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Kenya - Insect Science -- Building capacity for science-led development in Africa: icipe's postgraduate trainings in insect science


International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe). P.O. Box 30772-00100, Nairobi, Kenya (

Countries and institutions:

the icipe's postgraduate training in insect science has been provided to a total of 600 scholars (out of which 250 PhD) from 32 African countries. With more than 95% employed in universities, research institutions, civil service, NGOs, in Africa, these graduates have not only helped to train the next generation of insect scientists and to address the huge capacity gap in national and regional research institutions. In addition, the programme has considerably contributed to crop, human, animal and environmental health improvement.

The first icipe's postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows were mentored at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Nairobi (1983) followed by seven other universities: the University of Dar es Salaam, the University of Khartoum, the Makerere University, the University of Ibadan, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, the Kenyatta University and the University of Ghana. As per today, 34 African universities have participated to the icipe's postgraduate training programmes.

Main financial support was provided by a consortium of development partners, who have included over time the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit" (GIZ), the Directorate General for International Cooperation (The Netherlands-DGIS), the Dutch Cooperation Programme with Developing Countries (SII), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Government of Netherlands), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS), the International Society for Scientific Culture (ISSC)-World Laboratory, the African Development Bank (ADB), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Institute of Research for Development (IRD-France), the National Institute of Health (NIH - USA), the Swiss Agency for Development (SDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO)and foundations such as the Kirkhouse Trust (United Kingdom) and Sigenberg (Germany).


In a report published on Higher Education and Economic Development in Africa, authors Bloom et al. 2005 of Harvard University noted that not much had been invested by African Governments and the International Donor Community into higher education, in particular for producing high quality scientifically- and technically-oriented graduates to steer the continent out of poverty and reach economic prosperity. As a result, the number of indigenous high qualified scientists in Africa is low.

The icipe's postgraduate's trainings programmes are contributing to improving, through research and training, the "critical mass" of MSc and PhD scientists in insect science in Africa.

The icipe's major training output in applied insect science is through the African Regional Postgraduate Programme in Insect Science (ARPPIS) and the Dissertation Research Internship Programme (DRIP). Icipe also hosts a postdoctoral course in-built within research projects.

  • ARPPIS is a 3-year postgraduate course aimed at providing opportunities for MSc and PhD degrees to African students registered in African universities.
  • DRIP offers 3 months up to three years internships opportunities for both MSc and PhD self-sponsored or project-sponsored African or international students registered in any university in the world.
  • By giving students a broad-based education both in theory and practice in the insect sciences, and international experience through conference participation and group training courses, icipe's postgraduate programmes are preparing them to competently fit into national, regional and international programmes.

    Background and set-up:

    the icipe's post-graduate training programme in insect sciences began three decades ago when much of Africa lacked the human resources base to counter the many challenges that were facing the continent. During the 1981-Bellagio conference in Italy, the twenty-two participants representing nine universities and three research organisations in Africa, institutions and donor agencies from North America, Europe and Australia agreed to establish the icipe's ARPPIS training programme. Since then, icipe has embarked on its long journey towards the training of African insect scientists and ARPPIS has established formal collaboration with other organizations and networks operating in the region such as the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), the African Association of Insect Scientists (AAIS), the African Association of Universities (AAU),

    Participating universities and icipe are members of the ARPPIS Academic Board (cf. Figure 1) that oversees the research and educational activities. The Council of Vice Chancellors (CVC) was established in 2007 to take on the role of the highest decision-making organ. It comprises all vice chancellors or rectors or presidents of all member universities and the director general of icipe. The CVC provides broad policy direction and framework. Implementation is anchored by a regional programme secretariat that has been based at icipe since the beginning. The secretariat is headed by a regional programme coordinator who is essentially a member of icipe staff and is responsible for many other capacity building functions.

    Three ARPPIS sub-regional centres were also established; one in Ghana (based at the University of Ghana, Legon) for West Africa, one in Ethiopia (based at the Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa) for Eastern and North-eastern Africa and one in Zimbabwe (based at the University of Zimbabwe, Harare) for Southern Africa. The Dschang University Centre in Cameroon was also selected to host the sub-regional centre for French-speaking Africa but it never developed to operational stage. Establishment of a sub-regional centre for Arabic-speaking North Africa was mooted but never followed up. The coordination of ARPPIS activities at each of the three sub-regional centres is the responsibility of the Sub-regional Coordinator (SRC), who is appointed by the host university.

    Host Universities of sub-regional centres were selected based upon standard criteria that included: i) the existence of programmes in insect science, ii) the availability of qualified staff, iii) the access to quality research and teaching facilities including library, equipment and research support services, iv) the presence of transport and communication infrastructure for international travel and field work, v) the existence of suitable residential facilities for students. The University of Zimbabwe was selected for having, in addition to reasonably good infrastructure, a university-approved MSc in Tropical Entomology. Although this was the first sub-regional centre to start operations (it admitted the first class of students in 1992) it is no longer functional.

    Figure 1: Organisational structure and linkages of icipe's postgraduate training programmes (case of ARPPIS)

    Scholars' research projects are jointly supervised by icipe scientists and university supervisors from the registering university. Applicants are recruited through merit-based selection criteria. The selection is done by respective icipe scientists. Sub-regional centres, partner universities, collaborative institutes, the International Federation of Scientists (IFS), and, most recently, national and regional organisations such as line ministries, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM),... are also involved in disseminating the call for applications, in order to get quality candidates informed and to apply.

    The partnership:

    the main specificity of icipe's postgraduate training programmes originates from the strong linkages between said organisation (a large and advanced research and education organisation which brings to the partnership its strength in priority R&D in a field directly relevant to the tropics, as well as its worldwide linkages in the same area) and a consortium of African universities (which brings to the partnership their collective interest in advancing tropical insect science, as well as their commitment to high-level staff development in the field).

    The collaborative partnership between icipe and the partner universities provides institutional affiliation as well as a basis for solid linkages which would be beneficial for future collaborative action. icipe is responsible for: i) management of the training programme, including liaison with development partners as well as fund raising support for fellowship opportunities and, ii) providing laboratory and supervision support. The partners universities made contributions in kind (e.g. by granting partial waivers on tuition fees, allowing foreign students to pay fees earmarked for local or resident students) and they provide staff to be involved in supervision.

    This type of South-South partnership is unique in Africa. Additional South-South collaboration has been put in place with icipe scholars undertaking training activities in laboratories in South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Madagascar, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, etc.

    The partnership, together with training activities in different laboratories in Africa are essential ingredients for producing high qualified graduates with the capability to compete nationally, regionally and internationally. The quality of training is assured by the fact that icipe provides unique modern research facilities in insect sciences, well equipped laboratories, high qualified tutoring, library facilities and a portfolio of R&D projects under implementation capable of, and keen on supporting research costs.

    These strong links will continue to be paramount in the icipe's future strategic research plans, not only for generating user-friendly solutions to food security (e.g. through crop productivity increase and post-harvest losses reduction) but also for contributing to animal and human health, environmental protection. It will also provide the vehicle for continued production of the next generation of insect scientists in Africa.

    Concerning external oversight of the implementation of the results, an International Committee (comprising several academies of science throughout the world) had the major responsibility of monitoring the quality of icipe's research and training effort and to assure icipe's participation in international networking. The International Committee later transformed itself into the icipe Foundation that sponsored meetings on scientific institution building in Africa. An ad-hoc Working Group to work out, in consultation with African universities and research institutions, a curriculum for the proposed postgraduate programmes was also established.

    Lessons learned:

    several lessons were learned over the years from the icipe postgraduate trainings programmes:

  • High qualified post-graduate trainings carried out in Africa for African are bringing considerable rewards in increasing crop productivity and reducing post-harvest losses as well as in improving human, animal and environmental health. In-situ post-graduate trainings in applied insect science could help therefore to alleviate the problems of hunger, malnutrition and human and livestock diseases that afflict Africa, with sub-Saharan Africa being the most vulnerable region.
  • Graduates that are predominantly trained in Africa are mostly retained in Africa to fill capacity gaps in national and regional programmes. These in-situ trained high qualified graduates will continue to contribute to reducing the "brain-drain" problem associated with young Africans leaving the continent to study and develop their careers in the North.
  • In environments where there are few scientists, the impact of a single high qualified scientist could be high. The impact of high qualified scientists on food security and poverty reduction is even higher if those scientists are specialised in insect sciences especially in those vectors causing major animal, human, environmental and crop diseases.
  • Partnership that combines the excellence of African research organisations with the academic experience of African and overseas universities are essential ingredients for producing in-situ high qualified graduates with the capability to compete nationally, regionally and internationally.
  • Effective collaborative agreements and partnerships with local universities and regional organisations proved to be effective in generating user-friendly solutions to food security, health and environmental issues and in providing the vehicle for continued production of the next generation of insect scientists in Africa.
  • Continued efforts in fostering collaboration with academia in Africa and worldwide are contributing to the creation of more opportunities in Africa for early-career African scientists.
  • In terms of funding, icipe has learned that it needs to identify new sources of fellowships to support the growing demand in post-graduate trainings in insect science.
  • Complementarities with North-South cooperation:

    although most of the icipe's post-graduate training courses are typical example of South-South cooperation, a number of complementarities and synergies were reported with North-South cooperation. These are: i) the exchange of information and expertise (e.g. by attracting international scholars who wish to spend their sabbatical leave away from their own countries) between scientists from the North and the South; ii) training opportunities and visits of African scholars to laboratories in the North (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Conservation Biology at the University of Lund, the University of Oxford, the Universities of Perugia and Pavia...); iii) scholars attachments to universities in the North (e.g. DAAD for Germany),... DRIP in particular is providing opportunities for postgraduate scholars to undertake research internships both in Africa (for overseas students) and abroad (for African students). About 10 postgraduate scholars are hosted annually in Africa and overseas.

    How to share:

    the icipe's continued efforts in postgraduate trainings in insect sciences through ad-hoc partnerships and collaboration arrangements with academia in Africa and worldwide are contributing i) to creating more opportunities in Africa to young African scientists early in their careers and ii) to improving crop, human, animal and environmental health.

    Graduates in applied insect science trained in Africa for Africa are in fact contributing to alleviating the problems of hunger, malnutrition and human and livestock diseases that afflict the continent, with sub-Saharan Africa being the most vulnerable region.

    This experience needs to be shared and additional investments into higher education are expected from African Governments and African Organisations in the near future. Ad-hoc policy support should be also promoted.

    Increased support from African Governments and Organisations and an enhanced partnership with universities' organisations (AAU, RUFORUM) and regional research organisations are essential ingredients to the improvement of the sustainability (both financial and institutional) of the icipe's postgraduate trainings.

    Future support should aim i) the diversification of source of funding including an increased support from African Governments; ii) the preparation of marketing package to attract more students to undertake research at icipe, iii) strengthen cooperation with other research organisations that have competence and capacity in insect science. It is also important to actively pursue with these organisations joint research and joint training programmes that would be co-financed by both icipe and concerned organisations, as exemplified by recent partnerships with TWAS and the Consortium for National Health Research (CNHR) in Kenya.


    ARPPIS since 1983 and DRIP since 1995.


    DAAD has always been very supportive by providing financial assistance so far to a total of 50 MSc and 70 PhD scholars over the last decade. DAAD continues to sponsor at least five MSc and seven PhD scholars annually. Since 2005, DRIP students are also sponsored by the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS): partial research support for scholars undertaking postgraduate thesis research. In 2010, funding was also secured from SIDA for 10 MSc, 6-10 PhD and 3 postdoctoral fellowships for a period of 3 years.

    The cost for training a PhD scholar is of about US$ 25,000-30,000/year out of which research costs represent 30-40%. This cost covers university registration fees, student stipend, medical insurance, research costs and travel. Research costs are co-shared by both donors and icipe specific research project grants. The salaries of icipe's scientists are covered by on-going icipe's research projects.

    The icipe's postgraduate trainings in insect science are both cost-efficient and cost-effective. Cost efficient because scholars are trained in the icipe compound equipped with well-furnished laboratory, guesthouse, library and transportation facilities. Cost effective because newly acquired knowledge and skills are helpful for on-going research projects.

    The concentration of postgraduate training in a large unique "centre of excellence" like icipe improves further cost-efficiency and cost-effectiveness ratios: the number of permanent staff is proportionally low compared to the large number of postgraduate students and other researchers from many countries (representing many disciplines such as ecology, taxonomy, physiology, biochemistry, toxicology,...) that it hosts .

    Contact information:

    icipe P.O. Box 30772 – 00100 Nairobi, Kenya.

    Name of primary contact:

    Mario Margiotta; Head of capacity building and institutional development.

    City and country:

    Nairobi (Kenya).

    Contact email:


    + 254 (20) 8632503