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From learners to leaders: How INCiTiS-FOOD Training Programme empowers the next generation of sustainable farmers in Africa

Learning opportunities and access to knowledge have been highlighted as important for paving the way toward sustainable development. Governance bodies, institutions and movements highlight this importance and with the creation of dedicated Sustainable Development Goals – SDG4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – capacity building and skill enhancement have gained the needed traction for its upscaling.

One way of furthering SDG4 and making quality knowledge available to communities is the concept of Training of Trainers (ToT for short). ToT programs are seen to serve a three-fold educational benefit:

  1. Directly transferring knowledge from skilled and experienced teachers to build a knowledgeable and skilled cadre
  2. Empowering newly trained personnel to disseminate practices within their communities, ensuring vital knowledge preservation and transmission to future generations
  3. Enabling individuals to become advocates, influencing and inspiring others while fostering continuity and innovation.
INCiTiS-FOOD Training Participants

INCiTiS-FOOD Training of Trainers (ToT) Approach for Sustainable Food Growth

For INCiTiS-FOOD to co-create circular agri-food technologies and practices with a sufficiently high readiness level in African city-region individuals needed to first become empowered with the use of local resources and services. The initial Training of Trainers (ToT) of INCiTiS-FOOD was part of the capacity-building section of the project nested under Work Package 2. The ToT, including all Living Labs in 8 African cities of INCiTiS-FOOD, consisted of two parts: theoretical part and practical part. The unique aspect of the INCiTiS-FOOD ToT curriculum was its co-design process proposed and led by ZHAW, where Living Lab staff and leaders’ needs were addressed during weekly meetings. This helped to create a curriculum that is not only relevant in terms of content but also translatable to ensure the efficient operation of the Living Labs and the creation of circular food technologies.

The theoretical component involved studying the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Aquaponics – the circular food production system” on the EdX Platform. The 6-week self-paced course combined videos, course literature, forum contributions, discussions, videotaped practical sessions, individual work, and quizzes. The MOOC included all the fundamentals of hydroponics and aquaponics such as designing and figuring out aquaponic system dimensions, biology, and health of fish raised in aquaculture as well as more complex subjects like hydroponic system design and RAS engineering. Hydroponic plant physiology, monitoring methods, and pest control approaches are also covered in the curriculum. Responding to stakeholder interest to further expand their knowledge, The Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) introduced their online course on Small-scale Aquaculture that is available free on YouTube, covering essential aspects like pond management and fish feeding.

The practical part of the ToT focused on hands-on on-site work after participants acquired basic theoretical knowledge online. Training occurred “in-situ”, adjacent to host living labs, enabling frequent visits, measurements, and monitoring. The technical part was delivered in collaboration among different partners to ensure expert delivery, for example, technology and engineering topics were delivered by aquaponik manufaktur GmbH and ZHAW. Aquaponic topics were covered by ZHAW by practical instructions in topics from water quality monitoring, seedling production and crop scheduling to IPM among others. Microbial safety, including concrete protocols for sampling, preparations, and evaluation of fecal indicators were established and communicated by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. As insects for feed and food are components of INCiTiS-FOOD solutions, incest rearing was covered as a practical topic in the form of facility excursions and workshops by Egerton University. Moreover, the topic of renewable energy was also introduced by SunLight Future Africa during solar planning workshops to ensure new energy sources can be introduced to Living Labs.

Training of Trainers (ToT) in Ghana, Kenya and Gabon for Green Farming

The INCiTiS-FOOD Training of Trainers (ToT), organized in 3 African countries, transferred skills and knowledge to all 8 Living Labs and more than 100 participants with almost ideal equal representation between male and female participants striving for gender equality. Each ToT spanned up to 2 weeks, allowing ample time for trainers and participants to develop the necessary capacities.

The first ToT for INCiTiS-FOOD was held in Tamale, Ghana and was hosted by University for Development Studies (UDS) at their Living Lab facility in July (17.7.-28.7.2023). Joining the Ghanaian Living Lab were partners from Nigerian Living Labs (represented by Aglobe Development Center and University of Ibadan) and Njala University from Sierra Leone. Dr. Emmanuel Abarike, UDS, Tamale, Ghana gave us the following re-cap of the trainings and his statement can be seen below. 

‘The two week training in Ghana, UDS LL by Prof. Dr. Ranka Junge and Dr. Zala Schmautz and team on aquaponics was timely, educative, impactful and full of fun for us trainees’ – Dr. Emmanuel Abarike, UDS, Tamale, Ghana 

INCiTiS-FOOD training session in Tamale, Ghana Living Lab.
Training session at the Living Lab in Nakuru, Kenya shows practial training on sustainable food produciton.

The ToT in Nakuru, Kenya was hosted by Egerton University and took place in August (27.08.-12.09.2023). It was also attended by the Living Lab from Kenyatta University, Nairobi. Prof. George Owuor from Egerton University commended the practical nature of the workshop, emphasizing the interest, planning, and guidance provided on operating the Living Lab. He also noted ongoing encouragement and additional training post-workshop, labeling it an excellent experience.


As Egerton Living Lab that hosted ToT the workshop, it was very practical with lots of interest and planning with guidance on operating the LL. Further participants were very much encouraged till just after the workshop onboarding started and more training ongoing. Excellent workshop from trainees. – Prof. George Owuor, Egerton University

In November (13.11.-24.11.2023), the ToT in Franceville, Gabon, hosted by Masuku University of Science and Technology (USTM) welcomed the Living Lab from Bamenda University of Science and Technology. This bilingual ToT, delivered in both French and English, focused on technical knowledge acquisition, particularly in aquaponics, aquaculture, hydroponics, and microbiological analysis techniques. Sylvere Mboumba from USTM described the training as enriching both personally and professionally, emphasizing the creation of new relationships and the importance of maintaining a network for disseminating acquired production techniques:

The training of trainers in Franceville, Gabon, was an enriching experience, both in terms of relationships and professionally (transfer of skills). During the two weeks of training, we created new relationships with people from different backgrounds (at the national level). We’ll need to maintain these relationships to create a network that will enable us to disseminate the various production techniques we’ve learned.


Participants of the training programme at the Living Lab in Franceville, Gabon.

The Importance of ToT in Building Skills and Trust for Food Security

The INCiTiS-FOOD ToT sessions and related initiatives have emerged as powerful tools, fostering stronger relationships between African and European partners. Additionally, they have played a vital role in consolidating and improving skills pertinent to sustainable farming practices. Moreover, these sessions have equipped the upcoming generation of practitioners with the necessary expertise to not only enrich their own knowledge but also effectively transmit it to subsequent generations. This collaborative dimension of INCiTiS-FOOD facilitates the establishment of networks and connections essential for the development and eventual adoption of circular food technologies within African city regions.


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