About INSSPIRE Project

Challenge & Motivation

Under the banner of ‘Innovation for Sustainability and Societal relevance: Partnerships in evidence-based higher education on food systems and climate change [INSSPIRE],’ we confront one of our era’s most daunting challenges. Climate change is one of the greatest threats for the future of our planet. The effects are increasingly evident in different sectors and regions worldwide, but particularly for food systems in Africa the impact of climate change is already significant. Food systems in Africa have been growing rapidly, largely driven by population growth, and increasing urbanization. The growth, however, has been mostly in an unsustainable manner, with negative consequences for both the environment and human health. Therefore, there is an urgent need to strengthen the sustainability of Africa’s food systems and adapt them to climate change.

Higher education plays a vital role in equipping future leaders with the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to strengthen the sustainability of Africa’s food systems. Through interdisciplinary and evidence-based learning, higher education institutions can contribute by delivering graduates who are able to address real-life sustainability challenges. By collaborating with different stakeholders and promoting research and innovation, higher education can help to strengthen the sustainability of Africa’s food systems and adapt them to the challenges of climate change.

INSSPIRE ambition

INSSPIRE stimulates evidence-based inclusive education for sustainable development through building intra-university capacity, strengthening the university-community collaboration, and enhancing inter-university partnerships. It aims to develop the higher education staff capacity for the delivery of courses and modules on food systems and climate change and to equip students with skills and real-life experiences for transformation of food systems and their future labour market success. 


Key aim of the INSSPIRE project is to stimulate evidence-based inclusive education for food systems and climate change through following specific objectives:


Building intra-university capacity at programme/course and institutional level in four partner universities in
Kenya and Uganda.


Strengthening university-community collaboration to ensure societal relevance of curricula on
food systems and climate change.


Enhancing inter-university partnerships through South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC). Developing and exchanging innovative teaching & learning approaches for sustainable development.

Enriching the existing curricula

The project works towards enriching the existing curricula with modules on food systems and climate change. Examples of curricula that benefit from such modules include agriculture and livelihoods; economics and business; water and natural resources; sociology and anthropology; and environmental sciences. The key objective is to assure that graduates have the necessary competences to take on different leadership roles in the transformation of food systems and adjustment to climate change, thus contributing to sustainable growth in their country.

Capacity Building of Teachers

Staff capacity at partner universities in Kenya and Uganda are built through curriculum enrichment trainings and workshops. Participating staff also receive trainings on teaching and learning methodologies (e.g., transdisciplinary approach, co-creation, and reflexive monitoring in action) and on soft skills development through games. An estimated 20 teaching staff will acquire capacity in the above-mentioned areas and will facilitate Training of Trainers, thus activating a multiplier effect. The aim is to develop the capacity of 20 teaching staff in respective areas; and to furthermore strengthen the capacity of 100 lecturers for the delivery of modules on food systems and climate change.

Real-life Learning Labs

The Real-life Learning Lab (RLLL) is an experiential and problem-based learning and teaching approach where interdisciplinary groups of students work on real-life research and development projects that are practically oriented and demand-driven, i.e., addressing relevant needs of agriculture, industry, and society at large. The process presents an ideal combination of knowledge and experience sharing between higher education and societal actors. Collaborative identification, exploration and framing of real-life problems, together with Inter- and trans-disciplinary research are at the core of established RLLLs. Students define their research questions in alignment with the needs of the societal actors affected by the challenge at hand and pay specific attention to vulnerable groups in society. The joint analysis of the problem and potential solutions intrinsically motivates the non-academic actors, whose perspective is brought fully on board. Being faced with real-life challenges and different perspectives, students develop competences and skills valued in the labour market.

Inclusive Collaborative Online International Learning

COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) is a teaching and learning methodology that connects a class of one university with another in a different region, country or setting. It facilitates the internationalization of curriculum strategies of partner universities in Kenya and Uganda. Teachers can complement the online work with in-classroom tasks or in a blended format. Flexibility in online collaboration is key and it occurs synchronously through video conferencing and live chats, or asynchronously, using discussion boards, shared documents, and email exchanges. The “inclusiveness” entails paying explicit attention to gender and inclusivity in the student selection procedures and in learning materials.

South-South and Triangular Cooperation

The INSSPIRE project builds ties between African and European universities, focusing on knowledge sharing and innovation in food systems and climate change. It’s part of a larger initiative, the South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC), led by VU Amsterdam and supported by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Our goal is to learn from our project results, fostering collaboration and innovation. This happens in our Community of Practice (CoP), where we work to make our education as evidence-based as possible. We’re collaborating with African universities from countries like Benin, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda, who help refine the project and offer regional insights.
To maximise the peer-learning and peer review process within the SSTC network, VU Amsterdam, in collaboration with the involved HEIs from the Global South and the Global North, will seek opportunities for (online and/or face-to-face) events such as trainings, workshops or regional meetings.