Scientific exchange deepened

Scientific exchange with colleagues from other countries and other scientific disciplines is an important element of their work for scientists at the University of Burundi.

The three scientists who took part in the Hidden Hunger Congress at the University of Hohenheim in March at the invitation of the Baden-Württemberg Development Cooperation Foundation (SEZ) agree on this. We spoke to Professor Dr. Aloys Misago, Professor Pascal Nkurunziza and Professor Dr. Sanctus Niragira from the University of Burundi in Bujumbura.

How was the exchange with your international scientific colleagues at the Hidden Hunger Congress?

The exchange with international researchers during the congress initially opened horizons by presenting different points of view on a topic of global importance such as the double burden of malnutrition. Through the exchange and contributions we were able to discover the richness of the theoretical and empirical frameworks of various authors. The Congress made clear to us the impact of the double burden of malnutrition and the various research opportunities and policy strategies to reduce this burden. At the congress we were able to find out from our other colleagues about hunger and poverty in their respective regions and the status of scientific research in this area on various continents. We were impressed by the high quality of contributions from researchers and participants in the field of food security.

A very interesting aspect is that the international researchers present at the congress are open to collaboration with Burundian universities and researchers. This international collaboration remains essential to enable partnerships and networking of our universities and academics around the world and to ensure access, transfer and adaptation of knowledge within and outside Burundi.

The University of Burundi is particularly interested in the mobility of lecturers and doctoral students. The mobility of researchers and teachers, as well as administrative and technical staff, could help improve cooperation between education departments and research centers. The mobility of the students enables them to take part in an international university course and thus train young talent for the University of Burundi. The prerequisite for such collaboration is contact between the researchers and the interest that both sides find in this collaboration.

We were particularly pleased about the exchange with colleagues from Hawassa University and the University of Kenya. This meeting paved the way for South-South cooperation, particularly in the area of ​​food security.

What personal suggestions did you take away for yourself and your work??

As we explore agriculture and food security, we will deepen the selection of crops to optimize the nutrient-dense products needed by the body. We will also continue research on edible insects.

The congress opened up new research opportunities for us in our empirical studies! A master's student in rural development and agricultural economics was entrusted with a research topic on the role of food markets in relation to food security in East Africa. At the end of the congress we realized that the fight against malnutrition, hunger and poverty is not only a question of material means, but also requires a change in mentality. Therefore, cross-sectional research is required that includes both agricultural sciences and social sciences.

At the level of cooperation, the Hidden Hunger Congress suggests that it is possible to unite the efforts of the North with those of the South in order to develop common strategies in the fight against hunger, but in particular in promoting a balanced diet. The fight against hunger is not only about increasing food production in quality and quantity, but also a question of good governance and good management of all natural resources available on earth.

The cooperation with Baden-Württemberg through the SEZ will be very useful in establishing a partnership within the framework of the East African Nutritional Sciences Institute (EANSI), which will start in Bujumbura in July 2019 with the support of the African Development Bank. This partnership can cover different areas: teaching support, curriculum development, material and financial support, as well as scientific mobility and exchange of experiences between researchers.

Finally, the congress will influence the scientific events of the coming months at the University of Burundi. The Week of Partnership between Universities, Public and Private Institutions, from May 22 to 24, 2019, will explore themes related to food security in order to encourage the various partners to invest more in the agricultural sector and thus contribute to improving nutrition.

The Conference on Partnership for Development on August 29, 2019 also highlighted food security as an important step for integral economic development. Finally, on World Food Day on October 16, 2019, the University of Burundi will join the international scientific community by organizing a symposium.

What topic do you want to focus more on after the congress?

Some of the topics we will cover after the congress include “Sensitive Nutrition Agriculture” and the social aspects of malnutrition. We will continue to conduct research on the impact of regional integration through trade with the EAC, the East African Community, on food security in Burundi. The cultural causes of malnutrition will also be deepened and the close connection between extreme poverty and malnutrition will continue to be researched.

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