Capacity strengthening activities are central to the institute and include: mentoring of individual researchers, formal Master’s and PhD level programmes, mentoring of organisations in the implementation of projects and specific externally funded capacity strengthening projects.
Collaboration between developing- and developed-country scientists and practitioners is particularly important for the institute, with fresh perspectives enthusing and invigorating our ongoing research and learning.
Case studies from the cassava programme contribute to the institute’s taught Master’s programmes that attract 40–60 students per year (http://www.nri.org/study-with-us/postgraduate/). Where possible, PhD students are integrated into research projects.
With funding from the European Union Science and Technology ACP programme (http://projects.nri.org/tropicalroots/), NRI in collaboration with partners in Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Caribbean, Fiji and Papua New Guinea has used the experience gained from a number of projects to develop a specific externally funded capacity strengthening project aimed at developing the potential of early career cassava scientists in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) in partnership with the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (www.istrc.org). The main activities developed and consolidated an international ‘Community of Practice’; to enhance basic research skills such as proposal development and dissemination of research outputs; and to enhance the ability to address major policy issues. Such issues include poverty reduction, food security, enterprise development and income generation, impacts of climate change and variability, impacts of urbanisation, impacts of the global food crisis and global economic downturn, opportunities provided by biofuels and export development.
The programme engaged 387 early career scientists from the ACP, particularly encouraging the participation of young women researchers. The achievements led to encouraging new research proposals with approximately 125 concept notes developed by the trained participants for submission to small grant schemes, over 10 of whom have currently been awarded grants; implementing a mentoring system between senior scientists and students or early career researchers; and encouraging early career scientists to make research proposals and outputs policy relevant.