Agro-Ecosystem Services: Linking Science to Action in Malawi and the Region

Agro-Ecosystem Services (AgESS): Linking Science to Action in Malawi and the Region, a USAID-funded Higher Education for Development Capacity-Building Africa-U.S. Partnership Project. This project builds on MSU’s twenty-five year relationship with the University of Malawi (UNIMA). An extensive strategic planning process using the Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD) framework identified gaps between UNIMA’s actual and desired performance. Based on this assessment, a ten-year strategic plan was developed to build the capacity of Bunda and Chancellor Colleges in AgESS-related fields.

A main component of the partnership is long-term training for University of Malawi faculty members. The goal of this training is to increase the university’s research and teaching capacity in the agro-ecosystem services-related fields. The students will complete their coursework at MSU and will return to Malawi to conduct their doctoral research in country. The program is designed so that the students’ MSU advisors will work with advisors at the University of Malawi to jointly oversee these doctoral research projects. This co-advising will not only assure that the research is relevant to the needs of the university and Malawi’s national development goals, but will also facilitate relationships among US and Malawian colleagues and create an environment for on-going collaborative research.

Other components of the AgESS project are directed at building the institutional capacity of the university in order to create a center of excellence at UNIMA in ecosystem services science. The project is creating new curricula relevant to strategically identified AgESS issues; providing professional development short courses to academic staff in key content areas; enhancing research capabilities at UNIMA through collaborative grants, training in grant writing, and capacity building in grants financial management; strengthening links between UNIMA and government, public, private, and NGO organizations; improving gender inclusivity in AgESS fields; and increasing AgESS-related library resources.