Tanzania is the project country, where the first summer and field school of the WoodCluster project teaching component took place from 30. July to 7 August 2018. 22 persons, lecturers and students, from all project countries Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Germany participated in the ten-days event, facilitated by the Sokoine University of Agriculture.
The activity served as the development of teaching material and practical exercises as integrated part of a postgraduate course that shall be newly elaborated and implemented at all project partner universities, as one objective of the WoodCluster project.
It started with a welcome event and workshop at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Mororogo to review the project status and activities in each country and focus on the concept of the field school as practical exercise for students.
Afterwards, we started our journey to the project study area, Mufindi district in Iringa region. The long trip has been enriched by spotting animals crossing the Mikumi National Park and a diverse and beautiful landscape, with a valley of Baobab trees.
The field school took place in Igowole village, selected as study village in Mufindi. In an official meeting with village leaders we could explain our project intentions and listened to the interests and needs of the community. While visiting smallholder farms for wood production we discussed the motivation and management practices of the farmers.
The second day in the village served as a joint activity and interaction of farmers and students. Our interest with the WoodCluster is to establish a socio-economic field laboratory that were already implemented in the Andes in Latin America through the INCA project. It allows a long-term collaboration between the community, students and researchers to learn from each other and elaborating solutions together. A contrasting view, we gained with an excursion to one private saw mill and one state plantation company. We gained more insight in the large scale production and processing sector in the area.
Parallel to the farm visits, attention was drawn to the value chain level to determine and analyze processes and interests. The stakeholder workshop “PIP” (Participatory Innovation Platform) was organized in Mafinga town at the center of Mufindi district. Up to 20 persons participated, representing farmers, tree growers associations, small private and large state enterprises, government, and research.
Back to the Sokoine University in Morogoro, we dedicated a last workshop to draw lessons learnt and decide on the way forward. It included the further development of the teaching module and field school; initiate a first dialogue for outreach through training of practitioners and e-learning components; and coordinate and plan upcoming research activities and meetings.
We would like to thank our Tanzanian team from Sokoine University for doing a great job in organizing this multi-day event. They even activated the university media team and a local media outlet of The Guardian that covered our activities to reach a wider audience. It was an enlightening event for all participants from content-related as well as cultural aspects. We are encouraged to build on this for bringing the WoodCluster project forward.
By Maxi Domke