Illinois in Sierra Leone

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History of Njala and Illinois

Njala University in Sierra Leone has long-standing ties with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  In 1963, the government of Sierra Leone and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assessed the needs of Sierra Leone in agriculture and education. On the basis of their recommendations, the government established Njala University College in the mold of an American Land Grant University. Technical assistance was provided by USAID, with the University of Illinois as the implementing partner. Faculty from the College of ACES taught at Njala during its formative years of and several graduates of Njala came to Urbana-Champaign to pursue graduate degrees. Njala University College was displaced from its rural setting to urban Freetown in 1994, during the Sierra Leonean civil war, when rebels attacked the campus destroying much of the physical facilities. Subsequently all faculties operated temporarily in Freetown until it became Njala University in 2005. The university has made tremendous strides in its rebuilding initiatives since its return to the Moyamba District campus.

Since 2009, Njala and University of Illinois have re-established their academic partnership through number of joint activities. Together Njala University and the University of Illinois have cooperated on delivering six workshops covering topics such as: nutrition and food security, food processing and nutrition, agribusiness, agricultural extension approaches and sustainability. Illinois faculty and staff have presented at these workshops, providing practical training for Njala faculty, students and local development practitioners. Along with the workshops there have been research seminars at Njala University, which provides a platform for faculty and graduate students from both institutions an opportunity to present findings on their latest research projects.

The partnership between UIUC and Njala has also been a platform for meaningful engagement for UIUC students. Dr. Paul McNamara of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics leads a Winter Break Study Tour (ACE 499-SL) which travels to Sierra Leone. The Spring semiester of 2013 saw the launch of the International Development and Agribusiness Program (IDAP), a semester abroad at Njala University. In this program, UIUC students worked together with a cohort Njala students as peers. In addition to the IDAP students may also study in the Global Health and Nutrition Program. Find more information about studying abroad in Sierra Leone HERE.