Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences are ever more challenged in delivering high quality outcomes in their core missions of education, research and innovation in support of sustainable development in the rural economy. Here the phrase “University of Agriculture” is taken in the broadest sense to include, for instance, such disciplines as Forestry, Food Science and Technology, and Water Resource Management.
Through their various disciplines the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences provide the main actors for the rural areas worldwide with the expertise to address the new economic, societal and environmental challenges with regard to sustainable rural development: technological innovation, economic development, food security, food safety, rural depopulation, bio-renewable resource use, climate change, biodiversity, and the protection of natural resources.
The universities’ mission, in part, is to educate and train their graduates to have the expertise to become the strategic actors of development in their areas of influence. They are the future entrepreneurs who will drive innovation in the rural environment.
Universities should pro-actively contribute towards creating a better future in the rural economy. They can be major players in long term innovation initiatives through partnerships between the Universities and the rural economy. These partnerships aid the transfer of knowledge and technology, and implement relevant research and innovation programmes that promote added value in the rural environment to address societal expectations.
Such partnerships are most likely to develop where a university responds to local challenges. This approach is valuable regardless of the country’s level of development. All universities worldwide need to act in support of the challenges and opportunities in their immediate rural economy. By concentrating on those aspects, the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences will surely ensure that the next generations of leaders and entrepreneurs in their disciplines have the expertise and motivation to respond to the challenges of change in the rural economies.
This conference addressed experience of innovative developments taking place in universities worldwide and path-breaking critiques, in both developing and developed economies, with regard to the:
- roles of Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences in sustainable rural development at scientific, educational, societal and economic levels,
- development of new partnerships between the Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the local level in relation to local economic development, and with regional and global organisations which support sustainable rural development, and
- positioning, organisation and management of Universities of Agriculture and Life Sciences in achieving these roles, at local, regional and global levels.