The campus of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) near Kakata, Margibi County, was a scene of excitement last Friday when the administration broke ground for a new agriculture program.
According to Jackson Paye, Chairman of BWI Board of Governors, the program is a borrowed idea from the Department of Agriculture at Columbia District University (CDU) in USA which he visited a few months ago.
The university, Mr. Paye said, has its own self-contained farm that produces its own food and donates some of the produce to the homeless, especially during the holidays.
CDU’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) conducts research and teaches courses in Urban Sustainability, Design, Planning and Low Impact Development and implements research projects that integrate all CAUSES programs in an effort to produce and understand the implications and impacts of sustainable development. It encompasses the three pillars of sustainability – People, Places, and Profit (Environment, Economics, and Equity).
The CDU Agriculture Department consists of faculty and staff appointments in Environmental Sciences, Economic Analyses, Sustainable Spaces (green infrastructure, green buildings, and resources), and Entrepreneurship.
It is this idea that Mr. Paye envisions BWI will adapt so that its agriculture department becomes development-oriented and resilient as a leader in educational excellence and research in sustainable development.
“This vision,” Mr. Paye said, “includes developing, implementing, and evaluating applied research projects as building blocks of sustainability where each project at BWI will become a classroom for student learning, community engagement, and general agriculture.”
The launch of the program on Friday coincided with BWI’s 2017 Industrial Day, which the institute hosted under the theme, “Promoting Excellence in Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET).”
BWI’s Industrial Day primarily focuses on assessing achievements, difficulties and challenges faced by the institute’s interns while on job training, with the aim to facilitate interactions between BWI and training partners.
Before breaking ground for the center, BWI principal and chief executive officer (CEO), Harris Fomba Tarnue, said, “The creation of a model center of excellence requires promoting quality in our education and training programs.”
The new center is situated on a fenced-in 14 acres or 5 hectares of land on the west side of the campus.
“The measurement of the goal is to determine the level of satisfaction of the graduates (end-users) of our products,” Tarnue added.
He assured government and partners that in the next few years, his administration would ensure that BWI becomes the next Center of Songhai, second to the one in Benin.
“The idea of the creation of Songhai Center,” Tarnue said, “came from Father Godfrey Nzamujo, who is a Dominican priest with doctorate degrees in electronics, microbiology, and development science.”
Father Nzamujo joined forces with a group of Africans and friends of Africa who shared the vision of giving back to Africa its long denied dignity.
It was based on this that Songhai started training young agricultural entrepreneurs, and became a Center of Excellence in agriculture that has expanded its mission throughout Benin and the western sub-region. The Songhai model has been replicated in 15 African countries with the support of UNDP, for which Songhai was recognized as a Regional Center of Excellence for Africa by the United Nations in 2008. The Songhai Center now covers more than 22 hectares of land and is mainly used both as a headquarters and an experimental site.
“Therefore, it is our anticipation that together with the stakeholders and partners in education and training, we will generate possible answers to address our quest for achieving quality in delivery of our mission of producing middle level technicians and professionals,” Mr. Tarnue declared.
Saku S. Dukuly, Assistant Education Minister for Vocational Education, who delivered the keynote address, said the government recognizes the important role TVET plays by equipping individuals with relevant skills and knowledge to effectively participate in the social, economic and technological development of the country, and BWI’s role in addressing the human resource needs of the country.
Mr. Dukuly spoke on the theme, “Reshaping TVET to Market Focus, Productivity and Investment.”
Agriculture Minister Dr. Moses Zinnah, described the BWI initiative as “timely,” adding that agriculture is not just about the ministry, “because it is the driving force as an integrated component of all the ministries and agencies, which means without food, there would be crisis everywhere.”
“This initiative is one that will attract students into the agriculture industry—not only to produce food, but to preserve what is being produced to remain on the market all year round,” Dr. Zinnah said.
Meanwhile Dr. Zinnah has reaffirmed the ministry’s commitment to build student capacity at BWI as a member of the Board.