From May 4-5, 2016, iAGRI hosted the Graduate Student Workshop where students and alumni presented their research findings. The workshop included presentations by 50 of the 135 students sponsored by iAGRI. The workshop began with a welcome note by iAGRI’s Director, Prof. David Kraybill followed by instructive sessions on conducting effective literature reviews for scientific research and designing graphs and tables for effective communication.
In addition to the sessions, iAGRI students participated in a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition designed to provide a three minute window to describe their research in a compelling and engaging way for audiences from multiple disciplines. This year, the 3MT competition was won by Glory Mhalu, an iAGRI Cohort II student who completed her MSc in Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University. She concisely presented her research on Nutrition Education on Enrichment of First Food with Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes to Improve Vitamin A Status of 6-12 Month Old Children in Tanzania. Out of 10 participants, her peers and the facilitators of the challenge found that her explanation of the importance of the topic and its implications on food security in Tanzania was the most articulate and engaging presentation. Glory now works for the USAID-funded project Mwanzo Bora as a Nutrition Officer. The second place winner of the competition was Athuman Mahinda, currently a Research Scientist for the Makutupora Research Institute in Dodoma. He presented his research on water use efficiency of sorghum in semi-arid environments. Sebastian Mosha won third place in the competition for his work on the Effect of Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers on Natural Food Composition and Performance of African Catfish (Clarias Gariepinus) Fry Produced under Artificial Propagation.
During the workshop, Dr. Maria Mullei, iAGRI Innovation Portfolio Manager presented the TechTalent initiative that will be launched in July 2016. She urged students to think beyond the overall findings of their research and link their work to how they can ultimately benefit smallholder farmers. She urged students to think about the potential of their research and how it can be packaged to impact the agriculture sector in Tanzania. Dr. Mullei challenged students to hold themselves accountable for improving productivity and the livelihoods of farmers. “There is such a change in this group of students from two years again,” she stated. “They are more confident, have better communication skills, and are better able to communicate their research.”
Over the course of the workshop, students were separated into three groups, integrated value chains, sustainable production systems, and health dimensions. The presentations were grouped together in multi-disciplinary sections to give each presenter the opportunity to gain insight from other branches of agricultural science and nutrition.
During the closing session, Prof. David Kraybill, stated, “As you go out, take your technical skills but also your leadership skills with you.” He emphasized the combination of leadership skills and technical knowledge to be effective in their roles as future leaders of agricultural research, extension, and management in Tanzania. Prof. Kraybill highlighted examples of iAGRI students who have assumed leadership positions shortly after graduation such as Papias Binagwa, now National Lead Scientist for the Phaseolus Bean Research Program under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. Also presenting during the workshop were Boniface Massawe, iAGRI’s first PhD graduate, Theresia Jumbe, iAGRI’s first female PhD graduate, and Victoria Bulegaya, an iAGRI-sponsored student researching maize lethal necrosis resistant varieties suitable for the Tanzanian market.
Prof. Susan Nchimbi-Msolla (PhD), Dean of the College of Agriculture at SUA attended and officially closed the event. She stated, “It is not only about doing research and publishing papers. We need that research to reach the end-user.” Prof. Nchimbi-Msolla also stated, “The students were able to defend their work well. They know the subject matter and are able to take their research to the next level.” She also challenged students to continue to look beyond their research to pathways to impact livelihoods in Tanzania. “Now, what’s next? In this group of people, we know we have good researchers. To really have an impact through what you are doing, you have to impact agriculture in this country.”