Sustainable Agriculture Programme for Africa via Distance Learning (SAPA-DL)

A Pilot Partnership Programme for African Capacity Building and Food Security through Accessible Postgraduate Training

Program Objectives

  1. To provide an accessible route to postgraduate qualifications for African students and agri-professionals
  2. To widen the impact of AU and BU research
  3. To enhance the capacity of Africa agri professionals to critically assess and utilise the latest research findings
  4. To raise the profile of Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities amongst African government, corporations, academia and NGOs
  5. To provide a framework that enables Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities with its local African partners to apply for national, regional and international capacity building, research and knowledge transfer grant and funds to support a scholarship scheme for Africans students.
  6. To provide a credible basis for working Africans (part time and full time) to be able to apply for educational loan packages from partner local banks and financial houses, to support their distance learning ambitions under a flexible and affordable scheme.

To earn a recognized qualification, you can take a selection of modules and build it up to a qualification. See how it works below:

  1. Take any three modules (60 credits) and earn a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert)
  2. Take any six modules (120 credits) and earn a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip)
  3. Take six modules (including Research Methods module) and a small work-based research (60 credits) and earn a Master of Science (MSc).
  4. Take three modules (including Research Methods module) plus a dissertation(120 credits) and warn a Masters by Research (MRes)
  5. Qualify for a Masters by Research (MRes) plus a 20,000-word research project and earn a Professional Doctorate degree (DAg)
Components Parts International Fees Flexy Learn Fees
Distance Learning Modules £1, 363 per module £800 per module
60 Credit Dissertation £3, 271 £1,800
120 Credit Dissertation for MRes and DAg (annual fee) £3,413 £1,950
Professional Doctorate Research (annual fee) £3,413 £1,950
MSc £11,449 £6,600
MRes (if taken over three years) £10,915 £6,300
DAg (if taken over five years) £17,741 £10,200


Blocks of modules are delivered in a rolling programme, with start dates in January, May and September. Each module is flexible and can be take on its own.

MODULE 1: Ruminant Nutrition
You will study the fundamental physiological and microbiological principles underpinning ruminant nutrition. The module will then explain the science which enables the characteristics of meat and
milk to be modified: the design of animal nutrition experiments; ruminant ration formulation and evaluation; nutrient digestion and metabolism; microbial populations and their ecology; and metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and lipids. You will also look at the latest research into reducing the environmental impacts of ruminants through their nutrition.

  • Fundamentals of Ruminant Nutrition — the anatomy and function of the ruminant gut and the metabolic pathways in ruminants of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.
  • Research methods used in ruminant nutrition — starts by looking at the basics of rationing before introducing the different research methods used to understand ruminant nutrition.
  • Ecology of the Rumen — describes and explains what is known about the microbial ecology of the rumen.
  • Managing the Rumen — how to manage the rumen to increase productivity.
  • Altering product composition through nutrition — research into altering meat product composition and dairy product composition through the animal’s nutrition.
  • Feed sourcing and alternative feeds — feed sourcing, feeds from by-products, and feed markets.
  • Home grown feeds — home grown feeds and alternative home grown feeds currently being researched.
  • Nutrition and meeting product quality — how biological research can help the industry meet market demands. How industry and government influence the market.
  • Nutrition and the Environment — environmental issues surrounding ruminant production: how ruminant nutrition can be used to mitigate them.
  • Ruminant Genetics — past and present breeding strategies linked to ruminant nutrition; the potential of genomics to influence animal breeding and nutrition improvement.

MODULE 2: Climate Change
This module will give you a detailed assessment of the current state of knowledge on climate change – the science, its impacts, adaptation and mitigation and, crucially, how it is perceived by the public. After introducing you to the science and the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the module will assess how the climate has changed historically. You will then look at recent predictions of future climatic change and the module will discuss methods which agriculture might use to both adapt to the consequences of, and to mitigate its own effects on climate change.

This module will cover:

  • Introduction to climate change — the science.
  • Historical and predicted future changes — IPCC 5.
  • Impacts of food systems on climate change — emissions from cultivation, fertilizer production and use, deforestation and animal husbandry.
  • Assessing the impacts of climate change on agriculture and land use.
  • Adaptation of global food systems to climate change — industrialized and non-industrialized systems.
  • Evaluating measures to reduce greenhouse emissions from agricultural production — strategic and technical.
  • Climate change in public perception.
  • Current and future drivers of climate change mitigation in agriculture

MODULE 3: Global Ruminant Production
The focus of this module is on how to increase the efficiency of both intensive and extensive ruminant production systems. It draws upon research
within IBERS and elsewhere to cover topics which include: the basics of performance measuring; the latest research on ruminant genetics and how it
can be used to reduce the environmental impact
of production. You will explore the fundamental genetics and physiology that underpin animal production in terms of: reproductive technology; genetic improvement; dairy cattle production systems; meat production systems; meat and milk quality; disease prevention and management.

Contributions from: Prof Nigel Scollan, Tony O’Regan, Dr Christina Marley, Dr Basil Wolf, Dr Mike Rose, Prof Will Haresign, Dr Neil MacKintosh, Professor Kevin Shin eld, Chris Warkup. 

MODULE 4: Global Food Security
This module takes a global perspective on food systems and food security, and aims to equip students with the ability to fully understand global food systems and their role in providing food security, and to be
able to critically assess existing and future pressures and solutions. A range of diverse factors are coming together to affect the global food system, and after describing the various food systems globally, different definitions of food security, and how these are evolving, the module will look at these drivers.

Contributions from: Dr Phil Hollington, Dr Katherine Steele, Dr Neil Mackintosh, Professor Tim Lang (City University) and others.

MODULE 5: Farm Business Management
This module gives students the skills to analyze, carry out and revise farm business plans. The module will look at all aspects of farm planning from the accounts to the physical aspects that anyone dealing with farms should be aware of. The students will be taught how to develop a robust and logical plan, and be given the task of creating a plan of their
own through our unique interactive farm business. The module requires knowledge of Excel and a prerequisite to this module will be the successful completion of an Excel test given during registration. Students with limited knowledge of Excel will be required to complete a short pre-module.

Contributions from: Anthony O’Regan and Penri James. 

MODULE 6: On-farm Feed and Forage
Arable crops are often a key part of pasture-based agriculture, yet their selection and management are likely to be driven by very different requirements than those of intensive arable situations. This module focusses on developing appropriate management approaches to the maintenance and building of soil fertility whilst maximizing livestock productivity, to deliver a system that is both resilient and sustainable. You will explore rotational farming practices in the context of mixed farming systems and examine different crop options and their suitability for different situations and regions, their use in the
feed ration, and crop management approaches.
The environmental and economic implications
of different management practices will also be evaluated in context with current UK and European policy.

Contributions from: Dr Christina Marley, DrIwan Owen, RhunFychan, Dr Joanna Mathews, Dr Dylan Philips, Dr Dave Styles, Prof Mike Christie, Dr Jane Thomas, Ron Stobart, Phil Humphrey, Hamish Mulcock, Nathan Morris. 

MODULE 7: Carbon Foot-printing and Life Cycle Assessment
This module will provide critical insight into the calculation and interpretation of carbon footprints (CF) for livestock production systems. Students will gain detailed understanding of core carbon foot printing methodologies, in particular International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) good practice accounting for greenhouse gas emissions, and wider life cycle assessment (LCA) principles. The module will draw on a range of farm system case studies and will involve hands-on experience with online CF tools.

Contributions from: Dr Dave Styles, Prof Dave Chadwick, Prof Jamie Newbold, Phil Humphrey, Prof Mike Christie, Campbell Skinner. 

MODULE 8: Silage Science
This module will develop your knowledge of modern forage and grain ensilage systems, giving you the skills to integrate recent research into your work.
It will examine: silage evaluation; fermentation; microbiology; inoculant development; pathogen transfer; and food safety. Although its focus will be on pasture-based systems, processes for grain and non-arable crops will be described and evaluated.

Contributions from: RhunFychan, Dr Dylan Philips, Prof Jamie Newbold, DrIwan Owen, Dr Sue Lister, Dr Graham Brand, Helen Mathieu, Andy Strzelecki, Dr Sharon Huws. 

MODULE 9: Ruminant Gut Microbiology
This module will explore the fundamental research that is developing our understanding of the anatomy and environmental conditions of the rumen, covering the negative and positive effects of rumen digestion on productivity. You will explore the function and importance in the rumen of bacteria, protozoa,
fungi and archaea. The study area will investigate both traditional culture-based and modern molecular-based methods used to investigate
rumen microbiology, together with a review of ways of manipulating rumen fermentation to improve productivity whilst decreasing the environmental footprint of ruminant agriculture.

Contributions from: Prof Jamie Newbold, Dr Eli Saetnan, Dr Kenton Hart, Dr Alejandro Belanche, Dr Toby Wilkinson, Dr Eric Pinloche, Dr Eva Ramos, Dr Gabriel de la Fuente. 

MODULE 10: Genetics and Genomics in Agriculture
This module is designed to give those with little understanding of genetics a practical knowledge
of the principles and technologies that underpin breeding programmes. It will focus on the challenges facing land-based production in the 21st century and on the role of emerging technologies
in meeting these challenges sustainably. After initially detailing the broad objectives and methods involved in breeding programmes it will allow
you to follow a specific crop or animal breeding pathway. It will give you an understanding of the methodologies applied in molecular and population genetics as well as in related disciplines such as proteomics and metabolomics, allowing you to conceptualize and apply these concepts to further agricultural production.

Contributions from: Prof Chris Pollock, Dr Basil Wolf, Dr Dylan Phillips, Dr Paul Robson, Dr Matt Hegarty, Dr Glyn Jenkins, Dr Joanna Matthews. 

MODULE 11: Resource Efficient Farm Management
Drawing on life-cycle assessment expertise at
Bangor University and a wide range of best practice guidance and decision support tools for the farming sector, this module will apply a systems approach to evaluate the resource efficiency effects of specific
farm management practices. The module will provide detailed insight into how management practices in influence production efficiency at the process, farm and product level. Students will be guided through practical exercises using a range of decision support tools to validate priority management practices for pasture-based farms – highlighting effective options to maximize resource efficiency and productivity, and to minimize environmental impact.

Contributions from: Dr Dave Styles, Prof Dave Chadwick, Prof Kevin Shingeld, DrIwan Owen, Dr Neil MacKintosh, Campbell Skinner, Jack Sagar. 

MODULE 12: On-farm Anaerobic Digestion
Anaerobic Digestion (AD) of crops and waste is an important technology to improve the sustainability of the food production, energy and waste management. AD can be used to produce renewable energy, while the remaining digestates can act as a bio-fertilizer. The focus of the module is on the use of farm-scale AD to treat wastes, manures and crops. The module covers technical aspects of AD, but focusses on environmental and economic sustainability of different AD deployment options, including: choice of feedstock; alternative uses of biomethane and digestate; and indirect consequences of AD on
food production; waste management and energy generation. Pertinent policies, regulations, and planning issues driving and constraining AD are considered. The application of AD in industrialized and industrializing countries will be explored.

Contributions from: Dr Dave Styles, DrPrysor Williams, Prof Dave Chadwick, Jonathan Letcher, Michael Chesshire. 

MODULE 13: Small-holder Agriculture
Smallholder agriculture is arguably crucial to feeding the world, although in many regions farm size and the availability of suitable technology severely constrain this. This module assesses the role of small-scale producers in future food production
and discusses how research into new sustainable technologies could help them and their communities survive under conditions of global change. After an outline of smallholder agriculture around the world, the module focuses on new research to improve small scale food production. This is a new module which will run from January 2017: the course content may change slightly.

Contributions from: Dr Phil Hollington, Dr Sarah Watson-Jones and others. 

MODULE 14: Agriculture and Society
Truly sustainable and efficient food production requires that the three pillars of sustainable development, economy, society and culture, and environment, are considered together. Topics will include food systems and supply chains; social concerns and ethics; controversies such as organic versus conventional farming and the development of GMOs; the conflicts between production, market, environment and culture; and future challenges around such things as climate change and resource competition. It will provide farmers and agri-food businesses, NGOs and government agencies an insight into current perspectives on ethical issues surrounding food production at the local, regional and global scale.

Contributions from: Dr Phil Hollington, Prof Dave Chadwick, Prof John Witcombe, Dr Dave Styles, Dr Neil MacKintosh. 

MODULE 15: Soil Management
This module will draw on the expertise of Bangor University and NIAB to provide both a practical
and a theoretical overview of soil management. Sustainable soil management is reviewed in relation to increasing food production efficiency whilst limiting environmental impacts and a decline in soil quality and services. The dynamic function of the soil system will be explored, including ecosystem services, nutrient budgets, carbon cycling, greenhouse gases and mitigation.

Contributions from: Prof Paul Withers, Dr Dave Styles, Prof Dave Chadwick, Ron Stobart (NIAB). 

MODULE 16: Agro-Ecosystem Services Management”]This module will draw on the expertise of Bangor University and NIAB to provide both a practical
and a theoretical overview of soil management. Sustainable soil management is reviewed in relation to increasing food production efficiency whilst limiting environmental impacts and a decline in soil quality and services. The dynamic function of the soil system will be explored, including ecosystem services, nutrient budgets, carbon cycling, greenhouse gases and mitigation.

Contributions from: Dr Dave Styles, Dr Tim Pagella, Dr Dave Harris, Dr Phil Hollington, Prof Davey Jones, Prof Mike Christie. 

MODULE 17: Water and Agriculture
Water shortage and water quality issues are increasingly affecting agricultural production worldwide, and problems will increase with
climate change and increasing populations. This module takes a global perspective, and aims to equip students with the ability to fully understand the role of water in agricultural production, and
to critically assess existing and future pressures
and solutions. After describing the basics of crop- water relationships, the module will address the pressures caused by water shortages and water quality issues, and the interactions between them. Topics covered will include irrigation and drainage, food prevention, rainwater harvesting, water and livestock, and salinity, and will cover a wide range of agricultural systems. After an assessment of trends, we will look at how existing and future technologies might be used to sustain production, and at how the governance of irrigation systems could play a part.

Contributions from: Dr Phil Hollington, Dr Katherine Steele, Dr Tim Pagella and others. 

MODULE 18: Ruminant Health and Welfare
This course draws on the expertise of Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College, Wales. The first half of this module will cover the general legislation and management of ruminant health and welfare across the three sectors of dairy, beef and sheep. The second half will offer you the choice of which of these sectors you will be assessed on. Depending on which sector you choose you will cover the latest research on those diseases of most concern and will look at how welfare is measured and could be improved in that sector.

Contributions from: Dr Neil MacKintosh, Dr Mike Rose, Dr Ian Chalmers, Dr Russ Morphew, Dr Neil Paton (Welsh Regional Veterinary Centre), Hannah Bishop (Welsh Regional Veterinary Centre), Hazel Wright (Farmer’s Union of Wales), Prof Christoph Winkler (BOKU, Vienna), Fiona Lovatt (Flock Health Ltd), Professor David Main (University of Bristol). 

MODULE 19: Research Methods
This module runs all year and is compulsory for anyone who will be undertaking a work-based research project. It can be taken any time before you start your dissertation; you will be registered on this module at either Aberystwyth or Bangor University, depending on your preferred research area. It is therefore essential that you discuss your research ideas with the ATP as soon as possible in order to decide which university’s version you should register for.

This module will provide a framework for developing your research skills in the context of your own research question. The ATP will match you up to an ATP tutor and an academic supervisor whose research field is in your area of interest. Your ATP tutor and academic supervisor will then guide you as you develop your ideas.

Alongside evolving your own research ideas, you will develop skills in:

  • Research design
  • Scientific literature reviews
  • Looking at the wider context of your research
  • Ethical considerations in research
  • Statistics
  • Evaluating and planning data collection
  • When to use qualitative, quantitative and/or spatial analytical approaches

The module will culminate with you designing a research proposal, in collaboration with your employer and supervisor, which you can use as the basis of your dissertation or thesis.

MODULE 20: Plant Breeding

Duration: 14 Weeks | Certificate: Aberystwyth University | Start date: January 2017 | Delivery: Online | Fee – £200

This 14 week distance learning module is designed to give those with an interest in plant breeding a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to bring a variety from a concept to market. Featured crops include: beans, peas, oats, ryegrass, clover and energy crops. We will consider all aspects of what makes a commercial plant breeding program successful. Real datasets will demonstrate the challenges a breeder faces when making selections. Students will undertake case studies to look in depth at the process of breeding a crop of their choice.

Topics covered will include:

  • Plant reproductive biology
  • Control of pollination and uses in breeding
  • Breeding systems for self and cross-pollinated plant species
  • Trait measurement and selection methods
  • Agricultural experimentation and trial design
  • Defining breeding objectives
  • Variety legislation and commercialization
  • Marker-assisted and genome wide selection
  • Utilising diversity, mutant and biotechnology in breeding