The African Nutritional Sciences Research Consortium is a consortium bringing together academic and research institutions across the East African region with the goal of building a PhD training program in basic laboratory research in nutritional sciences. Universities from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, have already been visited and have agreed to participate in the consortium.
The consortium is being facilitated by Professors Richard Deckelbaum and Debra Wolgemuth of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, Dr. James Ntambi, professor of Biochemistry and Nutrition at the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, adjunct professor at the University of Nairobi. The Institute has established a coordinating office for this program at Columbia University’s Columbia Global Centers | Africa (Nairobi), under the direction of the East Africa Coordinator and Kenyan native, Dr. Murugi Ndirangu.
History of the Consortium
Following visits of the consortium facilitators to multiple institutions in East Africa, an informal meeting was held in Nairobi in January 2012, establishing the goals of the Consortium. Subsequent funding from the African Development Bank to the Consortium supported its formal initiation, including a meeting of potential partners convened in Nairobi on January 24 and 25, 2013. A second meeting of the Consortium was held in Arusha on October 9 and 10, 2013 in which the initial results from the various working groups (Curriculum, Infrastructure, Human Resources, and Admissions/Monitoring) were presented. The most recent meeting of the Consortium was held in Kampala in 2014, and included final reports of the working groups, the selection of Professor John Kakitahi, formerly of Makerere University to serve as the executive director of the Consortium, and the designation of the Nairobi Center as the site for the Consortium’s offices. Working plans and frameworks for Consortium are now well developed for immediate implementation.
The Consortium model is built upon two well-established consortia already successfully functioning in Africa, the African Economic Research Consortium and the African Population and Health Research Consortium, which offer training in economics and public health, respectively. The Consortium will be responsible for admitting graduate students to the program through the participating universities in East Africa, establishing curricula and laboratory training, monitoring their research projects, establishing Centers of Excellence within which the research activities will be enhanced, and as a consortium, decide the quality of the dissertation to merit a PhD degree for individual students.
The Consortium will not just offer laboratory based training for academics sake, but will link graduate students’ training to a “path to action” wherein students will be conducting basic research relating to public health problems in East Africa, the Consortium will also strive to establish private – public interactions, to ensure that their research projects enhance local economic development. Discussions are underway to have two training tracks, i.e., one in basic human nutritional sciences and as well as one in agricultural laboratory training and development. Thus, long-term capacity building in human nutrition will be linked with agriculture and food production.