The Monthly Leadership Forum sponsored by iAGRI convened in the University Council Chambers at Sokoine University of Agricultural (SUA) on February 23, 2016. This session marked a year since the forum first began meeting. The forum was initiated by iAGRI to build the capacity of middle-level managers at SUA, including Deans, Directors and Heads of Department.
This month, the forum gathered 40 participants and was chaired by a special guest speaker, Phillemon Luhanjo, a former Chief Senator, current Chairman of the University Council. Amon Mattee, iAGRI’s Capacity Building Adviser, opened February’s Monthly Leadership Forum by recognizing Luhanjo citing his accomplishments and leadership experience in the public sector. “The chair of our forum today has a vast amount of experience in the government system. He has overseen a lot of reforms in the public sector and is very aware of the policies that can facilitate change,” he stated. SUA Vice Chancellor, Gerald Monella added to the opening of the forum by stating, “This forum will be an important opportunity to gather his perspective so that we can continue to point the university in the direction we need in order to pursue change at Sokoine University.”
Phillemon Luhanjo began his presentation by stating, “You are the leaders. Not the Vice Chancellor or the Board, but you. All of you in this room are leaders.” Following his address to the staff, he presented his paper on “Unleashing the Role of 21st Century University Leadership in the Transformation of Higher Education”. The paper provided insights and perspectives on challenges facing the agricultural sector in Tanzania and the role that SUA can play in achieving national goals of reducing poverty and achieving food security.
During his presentation, he highlighted the fact that SUA was officially founded with three primary objectives: teaching, research, and the provision of services. Following the creation of the university, a fourth objective was included, aiding production. “Production was added because of its importance. Smallholder farmers produce food on 0.2 to 2 hectares of land. This is too low to generate an income that can effectively eliminate poverty.”
Luhanjo highlighted key constraints limiting agricultural production in Tanzania. “Agriculture in the backbone of our economy and employs 75% of people in Tanzania. However, the contribution of agriculture to GDP is decreasing. It was once 40%. Now it is down to 17.6%.” Luhanjo continued to discuss the difficulties faced by smallholder farmers in terms of the high costs of inputs, limited credit services, and the importance of access to technology and extension services.
“SUA must be able to compete with both private universities and institutions of higher education on the continent and abroad. To do that, a change of mindset is needed in order to cope with paradigm shifts and to change with the pace of globalization,” stated Luhanjo. He stressed the need to learn from examples of other universities, including those visited during the Kenya Study Tour to improve communications systems and implement effective university policies. The forum continued with a question and answer session amongst all participants as well as a demonstration of Mindtools, an online tooklit and training program in management, leadership and personal effectiveness skills.
Luhanjo closed the session by stating, “SUA is the authority and leader in producing agricultural experts. This is the main stake of our economy and as leaders of the university, we are charged with facilitating agricultural growth in this country. Leaders must be visionaries in order to achieve that.”