THE SOKOINE UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE

The Morogoro campus of the University of Dar es Salaam became a university in its own right on 1st. July, 1984. At the subsequent inauguration President Nyerere reflected on what a university of agriculture with a practical orientation was intended to do. The following are extracts from his address:

“The Sokoine University of Agriculture is intended to be directly useful to our farmers and our nation now as well as in the future. It must be professionally oriented and the professions concerned are those which encompass the knowledge, the understanding and the skills to do a practical job in our rural areas. Thus, the main objective of this university is not abstract research, or the training of academics who can write learned treatises. Certainly we hope that it will do those things, for we expect – and we demand from both staff and students – rigorous scholarship and scientific research. But they are not what the University will be judged by during the next twenty years or more.

The major purpose of this University is the development and transmission of skills and practical expertise at the highest level…. Thus, the concern of the leaders of the Sokoine University of Agriculture should not be the attainment of degrees comparable to those of the Colleges you may have attended in the USA, or elsewhere. It should be the giving of service to our agriculture and our rural people comparable to (or better than) that which those Colleges give to their own hinterlands.”

The President appeared here to forget the pioneering work of the Land Grant Colleges, whose character and objectives would fit well the above description. He went on:

On appropriate technology
“Combine harvesters are awe-inspiring to the uninitiated and have a glamour for the agricultural engineer; it is true that our larger and more successful cooperative will need them. But the more important implements for us are the ones which can be useful to peasants, or the small village cooperatives. That means simple tools, tools which do not depend on imported fuel, which can be repaired (and preferably even manufactured) in the villages, or small towns, and which do not require advanced mechanical skills for their maintenance, or efficient use.”

On management
“While the return a farmer gets from his land and labour depends on his technical skill, it is very greatly increased by good farm management. This is true for a peasant farmer, a village cooperative and for a commercial farmer. And all are interested in the net benefit obtained from their work and their inputs. One does not have to be a capitalist, or a monetarist, to recognise this.”

On learning from peasants
“There have been many cases where so-called modern scientific methods imported from temperate areas have proved to be less productive than traditional methods, or to cause unacceptable damage to our soils. The practice of deep ploughing on fragile tropical soils and of opposing intercropping on small farms are but two ‘examples of this. We need to study the traditional practices and, where the circumstances in which they developed have changed, see how they can be adapted to the new conditions. There was the traditional practice of slash and burn, cultivate and move on. Now that we live in settled communities we have to show the peasants that the modern equivalent- equally within his own control and more productive- is the use of compost, green manure and animal manure.”

On cooperative production
“We have to understand the existing societies in order to help the gradual move towards cooperative production. For while individual peasant farms are now the most important productive units in our agriculture, and must be treated as such, the future lies in larger farm units on which better implements can be used economically. For a socialist country this must mean the expansion of village cooperatives. An agricultural university in a socialist country must make a contribution to that development.”

On the controversial issue amongst agricultural educators of the true function of university farms as an aid to teaching or demonstration of management:
“The university farm must have management systems appropriate to the size of its unit or units. It must be run on strictly commercial principles as a self-accounting unit, which operates in accordance with all the laws and conditions which prevail elsewhere in Tanzania. There must be no scope for excuses that it is making a loss because of its importance to University research, or teaching, or feeding. On the contrary, the farm must make a profit and contribute directly or indirectly to the foreign exchange earnings of the country. It must do this through the efficient production and sale of its food and other crops.”

On Development Studies
“Courses under the title of Development Studies are certainly not a complete answer. Sometimes they have the disadvantage of leading people to believe that ‘Development Studies’ covers questions of ideology, so everyone else can ignore them, or alternatively that a study of socialist theories is all that is required. In fact Development Studies courses are intended to help students to understand the purposes of Tanzania and the environment in which our country has to make a living and develop. That is essential for all university students, but it is not enough. For it is certainly necessary to understand the malign influence of external factors on Tanzania’s development. But ideological teaching has to free us and inspire us to work out what we can do in the face of these things and how we can do it. The external circumstances we are contending with are not going to change in the near future. We have to learn to cope with them.

What I am suggesting is that everyone involved in teaching, administering, or governing the Sokoine University of Agriculture have to involve themselves in promoting attitudes of service. And it has to be service needed by Tanzania in the light of Tanzanian circumstances and aspirations.”
On the selection of students

“You will need a few academic ‘high fliers’. But I suggest that the greatest need is for students who want to be farmers, to work with farmers and to help farmers. Your selection criteria should reflect these purposes.

I am aware that this may mean less First Class Passes in your degrees and I am not suggesting that you should reduce your standards of academic excellence. What I am saying is that your job is to spread and enlarge knowledge so that our agriculture improves and our lives improve, and that you will therefore be judged, in Tanzania and elsewhere, by whether you contribute to reaching that goal. Your objectives should not be sacrificed to class lists.

In particular, I suggest that this University should be looking for mature students, not making it difficult for them to enter …. I am not impressed by the argument that mature students rarely get good degrees and sometimes have to be helped to get a pass in the basic sciences, because they do not have the grounding. Give them help in such subjects as mathematics …. It is absurd that it should be more difficult for mature students to enter universities in this country than it is in America or Britain. That only shows lack of self-confidence on the part of the universities themselves. As I have said before, had I not been admitted as a mature student I would never have received a university education.”

On architecture
“We do not want to build slums, but good architecture does not have to be expensive, or grandiose. It can be attractive while still being functional and meeting the circumstances of the people for whom it is being created. Let architects accept the challenge of building for a country which is both poor and ambitious. Staff and student housing, for example, must be designed and built so that its capital and maintenance costs are low. In Tanzania we have a Building Research Unit. Could we not adopt some of their plans and techniques for low-cost housing, rather than just thinking in terms of unique (and generally European-based) designs for hostels, flats and so on? … The simplest and cheapest student and staff housing on this campus will have many advantages over the desperate search for suitable accommodation outside, which also involves transport and other problems.”

On bureaucracy and democracy
“I ask that the administration of this University should be simple and cheap. Keep the number of Faculties and Departments to a minimum and the bureaucracy at the lowest possible level. More administrators and what are called ‘supporting staff’ do not necessarily mean letter administration and service; often the reverse is the case, for Parkinson’s Law is valid in Tanzania as well as elsewhere. The administrative and academic structure must be such that individual responsibility for jobs is clear, so that persons can be held accountable for their actions, or lack of them./ And I would add that, while student and staff involvement in the running of the University is necessary, democracy must not be carried to the lengths where it becomes an enemy of efficiency. This is an educational institution, not a representative body, and people must be required to work at their jobs, not to spend all their time on committees. Nor should we be selecting teachers and administrators on the basis of their popularity, rather than their competence in their work.”

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