The African Nutritional Sciences Research Consortium (ANSRC) brings together academic and research institutions from across the East African region, with the goal of building a PhD training program in basic laboratory research in nutritional and agricultural sciences. ANSRC was founded in 2012 as a consortium following successful visits by consortium facilitators to multiple institutions in East Africa. The consortium is registered as a Society with the Republic of Kenya. The elected officials are: Chair, Dr. Gordon Nguka (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology); Vice Chair, Dr. John Msuya (Sokoine University of Agriculture); Secretary, Prof. Bonnie Dunbar (University of Nairobi); Treasurer, Mr. James Wariero (Center for Public Health and Development and ANSRC East African Coordinator).
ANSRC consists of members from seventeen East African institutions of higher learning and research, and includes representatives from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The consortium is being facilitated by Professors Richard Deckelbaum, MD, and Debra Wolgemuth, PhD, of the Institute of Human Nutrition (IHN) at Columbia University Medical Center, Prof. Bonnie Dunbar (above), and James Ntambi, PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison. ANSRC has established a coordinating office for this program at Columbia University’s Global Center in Nairobi (CGC Africa) of which Murugi Ndirangu, PhD is the Director, and Mr. James Wariero, B. Pharm serves as the ANSRC East African Coordinator.
ANSRC working groups have established detailed plans in the following areas – Admissions and Student Monitoring, Curriculum, Human and Physical Infrastructure, and Liasons with the Private Sector and Development Agencies. ANSRC works in concert with the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and the African Population and Health Research Consortium (APHRC), which offer highly successful training in economics and public health, respectively. During 2017 and 2018, ANSRC leadership have had a number of meetings with Kenyan government ministries, AERC, APHRC, representatives of the private sector, and the African Development Bank, which have been important to achieving a number of ANSRC’s objectives.
The first phase of implementing the consortium will focus on Kenya and will include completing the development and accreditation of the ANSRC curriculum in the initial group of universities, developing the capacity of existing faculty in basic sciences, developing the infrastructure for basic science training at Research Specialty Facilities (RSFs), providing mentorship and support to faculty, and admission of the first cohort of students into the program. Faculty from non-Kenyan/East African countries will also be able to participate in the first phase activities and students from these countries can seek admission to the ANSRC PhD program.
In the following phase, faculty of other African countries will work through their governments to obtain approvals for their institutions to host the ANSRC PhD program.
ANSRC will be responsible for admitting graduate students to the program through the participating universities in East Africa, establishing curricula and laboratory training and monitoring research projects, establishing the Research Specialty Facilities within which basic science infrastructure and activities will be enhanced through the consortium, and for determining the quality of the dissertation to merit a PhD degree. Planning is underway to integrate training using a “one classroom” approach in two key areas: basic agricultural and human nutritional sciences.
ANSRC will not just offer laboratory-based training for academics’ sake, but will also link graduate student training to a “path to action”, wherein students will be conducting basic research relating to health, disease, and food security in East Africa. ANSRC will also strive to establish private–public sector interactions, to ensure that their research projects enhance local economic development. Thus, long-term capacity building in human nutrition will link health, agriculture and food production.