News - October 19, 2006

Nine students defend their PhDs in Africa

In an effort to ensure that African farmers benefit more from agricultural research, eight African PhD students from Wageningen University did their research differently – with the farmer instead of about the farmer. And a different kind of research deserves a different graduation venue: West Africa.

A big delegation from Wageningen UR travelled to Ghana and Benin this week to attend the PhD graduation ceremonies of the students. The group included Rector Martin Kropff, opponents, promotors and co-promotors.

Eight of the students are themselves from Ghana or Benin. Together with farmers they did experiments on weed and pest control, soil fertility and biodiversity. Before starting on the research, however, the participating farmers formulated their problems themselves, and the students based their research on these.

All the projects are part of the research programme Convergence of Science. In addition to the mix of farmer knowledge and scientific knowledge, the programme is also about combining social, biological and technical sciences. The PhD committees are therefore also composed of social and technical professors, from Wageningen and from universities in Benin and Ghana.

The ninth PhD graduate is Dutch. She did research on the others’ research and looked at whether this new way of working does indeed benefit farmers.