Pilot implementation of the four DeVilag programmes (01.10.2020)

After almost two years of hard work within the project, it shows visible outcomes for the broad public. Around October, the four programmes which have been newly developed or modified under the scope of the project started their pilot implementation. This is another important step to implement the programmes permanently into the university programme offerings. After the first semester, it will be evaluated of the teaching and learning outcomes were met and in which places potential for improvement can be identified. Having these, the rest of the existing curricula can be altered in that way to achieve be best programme possible.

Virtual Workshop by SLU

As previously announced, the Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences (SLU) continued with providing online content in time of contact restrictions. From 12th to 19th of August, SLU hosted four Webinars of 2 hours each on Sustainable Agriculture, Agrifood Value Chains and Global Trade in Agrifood Commodities.

With no improvement of the current situation in sight, these Webinars are the only way to share knowledge in a participatory approach apart from self-teaching.

Virtual Workshop by UNIC

Since the time until the physical meetings can take place again should be filled with online content like mentioned in the previous article “Adapting to ongoing travels restrictions” from 2nd of July 2020, University of Nicosia held their first set of Webinars in the last two weeks. During six days, two hours each, different topics under the scope of “Socioeconomic Factors of Sustainable Rural Development” where elaborated.

This Virtual Workshop was the first in a row of several live webinar sessions for WP4, which alongside with the on demand offering by RWTH for WP6, guarantee the promised training of the Egyptian partners, even though additional physical meetings will follow hopefully soon.

Introducing DeVilag Moodle and start of the MOOC & OER Workshop

WP6 (Developing MOOCs as Open Education Resources (OERs)) bears a big potential to reach various types of target groups and stakeholders to both inform them and enhance their knowledge in the art of MOOCs & OER. From the beginning of the project on, it was planned to develop an online Learning Management System at some point in the project to disseminate the MOOCs. Each of the Egyptian partners will produce a MOOC during the project. For knowledge sharing purposes, RWTH planned a physical training in Aachen, schedule for April 2020 but which was canceled for the known reasons. Hence, it was decided to split the training into two parts.

First, there will be a MOOC itself on the subject of developing MOOCs, OER, Video-production, setting up a Moodle platform and Gamification. For this reason, RWTH Introduced the Learning Management System DeVilag Moodle earlier as planned, so that all the training related material can be uploaded there. The Course will be a mixture of pre-recorded videos, audioslides, assignments and additional material, that the trainees can work on self-paced. It will also prepare the second part of the training, the physical meeting later in the project, which will be used for seminars on didactics and working with the trainees on their already produced and developed material.

Project Dissemination Webinar (17.07.2020)

Even if normality is slowly coming back in most parts of Europe, travel restrictions and regulations of meetings for working purposes still prevents dissemination-, action-, and outcome meeting of DeVilag.

Hence, a webinar was organized by Cairo University (Dissemination WP-Leader) to reach out to the interested associated staff and students. Throughout the roughly two hours, several aspects of the project in terms of objectives and main activities, the developed program at CU (Professional master in Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (SAI)), the launching of the DeVilag Service Offices (DSO) and background to the project “Rural youth migration: Reasons, consequences and experience to control” were elaborated.

Adapting to ongoing travel restrictions

The project’s nature includes capacity building such as physical workshops and trainings which have been planned throughout the three years of runtime of the project. Unfortunately, the still ongoing Pandemic impedes the implementation of physical meetings.

Despite the second big feature of DeVilag, being a mobility program, the EACEA decided to proceed with the trainings to avoid delays. Of course, replacing physical trainings for the time being through online content. Due to the above-mentioned points, complete replacement of the physical workshops in Cyprus, Germany and Sweden was and still is no option. Therefore, the challenged consortium adjusted and managed to organise webinars, as a first alternative. These webinars have a preparatory purpose to introduce trainees to the topics they then can enhance in the physical workshop, once travels are possible under safe circumstances.

The big advantage, in this case, is the availability of training to a higher number of participants impossible to reach through physical seminars with limited space. 

Mid-term report - Half time!

15th of May 2020 marked exactly 18 months from the starting date of the project (15th of November 2018) and that means: Time for the mid-term report!

Specially with the problems we had in the first year of the project like finishing the negotiations regarding sub-agreements with some partners, and subsequent thereto the start of the pandemic, it was not easy to implement the project at it was planned years ago and had to be adjusted. The partners had to reschedule some of the tasks e.g. equipment purchase for the implementation of the newly developed and modified courses, since retailers also had to restrict their activities. In the end, we managed to report good results in all the WPs. Currently, we are awaiting the feedback of the EACEA on the hard work and effort done by all members in the past 18 months.

Despite all restrictions, problems and issues during the implementation, this project is still tackling one of the major problems of both European and African countries: migration. This should be considered as reason enough to keep on working to enhance the situation in both regions.

Collaboration in times of social distancing

Like all other fellow human beings, the consortium was not spared from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Management Meeting at SLU, Sweden and the International BiovisionAlexandria 2020 Conference at Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt had to be cancelled, as well as the first training of the project under the leadership of RWTH, which was supposed to teach both technical and teaching staff in the subjects of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Open Educational Resources (OER).

Due to the pending Mid-term report in May 2020, there was no other choice for the consortium to hold the planned Management Meeting via video conference instead. This was the last opportunity for the Coordinator and the WP-Leaders to discuss open matters in the full extend of the consortium and to allocate further tasks required before the submission of the report. After roughly eight hours, the Meeting ended with very positive results, although there was the general consent, that future meetings should be done in physical form again.

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.

Access to the original article via: http://www.fayoum.edu.eg/newsdetails.aspx?id=32921

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.