The partnership programme AER between BOKU and MMU is designed as an integrative, iterative and holistic process to approach the actual problems faced by Ruwenzori´s small-scaled subsistence farming systems.
As traditionally the curriculum development in Uganda is a top-down process or a procedure with only a few experts consulted and involved, this approach inverts the process and initiates the curriculum development with an assessment of regional needs to be implemented in higher education and research - so it is the region and its´ stakeholders, who is invited to create their University based on their own needs. The stakeholders of the consultative process systemically gathers the perception and reality of life of the involved stakeholders on daily and so directly addresses rural development, poverty eradication and gender mainstreaming in a bottom-up process.
The process is based on the approach to not only including the “pure” field of agriculture & ecology, but taking into account all the other influencing factors and systems (social, economic, political, etc.) overlapping. Following these approach AER is not providing “one solution” in advance (like a set of specific measures like “drip-irrigation” or “intercropping” for the actual challenges – this might seem vague for people not involved in agro-ecology), but offering the holistic methods agro-ecology is providing during a consultative process of elaborating pathways to target the actual challenges. This is the starting point for a continuous learning and exchange process in which scientists and students become aware of the practical challenges of small-scaled farmers and the challenges to sustain their livelihood. It is not only the farmers who learn in this reflexive process, but all members involved in this process. A systemic understanding of the small-scaled farming systems facilitates innovative solutions in research and higher education towards the current challenges, which then are disseminated among the – through the process empowered – farmer communities. AER initiates and MMU in the longer run is sustaining this frame of exchange and mutual learning.