and seminars, while at the same time working at the University level to mainstream courses in curricula.”

Dr Tiertou Edwige Some Dembele, Director General of the National Funds for High School and Research (FONER) in Burkina Faso and lecturer at University Nazi Boni Ouagadougou, said that thanks to the training workshops she has “gotten knowledge on carbon sources and carbon storage, how to quantify carbon emission from agriculture and agroforestry”. 

She noted that the interactions in the workshops brought a strong understanding of CIS and CSA, and that “including this aspect in the curricula of our university will help reaching sustainable development.’’ 

University of Felix Houphouet Boigny paves the way in mainstreaming CSA and CIS in curricula in West Africa

Following the capacity building in Cote d’Ivoire, Professor Ballo Zié, Vice Chancellor of Felix Houphouet Boigny University, has made the commitment to mainstream the new modules in the university’s curricula.  

To materialize this commitment, an administrative decision has been taken by the Dean of the Biosciences department to create an option or a specialization in ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ within its master’s degree program on ‘Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Sustainable Agriculture’. The new modules on climate-smart agriculture technologies and climate information services will be part of the specialization courses in the new degree option. 

The University Felix Houphouët-Boigny received the AICCRA representatives

Next steps

Now that the way has been paved for the mainstreaming of climate change modules at the Université Houphouet Boigny in Côte d'Ivoire, AICCRA intends to support the effective implementation of these modules. 

Furthermore, as the Additional Financing puts more emphasis on uptake and use, the project team will ensure wider dissemination of the curricula in West African universities.  


Belmira Moustapha - West Africa Communications Officer, AICCRA

Alcade C. Segnon - West Africa Science Officer, AICCRA

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