Agro ecosystems are “natural ecosystems that have been modified to produce food and fiber while they retain many of the characteristics of natural ecosystems” (Hodgson, 2012). However, such systems are increasingly vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods and droughts which hamper agricultural production and result in huge economic losses. Given this challenge, the country aims to develop knowledge-based strategies, in which Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) would have to bear much responsibility through profound research programmes. Therefore, Building Resilience in Tropical Agro-Ecosystems (BRITAE) plans to guarantee that all targeted HEIs have the research and innovative capacities to tackle the challenges associated with building resilience in tropical agro-ecosystems. While evaluating agro-ecosystem based resilience in HEIs, strategies and frameworks will be developed to enhance the capacity for disaster risk reduction in the country. The project will span over three years (2020 – 2023) and is funded by a prestigious international research grant (Ref. No. 610012-EPP- 1-2019-1-LK-EPPKA2-CBHE-JP) under the grant scheme of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (Erasmus+: Higher Education – International Capacity Building – Joint Projects) of the European Union.
The objectives of the project are:
- To understand the knowledge gaps in agro-ecosystem based resilience through a comprehensive survey framework by assessing the knowledge gaps, resources and capacities of current agro-ecosystem based resilience for joint curriculum development.
- To develop a joint innovative and adaptive MSc curriculum on tropical agro-ecosystem based resilience aiming at food security and climate change impacts.
- To develop a Smart Agro-ecosystem based resilience center for teaching, learning, research, and development.
- To develop and implement an online student service platform by blending European practices in education from participating EU universities to program country universities.
- To implement a Master’s degree programme in Building Resilience in Tropical Agro- ecosystems.
- To prepare academic and administrative staff in the HEIs to undertake advanced, world-class and innovative, multi- and inter-disciplinary research that will contribute to increased ecological resilience to disasters.
- To increase international cooperation by partner HEIs on research programmes that tackle ways to increase societal resilience to disasters.
- To reinforce educational and scientific networking among EU and Sri Lankan universities in the BRITAE project.
- To disseminate the project progress, successes and outcomes as far as possible and raise awareness about capacity building in higher education for agro-ecosystem resilience.
A series of professional development workshops have been organized as outputs of the BRITAE project. These will be held for both academics and administrative staff of each local partner university. The first workshop will be held on 14th May 2021. The following topics will be covered:
- Effective proposal writing and acquiring foreign funded research projects
- Online teaching, learning and evaluation procedures in MOOCs
- Development of the interpersonal, intrapersonal, and institutional research skills
- Research solicitation and communication skills
- European best practices for university-Industry Collaboration
- Quality Assessment and Accreditation of foreign funded projects
- Innovation, Commercialization and Intellectual Property Rights