Graduate Program Information Session (12.02.2020)

On Thursday, February thirteenth, staff members from Egypt’s top universities for sustainable development – the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development – met on HU’s campus to discuss AUC’s Graduate Programs in Sustainable Development with an audience of prospective students. This meeting served as a stepping stone towards achieving DeVilag’s second Work Package.

AUC is planning to introduce new courses into their Master’s in Sustainable Development program in Fall 2020 to focus specifically on sustainable agriculture and migration patterns. The new courses are as follows:

– Integrated Water Resources Management

– Water-Energy-Food Nexus

– Sustainable Agriculture

– International Migration and Development

AUC’s Master’s in Sustainable Development program already has an interdisciplinary nature; graduates can choose between four degree tracks (Green Technologies, Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Cities and Sustainable Communities) offered through four of the University’s schools with the requirement that no matter which degree track is chosen, graduates must take courses from the other disciplines, but by adding an agricultural dimension that is specific to an Egyptian context it will be ensured that graduates of the program will enter the field with an adeptness for land managament practices not yet seen or taught in much of the MENA region.

Representatives from the Center for Applied Research of the Environment and Sustainability (CARES), the research center at AUC that coordinates the Graduates Programs in Sustainable Development, highlighted these program strengths to a room filled with interested people of all ages, and even numerous nationalities. Also heavily emphasized were the fellowships offered through AUC and a number of third-party donors, such as the Al-Alfi Foundation, making the two-year program much more attainable to a wider student base.

If all goes as planned, improving and expanding upon AUC’s well-established degrees in sustainable development will become a model for other Egyptian universities, whether private or public, and enable them to establish their own acclaimed degree programs in sustainable development that are catered both to the skills and needs of their degree-earners and their local agricultural communities. As for the near future, though, hopefully at least a few of these information session-attendees at HU will become some of the first graduates to help make these positive agricultural changes transpire. In time, this should forward Egyptians to once be awarded the status as some of the world’s most important, skilled and sustainable cultivators.

1st DeVilag Dissemination Meeting (26.11.2019)

The 1st DeVilag Dissemination Meeting, organised by the Agricultural Research Centre (ARC) took place on November, 26th 2019. More detailed information will follow the first impressions of the event soon.

Fayoum University President welcomes the delegation of the DeVilag-Project (07.11.2019)

Prof. Dr. Ahmed Gaber Shedid, President of Fayoum University, welcomed Dr. Sigward von Laue, Regional Principal Investigator (PI) of the DeVilag project which aims to steer migration through Sustainable Development of rural communities. The meeting was coordinated by the Egyptian European Program for Agriculture and Rural Development and the delegation from Heliopolis University. The meeting included valuable inputs from Dr. Adly Saadawi, Dean of the Institute for Research and Strategic Studies of the Nile Basin Countries, Prof. Dr. Kamal Ghallab, Undersecretary of the Institute for Research and Strategic Studies of the Nile Basin Countries, and Prof. Dr. Nabil Awadallah, Director of Development Research and Consultations Center for Sustainable Development.

Prof. Ahmed Gaber Shedid emphasized that Fayoum University is an active partner in the project along with other Egyptian partners as the American University in Cairo (AUC), Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development (HU), the Agricultural Research Center (ARC) and the Library of Alexandria (Bib-Alex). The project also includes European partner universities including RWTH Aachen, Germany, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and the University of Nicosia in Cyprus.

Prof. Nabil Awadalah elaborated that the project aims to create a diploma for sustainable agricultural development at the Institute of Research and Strategic Studies of the Nile Basin countries. The project is working on the establishment of a DeVilag Service Office to provide innovative technologies to support farmers and the private sector in addition to the development of educational programs to disseminate sustainable knowledge.

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Work Package 6 Status Update

Developing MOOCs as Open Education Resources (OERs)

Beginning in November 2019 according to the plan, the team already started Work package 6 with preparing the list for purchasing MOOCs equipment in Summer 2019. This list was already submitted in early fall 2019 to counteract eventually upcoming issues during purchasing of the material. Since a rough schedule and content of the upcoming training session at RWTH Aachen, formerly scheduled for June/July 2020, was already done, the Consortium decided to prepone the session to April 2020. Upcoming activities will be identifying the trainees, which are send to Aachen as well as continuing work on content and schedule of the session.



Work Package 9 Status Update

Management - Introducing Wekan

Since the beginning of the Project, communicating tasks and deadlines was a major part of project management. With using the web-based platform Wekan, many issues have been solved. Instead of the obligation to re-read the tasks of every work package in its wholeness, the packages where broke down to its individual components and listed consecutively for better understanding. In addition, the listed display allows to have a clear view on upcoming deadlines, participation partners and uploaded files for each task. To expand the use of Wekan, a particular “board” can be created, in addition to the for all partners accessible board, for each work package in which tasks can be deepened to enhance effectivity in each package.

Work Package 1 Status Update

Needs Assessment and Analysis

During the Management meeting in Cyprus, work package leader AUC, represented by Dr. Peter Nasr, presented work carried out in WP1 (Highlights of Needs Assessment and Recommendations for DeVilag Future Curricula). Based on these recommendations, as well as strength and weaknesses analysis, AUC suggested adding two new courses and modifying two other in the Masters of Science in Sustainable Development Program. Through these modifications in the program, students will be acquire lacking knowledge in the fields of sustainable agriculture, farm management and water-energy-food nexus. The next step for AUC is to elaborate the comprehensive course syllabi for the suggested modified courses as well as course content, presentations, readings, handouts, assignments and exams.

Project Management Meeting

On 23rd and 24th of September, representatives from most of the participating partners met at University of Nicosia, Cyprus. Goal of the session was to update each other precisely on the progress of each work package, the project itself and possible upcoming difficulties included finding accurate solutions. After being kindly welcomed by Dr. George Gregoriou, Dean of School of Sciences & Engingeering, and Prof. Angeliki Kokkinaki, Dean of School of Business, the consortium also discussed facing future issues of cooperation and accomplishing the projects’ goals. 

Curricula Development Workshop

Enhancing curricula and study conditions.

In order to finalize the work on curricula development a workshop was held in Heliopolis University, Cairo from the 17th until the 18th of July 2019. The target of this part of the project was to modify and re-orientate existing graduate and under-graduate programs in the four Egyptian universities to provide the market with qualified graduates who can contribute to achieving sustainable rural-development and agriculture and preventing migration.

The first day of the workshop was meant to clarify, which currucula from one of the participating universities is to be enhanced and what basic conditions can be changed to improve the status quo of studying. Main results of this considerations were firstly the conclusion, that effective and sustainable curricula must be developed jointly by both Egyptian and European partners. Secondly, the cooperation through student exchange between Egyptian and European Universities must be enhanced by aligning the local used Credit Hour System (CHS) with the European Credit Transfer System (ETCS).

The second day was dedicated to the answering of the tasks provided by the first day’s results. For that purpose, whilst considering involving the Egyptian partners, a detailed introduction into the European higher education system was given, starting with the Bologna Process in 1999. Furthermore, Mr. Kyriakos E. Georgiou from UNIC outlined the essentials of curriculum development and enhancement.

DeVilag Dissemination at FAO Water Management training (11.07.2019)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Heliopolis University (HU), are cooperating to support capacity building measures through training for technical staff and relevant stakeholders. A training cycle started on February 24th, 2019 in the framework of the “Support Sustainable Water Management and Irrigation Modernization for Newly Reclaimed Areas” project (TCP/EGY/3604). It provided technical staff from the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, as well as the Agricultural Research Centre and the Desert Research Centre training at HU. The topics included modules on GIS based land development tools, automated water consumption monitoring system, field survey and monitoring methods, as well as data analysis. In the framework of the latter two modules, on July 11, 2019, Dr. Sahar Zayan (ARC), Ms. Randa Kaldas (AUC) and Dr. Sigward von Laue (HU) presented the results of the DeVilag needs assessment, including the needs of small scale and subsistence farmers, as well as micro- and small businesses. Concurrently, the aims and goals of DeVilag were presented and feedback from all participants sought. It became apparent that further awareness raisin is necessary to disseminate the challenges faced by micro- and small businesses and farming operations, and a larger scale dissemination meeting was requested by severeal participants, to discuss the findings and issues at hand more thoroughly and in depth.

Dissemination to extension services

From June 23 – 28, 2019, two successive workshops were held by Organic Egypt a project by the Beruflichen Fortbildungszentren der Bayerischen Wirtschaft (bfz) and Sequa, which is working closely with two Egyptian partner associations: The Egyptian Bio-Dynamic Association (EBDA) and the Fayoum Agro Organic and Development Association (FAODA). Both, organizations look back at a long history of working with local farmers to support their development and transformation to organic agriculture; helping them improve their planting techniques and market their products. The aim of the workshop was to improve the internal structure, function and governance and to carry out a needs analyses, to enable EBDA and FAODA to increase both the number of associated farmers and the area of farmland cultivated in Egypt throughout the coming three years. EBDA strives to develop training, educational and extension materials for extension engineers, teachers in agricultural technical schools and among consumers. In this context, Dr. Hassan Abou Bakr, the head of Organic Agriculture at Heliopolis University presented the aims and preliminary results of the DeVilag project, concentrating on the results of the field analysis and the component of developing and modifying educational courses and materials in one of the workshops session. The presentation was received very positively by the participants and discussions initiated, how the DeVilag Service Office with branches at Fayoum University, Cairo University the American University in Cairo and Heliopolis University can cooperate with EBDA and FAODA. The participants considered that cooperation could add a further dimension to their organization which would contribute to the achievement of their goals.

Determining Farmers' Needs
Field trips by students and staff to evaluate the need of farmers in Egypt.

The trips served two purposes. First of all the data obtained will be used to update and improve curricula and to determine if new courses need to be designed. This will enable graduates to better deal with challenges they encounter, while working on a farm themselves, as well as to support farmers, by offering adequate extension services, when working as advisers. Furthermore, the visits where also used to pilot new elements for the course rural sociology, which in future editions will directly address the topics rural exodus and migration.

Kick-Off Meeting (16.12.2018-21.12.2018)

In the kick-off meeting all the partners institutions were present. The meeting started by a welcome speech by Dr Hassan El Fawal, Dean of School of Science and Engineering (SSE). Dr El Fawal highlighted the alignment of DeVilag project objectives with SSE and AUC`s strategic plan and objectives. Dr. Hani Sewilam gave an overview of the rationale behind DeVilag within the Egyptian context, the aim, and specific objectives of the project. The whole workload is divided into nine workpackages. The steps and objectives of these work packages and the cooperation between them were explained by the leaders of these work packages. Each of the work package leaders presented also his/her strategy for the implementation.

The consortium members agreed on starting the work with intensive needs analysis of the real rural challenges and identifying the push and pull factors for migration. Then based on the results, they will start developing the capacity building materials.