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On 9 August, 2021 the world’s leading climate scientists delivered their starkest warning yet about the deepening climate emergency. Sustainable food systems and climate change are pressing global issues that go hand in hand. Will these challenges be left to the youth because they will be most affected? This article will explore what role OER can play in empowering youth to transform food systems.

International Youth Day, which takes place on 12 August, aims to bring youth issues and challenges to the attention of the international community while also celebrating the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society.

Glover and Sumberg [1] explain why the youth are an important demographic:

Today's youth generation is the largest in history, and the global population of young people is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries located in South and East Asia and Africa (The World Bank, 2006; IFAD, 2019). The interests and needs of this youth generation are important, not only because they are many, but because they will need–indeed, they are entitled to expect–decent work and livelihoods, as well as long and healthy lives; yet, to achieve this objective for so many people will be challenging in an era of ecological stress. From a development perspective, today's youth generation is on the front line: it will have to cope with the effects of environmental and climate change, which are likely to accelerate and intensify during their lifetimes and those of their children.

The 2021 theme for International Youth Day is ‘Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’. In Africa, food security and sustainable farming practices have always been important. While the agricultural industry continues to be the largest source of employment in many African countries, off-farm food-related activities are expected to be important for future job opportunities, including for youth.[2]

Stakeholders in the educational and agricultural sectors need to ensure that youth have the support mechanisms to amplify efforts collectively and individually to protect the Earth and life, while integrating biodiversity in the transformation of food systems. Given the planet’s growing population, producing sufficient healthier food sustainably will not ensure human and planetary wellbeing if other crucial challenges are not also tackled, such as social inclusion, health care, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation. [3]

Empowered youths can lead community development efforts to facilitate the improvement of lives in their community, appreciating and supporting cultural differences, and being custodians of the land, water and wildlife. Youth in Africa are expressing strong readiness and passion in actively contributing to the processes of delivering solutions that transform food systems. [4]

The next generation recognises that our future depends on functioning food systems, and at the same time, it is Africa’s youth that holds the power to deliver them. To begin with, young Africans are informed and educated, alert to the twin threats to our prosperity of malnutrition and climate change. We do not farm like our parents and grandparents farmed, nor do we eat the way our forebears ate.

 – Mike Nkhombo Khunga, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Youth Leader, Malawi, and vice-chair of the UN Food Systems Summit's Action Track 5: building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses [5]

How can OER empower youth to fulfil this role?

Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) in agriculture faces specific challenges, such as a lack of formalized training programmes and agriculture not being an aspirational career.[6] OER can be used as an important building block for skills development in the TVET sector. This is especially important in the field of agriculture and food systems, as openly licensed content can be contextualized and adapted to be culturally and environmentally relevant, while documenting agricultural practices can help to share these beyond local communities. Agricultural content for TVET needs to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation, and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Digital technologies, OER, and open education practices in this sector can provide access to innovative models of agricultural processes and marketing that may not have been accessible before. They can also provide a means for sharing this knowledge from one generation to the next, despite the change in many rural societies where more children are enrolled in school and spend less time in the fields with their elders. Open education practices can, when well implemented, contribute to reduce the costs of producing and distributing course material, expand access, meeting the needs of learners in different contexts, and therefore be beneficial to learners in the developing world. 

OERs can contribute to making informal and formal skills training accessible and affordable  in the farming and food systems industries. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for effective management, decision-making, communication, and leadership are required to create jobs in the agricultural sector. OERs can be part of finding, implementing, and sharing innovative solutions to make employment in food systems appealing and to strengthen different sectors managing our food from farm to fork, while ensuring the existing knowledge is not lost on the way. These OERs can be integrated or adapted for community development programmes or used for informal learning if they are accessible, thereby enabling and supporting youth to become leaders in the development of sustainable and resilient food systems.

  • OER Africa has resources on food security and African agricultural practices, some of which were developed as part of a programme to train household food security facilitators to work as change agents in the areas of agriculture, food and nutrition using participatory learning in a structured environment focusing on households within communities.

All the resources developed for this programme are available here:  https://www.oerafrica.org/household-food-security-programme

  • The Young Professionals for Agricultural Development website has some suggestions for ways to engage youth in agriculture.
  • Digital Green works with partners to create digital solutions to assist rural communities and increase the effectiveness of smallholder farmers in the developing world. These solutions are shared using a CC BY licence and include production and dissemination of community videos to share knowledge [7] and using open-source software to share data to assist farmers boost agricultural productivity and food security.
  • African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) works toward inclusive, agriculture-driven prosperity for Africa by strengthening the production and dissemination of more gender-responsive agricultural research and innovation. AWARD invests in African scientists, research institutions, and agribusinesses so that they can deliver agricultural innovations that better respond to the needs and priorities of a diversity of women and men across Africa’s agricultural value chains.
  • This toolkit synthesizes a decade of learnings and resources from agriculture and forestry mentoring programmes implemented by Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) and AWARD.
  • This NEPAD concept note provides information on how to curate openly licensed skills development course materials and content aimed at African youth.

There is increasing urgency to tackle global issues such as climate change and food system challenges. African youth lie at the centre of opportunities to galvanize and sustain positive change at a systemic level and OER provide an invaluable tool to assist them with the skills and knowledge to do so.



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Promoting diversity and inclusion in the OER space

Open pedagogy

 

Access the OER Africa communications archive

 


[1] Glover D and Sumberg J. (2020). Youth and Food Systems Transformation. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4:101. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.00101/full

[2] Townsend et al., 2017 in Glover D and Sumberg J. (2020). Youth and Food Systems Transformation. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4:101. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.00101/full

[6] Brown, T., and Majumdar, S. (2020). ‘Agricultural TVET in developing economies: Challenges and possibilities’ UNEVOC Network Discussion Paper. Available from www.unevoc.unesco.org/l/687

 

What's New

What have been the experiences of African Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives focussed on higher education? What can we learn from these experiences? Although the concept of OER initially gained publicity in the Global North, OER are gaining traction in Africa. OER Africa researched several African OER initiatives to assess their long-term contribution to establishing sustainable OER practices in African higher education.

What have been the experiences of African Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives focussed on higher education? What can we learn from these experiences? Although the concept of OER initially gained publicity in the Global North, OER are gaining traction in Africa, with an increasing number of OER initiatives focusing on areas such as OER advocacy, practice, and research. Today, the concept has been mainstreamed around the world, as exemplified through the unanimous adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on OER in 2019.

OER Africa researched several African OER initiatives to assess their long-term contribution to establishing sustainable OER practices in African higher education. This work explored their effectiveness and identified lessons to enable better development and support of OER practices. It also helped to deepen OER Africa’s understanding of professional development needs amongst African academics to enable more effective OER practices.

To do this, we developed case studies on eleven African OER initiatives in higher education to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of each initiative, followed by an analytical summary report. The report collates the findings from the OER initiatives , highlighting the implications of the findings for better development and support for effective OER practices.

Access the case studies and report here.


Related articles:

 Access the OER Africa communications archive here

Museums tell ancient and recent histories as they collect, safeguard, and make accessible artefacts and specimens that they hold in trust to inspire and enable people to explore, learn, and enjoy. They continue to evolve in their roles and contribution to education as they embrace open access and Open Educational Resource (OER) principles.

Image courtesy of Abdullah Elhariry, Unsplash (Unsplash licence)

Museums continue to evolve in their roles and contribution to education as they embrace open access and Open Educational Resource (OER) principles. Museums are joining the open access movement by, for example, providing high-resolution downloadable images free of charge to maximise the ability of people to interact with, share, and reuse their collections.  

Museums tell ancient and recent histories as they collect, safeguard, and make accessible artefacts and specimens that they hold in trust to inspire and enable people to explore, learn, and enjoy. All museums support education as they provide unique prospects and platforms to engage students in their spaces and through their exhibitions, presentations, lectures, and discussion sessions on history, science, mathematics, technology, medicine, arts, politics, religion, humanities and social sciences, among others.

The Shenzhen Declaration on Museums and Collections of the UNESCO High-Level Forum on Museums from 2016 promoted the educational role of museums and the adaptation of museums' contents to provide a variety of formal, non-formal, and lifelong open learning experiences through universal accessibility for various audiences and removal of barriers to disadvantaged groups and persons with specific needs and capacities.

Learning about history and culture includes learning about all the aspects of the human ‘being’ and their day-to-day life. For example, if a student visits a museum and explores an exhibition dealing with historical figures or events involving aviation, the student is likely to be intrigued to want to learn more about flying which may not have been introduced as a vocation in the classroom. In such a case, the museum experience could well be an initial influence on future life choices of the students.

Museums are adopting open access to increase public engagement with their collections, introduce news areas of operation, and collaborate with creators and other institutions of learning, including universities, colleges, and schools.

The challenges of COVID-19 lockdowns in the past two years left museums without visitors, prompting them to accelerate digitization of their collections and adopt open licences for learners and academics to access their holdings as part of their learning or academic research. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 1,000 cultural heritage institutions around the world have adopted open licences to provide virtual access to their collections and resources.

Open access for museums refers to efforts made by museums to digitise their collections allowing for the creation of virtual exhibitions and databases or libraries, which are accessible online, containing high-resolution downloadable collections of digitised images of artefacts and information resources, including text, photos, movies, audio files, maps, graphs, and links to other sites.

Some of the digitised museum collections for Africa and African resources include the following:

African Online Digital Library (AODL) – AODL is an open access digital library of African cultural heritage materials created by Michigan State University in collaboration with museums, archives, scholars, and communities globally.

Smithsonian Open Access National Museum of African American History & Culture – The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 21 museums and the National Zoo—shaping the future by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing resources with the world. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is exclusively devoted to the documentation of the African American life, history, and culture. The museum has collected more than 40,000 artefacts. The images and data are in the public domain under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence, allowing use, transformation, and sharing of the open access assets without asking permission from the Smithsonian.

COM Library - African Art – This hub of open access resources for African art features Google Arts and Culture content from over 1,000 leading museum and archives that have partnered with Google Cultural Institute to bring the world’s treasures online. 

Adoption of open access and OER principles by museums increases the diffusion of knowledge for both education and information. It helps students, researchers, and education providers access unique material locked up in museums all over the world. Open access can also help provide the education sector in Africa access to some of Africa’s artefacts in many museums in the global north collected during colonialism.


Related articles:

OER Africa coordinated a project with members of the Network of Open Orgs, a coalition of organizations that meets regularly on implementing and supporting the UNESCO OER Recommendation. The project involved a collaborative effort among several members of the Network to develop a set of seven research summaries that explore the success of OER.

Advocates of Open Educational Resources (OER) often promote their perceived benefits, such as increasing access to educational materials; improving scalability and circulation of resources; and providing opportunities to adapt resources to suit learners’ needs and contexts. However, the past five years alone have seen significant shifts in education systems. Transformative forces such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leaps in technology development, and global economic reconfiguration mean that now more than ever, education systems need to remain dynamic and responsive.

Key to this responsiveness is ensuring that there is ongoing research on the actual benefits of using OER, so that we can gain a comprehensive, measured understanding of its implementation, benefits, challenges, and lessons. Such research can provide insight on how to most effectively implement the goals of the UNESCO OER Recommendation.

Within this context, OER Africa coordinated a project with members of the Network of Open Orgs, a coalition of organizations that meets regularly on implementing and supporting the UNESCO OER Recommendation. The project involved a collaborative effort among several members of the Network to develop a set of seven research summaries that explore the success of OER. The summaries were then analysed to extract key findings, which were presented in a short report.

The Network aims to make such analyses an ongoing activity to remain abreast of OER implementation around the world. Ultimately, this will assist in realising the goals of the OER Recommendation.

Access the case studies and summary report here.