The School for Business and Entrepreneurship (ESNEC) is a new faculty of the largest and oldest University in Mozambique. Eduardo Mondlane University. Their mission is to provide a university education with practical experience that educates students according to the needs of the labour market. This seems logical but is not easy in a country where for example most agronomists have never actually seen a piece of irrigation equipment during their entire studies.
Designing a pragmatic (action) research program
As part of a larger four-year training program SENSE designed a pragmatic research program. The program has 5 goals:
- Train professors in action research methods and interactive ways of facilitation and teaching
- Train students how to do practical research
- Provide local case studies to illustrate the theory
- Provide students and teachers with an overview of the current issues in the field
- Help local businesses and institutions The first component is a value chain analysis to be conducted by third years students annually.
During the training, students learn how to do a value chain analysis by doing an actual analysis under the guidance of professors. The result of the analyses is a list of practical issues in a value chain. During the second-semester students from several disciplines can work on the issues identified in the value chain analyses during an internship or practical.
For example, if the short tomato season is one of the key problems identified during the chain analyses, commercial agriculture students can then to practical tests with local farmers with new varieties, or farming under shade cloth. Each year a writing workshop is held to document the research results. The teachers with the help of educational experts then translate these into cases for the different subjects.
The start of the program: the first workshops
In August 2012 the Action research program started with a training of trainers on value chain Analyses. Together with the learning for development hub SENSE designed a practical course. In this course, Value Chain Analyses theory is blended with fieldwork and practical skills training.
By working on a real case, the teachers learned how to apply the theory in practice. During the two-week course, the 12 participants performed a basic analysis of the rice value chain in Southern Mozambique. Composing a questionnaire, interview techniques, selecting respondents and interactive teaching and facilitation methods were amongst the skills taught.
In September 2012 the first round of action research with students was kicked off. The teachers had selected 30 highly motivated students from many applicants. The program started with a 1-week workshop where the basics of value chain analyses were taught, and interview skills were taught and practised in the field. In addition, the students received the first session on writing skills. The students were divided into four working groups for the program along the four value chains chosen by the teachers: tomatoes, onion, beef, and chicken. This time the bulk of the training and facilitation was done by the teachers that had followed the training of trainers in August.
SENSE and Learning 4 Development Hub provided support and coaching to the teachers. Between September and March, the students continued their fieldwork, under the guidance of teachers. SENSE and Learning4development, in turn, guided the teachers. In December a mid-term meeting was held with each group to assess progress, discuss questions and solve practical issues and make a plan for the remainder of the period.
In March 2013 a writing workshop was organized. During this so-called write shop the teams, including the teachers, wrote the results of the fieldwork in the form of a case study. A standard template was used to provide the participant’s guidance and ensure the structure of all of the five cases would be comparable.