Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Visit to Ghana

By Rafiq Islam, PhD
Soil, Water and Bioenergy Resources Program

Dr. Rafiq Islam visited Ghana as one of The Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange Components in June and July 2018.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders – the flagship program of the U.S. Government’s (State Department) Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) – was created in 2014 to invest in the next generation of African Leaders.

Under the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program, young African leaders attend top US colleges and universities for a six-week academic and leadership institute in one of the following areas: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, Public Management, and Energy.

Programs draw from each university’s unique set of expertise and resources. Academic study is augmented by workshops, mentorship, and networking opportunities with recognized leaders in each field and interaction with everyday Americans. Each academic host institute will also offer insights into American society through site visits, community service, and cultural programming.

The Reciprocal Exchange component provides Americans with the opportunity to travel to Africa to “build strategic partnerships and professional connections developed during the Mandela Washington Fellowship in the United States.” 

Mavis Akom is a principal technologist of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Crop Research Institute (CSIR-CRI) of Ghana and attended The Ohio State University as one of the Mandela Washington Fellows, who was mentored by Rafiq Islam. 

As one of the Reciprocal Exchange Awardees, Islam had the unique opportunity to implement a co-designed project with Akom (Mandela Washington Fellow) to form a partnership, expand markets and networks, and increase mutual understanding between the United States and Africa (Ghana). Our former USDA-FAS Borlaug Fellow, Emmanuel Amoakwah, was very instrumental in organizing the workshop.

The purpose of this project was to help develop a collaboration between The Ohio State University and Ghana CSIR-Crop Research Institute on “training educators and professionals” with the most up-to-date approaches for applied research and outreach capacity building on climate-smart agriculture. 

The objectives were to (1) organize a “train-the-trainer” workshop for agricultural scientists, educators and professionals; (2) train the trainers to acquaint with OSU rapid soil quality/health tests; and (3) conduct a three-hour “brain storming session” to identify the most emergent agricultural issues in Ghana and help write applied collaborative field research proposals expected to be funded by international donors.

To achieve these goals, the most relevant and high quality educational materials were provided to all 42 participants on Rethinking Agriculture in the 21st Century; Crop rotation and cover crops; and Sustainable agriculture decision tools during the workshop. Moreover, all the participants conducted on-site rapid soil quality comparative tests on Ghanaian and U.S. soils, and wrote test interpretation and management recommendations. Participants were asked to identify a much needed problem in 2-3 words and place the sticky note on the wall. About 42 sticky notes were finally grouped into the three most important current agricultural issues in Ghana: climate-smart crop breeding (drought resistant) research; (2) sustainable soil-crop management practices; and (3) extension and outreach programs. The participants in the three groups were mentored to complete the drafting of the pre-proposed on the selected issues and presented to justify their research proposal for funding.

Several professional and academic presentations were delivered by Islam to the scientists of the Crop and Soil Research Institutes and graduate students and faculty members of the Department of Natural Resources Management and Department of Soil and Crop Sciences of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. 

Islam met administrators, officials, and scientists from several universities and CSIR Institutes including Dr. Stella A. Ennin, Director of CSIR-Crop Research Institute; Prof. Emmanuel Otoo, Chief Research Scientist, CSIR-Crops Research Institute; Prof. Hans Adu-Dapaah, Chief Research Scientist, CSIR-Crop Research Institute; Dr. Mohammed Moro Buri, Director, CSIR-Soil Research Institute; Drs. Akwasi A. Abunyewa, Victor R. Barnes, Evans Dawoe, and Andrew Opoku, Senior Lecturer, CANR, KNUST; and Dr. Kwame A. Frimpong, Senior Lecturer, Dept. Soil Science, University of Cape Coast.

The key highlights of the Reciprocal Exchange are: (1) greater understanding and learning experience on Western Africa, (2) successful organization of the professional development training workshop, (3) enhanced team building capacity for collaborative research on climate-smart agriculture, and (4) development of sandwich academic and research program for graduate students and scientists in Ghana for capacity building.