Students from Africa, Asia and Central America were welcomed to Delémont, Switzerland last week to begin their Masters of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Integrated Crop Management (ICM). Jointly coordinated by CABI and the University of Neuchâtel, this course aims to address critical agricultural and environmental challenges by offering a unique higher education programme. The students will learn about good crop management principles and explore solutions they can apply in their home countries. The 2016 intake of 12 students come from Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zambia.
Hosted by the Vice-Mayor of Delémont, Patrick Chapuis, the opening ceremony took place in Delémont’s city hall on Wednesday 16 March. CABI’s Regional Director for Europe and the Americas, Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, gave the opening address: “With the global population estimated to reach nine billion by 2050, action is needed to help farmers grow crops safely and sustainably,” said Dr Kuhlmann. “The MAS in ICM delivers science-based knowledge in the field of sustainable agriculture to help solve these critical challenges. We therefore welcome the 2016 intake of MAS-ICM students to Delémont and look forward to sharing knowledge in the months ahead.”
Olivier Tschopp, Head of Unit Training at the Canton of Jura’s Ministry of Education and Culture, was also there to welcome the students. “The MAS-ICM is the result of a successful partnership between CABI, the University of Neuchâtel and the Canton of Jura,” he said. “We are very proud to have contributed to the creation of this programme which is attracting students from around the world.”
The course is supported by the Canton of Jura, the CABI-led Plantwise programme and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Carmen Thönnissen from SDC said, “The MAS-ICM is a valuable opportunity for students to broaden their understanding of ICM and deepen their expertise in specific fields of interest. These insights will enhance their knowledge of sustainable agriculture and strengthen their ability to address specific issues, like crop diseases for example. The course should therefore help students to improve the livelihoods of farmers when they return to their countries.”
SDC funds food security programmes like Plantwise which recently received international recognition, winning the OECD’s DAC prize for development innovation.
Professor Ted Turlings from the University of Neuchâtel, who also attended the welcome ceremony, helps jointly coordinate the course with CABI. Over the next nine months, the students will attend lectures, research demonstrations, field trips and tours. The ICM programme will cover a range of topics including soil and water management, seed selection, crop nutrition, pest and landscape management, rural economics, and national and regional agricultural policy.
Talking about the future, MAS-ICM student Mooya Nzila from Zambia said, “We are very excited to be in Switzerland and looking forward to the course. Our goal as MAS students is to help enhance the agricultural productivity of our countries using ICM strategies. I’m sure that what we learn on the course, particularly on policy formulation and rural economics, will help us to improve the livelihoods of farmers in our countries.”