The project "TOMATO - Harnessing of Efficient Vegetable and Fruit Production, Processing and Marketing Systems in Ethiopia through Practice Based Education and Participatory Research" of the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT) and the three Ethiopian universities Bahir Dar University, Hawassa University and Arsi University funded by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) aims at introducing and strengthening practice-oriented higher education in the food processing sector and at the establishment of a long-term cooperation in the field of food processing and management between the involved universities.
Experts from the three Ethiopian universities identified the vegetable and fruit value chains as having an enormous potential for improvement, offering opportunities for employment, income generation and improved nutrition on all levels of the value chain. However, currently in Ethiopia the performance of vegetable and fruit value chains is hampered by several factors. On the one hand, different actors such as vegetable farmers, professionals in production, processing and marketing do not have adequate technical skills and practical experience. On the other hand, there is a lack of practice-oriented training and support systems for the labour force in the agricultural, processing and marketing systems of the fruit and vegetables value chain and the higher education system lacks the link between theoretical knowledge and practice-oriented skills. Therefore, the Ethiopian partner universities have a great interest in introducing the German approach of universities of applied sciences with its unique combination of theory and practice in the life sciences.
With its two-pillar approach of capacity building in practice-oriented teaching and the formation of a participation oriented research project, the TOMATO-project addresses the major challenges affecting the higher education system in Ethiopia and thereby indirectly also the performance of vegetable and fruit value chains. On the one hand, the Ethiopian universities are planning to introduce practice-oriented study programmes or include practical elements into existing food technology programmes. This will comprise training of Ethiopian university staff in practice based teaching methods, the development of teaching materials and modernized curricula (e.g. internships or study projects), as well as the establishment of the necessary infrastructure for practical training (e.g. laboratories, a food incubator) and job orientation (e.g. job fairs, career centres). On the other hand, a research project on fruit and vegetable value chains will address important development objectives in the Ethiopian food sector.
The cooperative development of the degree programmes on food technology from all participating universities will foster and facilitate the exchange of students, lecturers and administrative staff, pool scarce resources and consolidate the partnership network between all four universities. Especially the network between the Ethiopian partners offers large potenial for synergetic effects. The strong support from the Ethiopian and German industry is particularly beneficial for the project. Project partners like Württembergische Fruit Cooperative Raiffeisen e.G., Allfra, Phaesun, Solar Cooling Engineering, Simply Solar, Plattenhardt and Würth are already well connected in Ethiopia.
HSWT has been cooperating successfully for several years with the three mentioned Ethiopian partner universities in the project "Training Pact with Africa" and the Postgraduate Course on "Food Chains in Agriculture", in the "Technology and Transfer Pact" as well as in the "Bavarian-Ethiopian Alliance for Applied Life Sciences" in the field of applied training in the agricultural and food sector. The TOMATO-project will establish a sustainable and efficient network between the Ethiopian universities and, at the same time, it will foster the capacity of the Ethiopian universities to offer practice-oriented degree programmes in food technology, an activity not yet covered by the bilateral cooperations.