- Academicians, breeders and administrators inspire students
- Over 40 MaRCCI sponsored and private PhDs and MSc Students took part.
Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) has started orientation of Cohort VI students under the Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) Program.
On Monday, 10th September 2018, over 40 MSc. Plant Breeding and Seed Systems and PhD Plant Breeding students admitted from across the continent converged at the Continuing Agricultural Education Centre (CAEC) at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute (MUARIK) for the three day orientation program.
The function, slated to end on 13th September 2018 attracted prominent academicians from within and outside Uganda, plant breeders and technicians, administrative staff, security and Local Council officials among others
Cohort VI is composed of 40 students from different countries including Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Most are sponsored under MaRCCI while others are privately sponsored.
Student orientation programs are designed to integrate the newly admitted first-year students into the academic, cultural, and social climate of the University.
The orientation provides students with attitudes, knowledge, skills and opportunities that will assist them in making a smooth transition to university or college community thereby allowing them to become engaged and productive community members.
The Director MaRCCI Dr. Richard Edema while addressing the new students stressed that the orientation is part of the culture of Makerere University where admitted students are started on the right footing for them to understand how things are done on top of introducing foreign ones to the country.
“When we do that right, we set students on the right path so that they can plan and organise their life well which increases their success rate, focus and completing on time,
This new cohort with over 50% students being foreign from 13 countries across East, West, North and South, makes the program a pan-African project, “he said.
He explained that out of 200 applicants from all over Africa, only forty (40) were considered competitively.
Edema defended the fact that students have started a bit late saying that international students always need time allowance for proper preparation.
“We gave them three weeks because they hold jobs that make it hard for whoever is admitted to report immediately, given the fact that they need to prepare for travels, “he said.
He gave an example of Rwanda where a student has to get approval from his or her immediate boss, Director of Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from the President’s office, which necessitates more time.
“We need to factor this back into the Makerere system whereby the more we internationalize our programs, the more we need to give space and time to international students because they are special to us, “said Edema.
He expressed happiness about the big number of female applicants who successfully competed against their male counterparts, saying this reduced the need for affirmative action.
“These energized us because we treat our females very well; when they come with their babies we give them the appropriate accommodation, we pay for the air ticket for the babies to come in addition to the mother, insure everybody, in that even when they want to deliver they can do so in the best hospitals like IHK and Nakasero Hospital, “he added.
He applauded the students for turning up for the long awaited orientation. “We are happy to report to the Vice Chancellor, the College Principal, Dean and the heads of department who have been very supportive in selecting the students in a timely manner that we are ready to kick start the process of paying tuition, “he said.
Edema challenged the students to concentrate, saying they benefited from a premier program which is admired by many people not only in Uganda but across Africa and the world.
“Enjoy the study and become scientists of the future that will help feed this continent and the world, this program can make the dreams of Africa come true, “he said.
The students, he said, will undertake key course units like molecular biology, statistics, genetics, social research methods, and population genetics among others, which demonstrate how resistant or nutritious plants can be produced.
Speaking on the need for plant breeders to rise to the challenge of feeding Africa and the world, MaRCCI Deputy Center Director Prof. Paul Gibson said most of the undernourished population resides in Africa hence the need for the continent to produce better cultivars.
Prof. Gibson noted that the World population is estimated to hit more than 9 billion by 2050 with increased meat consumption in emerging economies as the standard of living increases, and yet there is no appreciable change in available crop land, globally worsened by falling water tables and risks in crop production associated with climate change.
Gibson said global crop yields must double by 2050 to meet the projected demand for food while crop production in Africa needs to double between now (2018) and 2035
Prof. Gibson reported that the World outside Africa needs increased Food Production in Africa because of hunger and poverty that lead to political instability. He enumerated other factors such as Humanitarian concerns; Rising world population; Middle-income countries demanding more food, more meat, more dairy products; Land loss to non-agricultural uses and land degradation as reasons for Africa to boost its food production.
“Extremely high production levels of some major producers are unsustainable because of reduced availability, rising cost of inputs, environmental concerns and ecological factors or climate change”, stated the Deputy Director, adding that:
“MaRCCI’s vision is to see the African continent free from hunger, malnutrition, and poverty while our Mission is to contribute to a secure and sustainable future of Africa’s food supply and income generation by encouraging the development of improved varieties.”
He said the MaRCCI strategy entails the provision of effective training, research, and outreach that produce applied knowledge and plant breeders who use the most current approaches to rapidly develop and deploy improved crop varieties that meet stakeholders’ needs and preferences across the region.
He outlined the three pillars of the MaRCCI Program namely; Graduate training in MSc and PhD in Plant Breeding; Research on cowpea and sorghum breeding for drought prone areas, serving as models of modernizing and optimizing breeding pipelines.
The third pillar he said focuses on; Trainings for Skill Enhancement for practicing Scientists and Technicians in Breeding program design, pipeline optimization, management, Biotech/bioinformatics, Seed testing , Experimental design and analysis, Scientific Writing, Electronic data acquisition and management and, Soft skills like leadership/teamwork, communication, critical thinking.
He further explained that the program is expected to produce graduates who have the scientific and practical skills to manage an effective crop improvement program, developed critical thinking and creative problem solving skills sufficient to understand and apply continuing developments in crop breeding approaches.
The expectation from graduates according to the Deputy Director include having sufficient academic background to successfully undertake a PhD at a world class institution, developed broad and strong linkages with other plant breeders in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and beyond and being strongly motivated to contribute to the agricultural development of their own country and SSA.
Prof. Gibson gave an overview of MaRCCI’s history saying it begun in 2008 as Makerere University’s regional PhD and MSc. programme for plant breeders, initiated by RUFORUM to produce Fit-for-Service graduates to meet development needs of the region and Competency-based curriculum based on wide stakeholder input.
Since that time, Gibson noted that the program has been strengthened through expertise available in the region and beyond and was designated a World Bank African Center of Excellence in 2016.
“Virtually all graduates are employed in national crop improvement in their home countries or regional centers.
PhD graduates have become Deans, Heads of Departments. Heads of significant research programs while MSc. graduates have excelled in international-caliber PhD programs.
All graduates have been highly successful and strongly commended in their places of work,” Prof. Gibson explained
Gibson also said this year’s cohort has attracted students from across Africa totaling to 19 PhD’s (15 New, 4 from 2017) and 28 MScs (24 New, 4 from 2017)
He added that MaRCCI Objectives as stated in the ACE 2 Project is to train 70 graduate students from across Africa, Provide in-service training courses targeting a variety of clientele who contribute to crop production needs in the region, Improve curriculum and delivery of MSc and PhD courses and programs, including incorporating material cooperatively developed under the Plant Breeding e-Learning in Africa (PBEA) project and obtain international accreditation for the PhD and MSc programs.
The centre is also expected to: Conduct research relevant to improving varieties for the region; Develop Cowpea and Sorghum improvement programs to serve the needs of farmers and end-users while exemplifying “state-of the art” “best-practices” in plant breeding and involving students in these activities; Improve infrastructure that support MaRCCI (classroom, laboratory, greenhouse, seed storage, office and housing facilities) and Improve efficiency and management of MaRCCI programs by employing additional administrative and teaching personnel.
By 2022, the professor reported that MaRCCI is expected to have enrolled 35 PhD students (15 of these females) and 60 MSc students (25 of them females).
The centre is also expected to have an output of 90 publications in internationally recognized research publications in disciplines supported by the ACE program and regional co-authors and externally generated revenue of US$ 3 million.
The Professor told students that plant breeding is all about the art and science of developing genotypes of plants that better serve the needs of man. He underscored the role of motivation for any successful plant breeder for improved livelihoods citing the bible in Isaiah 58:10-11.
“To really have an impact, you must be highly motivated.
Desire for money and success is not enough to make you a successful scientist that has a real contribution to reducing hunger and poverty.
We must be motivated by something greater and much bigger than ourselves,” The Professor advised.
Prof. Albert Kiteka, a visiting scientist from Zimbabwe who is at Makerere to serve as an instructor emphasised passion as the key to becoming a successful plant breeder. He shared that plant breeding does not happen in one day but takes either one or more than two years which calls for personal commitment to see the product.
He expressed optimism that the students have the talent and energy to take the world where it should be and everyone was looking up to them to succed.
“In a population of one million people we need 100 scientists. In Africa the number of scientists is far below that average expectation.
The world is driven by technology and this is the foundation of development and plant breeders need this”, Kiteka said.
He expressed happiness over working with MaRCCI saying, he looks forward to giving the best of his knowledge and experience to meet the students expectations.
Speaker after speaker including; the College Registrar Mr. Edward Obura, the College Accountant Mrs. Vianney Baguma, Assistant Registrar School of Agricultural Sciences Ms. Hilda Makune, and the LC 1 Chairperson Ssalongo Frank oriented the students into university system.
Students were addressed on number aspects including university policies, general conduct, academics, discipline, security, finance management, health and social aspects among others.
Students were informed about the university processes, requirements and rules for registration as key essentials for recognition of students in the university, fees payment, library access, pass marks and penalties for non compliance with the academic conduct which include suspension and dismissal from the university.
The new students were also cautioned against anti-social behaviour including drunkenness, fighting, involvement in strikes, disrespect of fellow students and staff and to be mindful of their personal and property security.
Story compiled by;
Jane Anyango and Agnes Nankebe Nantambi;
CAES Communication Office
Rotary International President visits Mak
Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta has appreciated Makerere University for supporting and carrying forward the newly introduced programme aimed at advancing peace on the African Continent. Launched in January 2020, the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University runs a postgraduate diploma programme in Peace-building and Conflict Transformation. The hands-on program entails coursework that addresses topics including human rights, governance, and the role of the media in conflict. Other studies focus on refugees and migration, as well as resource and identity-based conflicts.
At a high level meeting held with the University leadership on 15th September 2021 at CTF1, President Shekhar Mehta said Rotary International was proud to be partnering with Makerere to promote peace on the African Continent. “The mere absence of war does not translate into total peace. Besides war, there are many other factors undermining peaceful co-existence. It is our duty to address these issues so as to create harmony in our communities. Through the Rotary Peace Centres across the globe, we are undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at promoting peace. Since 2002, the Rotary Peace Centres have trained more than 1,300 fellows who are working to advance peace in more than 115 countries. We are happy to work with Makerere University to foster peace and development on the African Continent,” he noted. President Shekhar Mehta, who was on a three-day tour of Rotary projects in Uganda, was visiting Makerere for the first time since the University won the bid to host the International Rotary Peace Centre, the first of its kind on the African Continent.
President Shekhar Mehta, who was in company of past and current Governors of Districts 9213 and 9214, said peace was a necessary catalyst for the progress of humanity and general development of nation states across the globe. Elected for the 2021-22 term, President Shekhar Mehta, through his year theme Serve to Change Lives, asks Rotarians to participate in service projects where they can make a difference in their communities and the people who live in them. Since he joined Rotary in 1984 as a member of the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar, West Bengal, India, President Shekhar Mehta has led many major service initiatives in India and South Asia, including among others, constructing 500 homes for Tsunami survivors at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and starting the Shelter Kit programme in India which has served about 20 disasters and benefited about 75,000 disaster victims.
Delivering her remarks, the Chairperson Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara appreciated Rotary International for entrusting Makerere University with the mandate to host the first rotary peace centre on the African Continent. “Choosing to house the Centre at Makerere University shows Rotary International’s trust and confidence in Makerere and her vision for building for the future. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of Rotary International’s agenda. We also sincerely appreciate Rotarians all over the world who have committed funds to support the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University,” she noted. Similarly, she appreciated The Rotary Foundation (TRF) of Canada for setting up an endowment fund for the Peace Centre. “This will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the Peace Centre at Makerere University. The fund will help in the Capstone week where Fellows will present their social initiatives. These initiatives will showcase how the Rotary Peace Centre contributes to positive peace initiatives all over the world.”
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe informed the President that the decision to establish the first Rotary Peace Centre in Africa at Makerere University was welcomed with ‘excitement and gratefulness’. “We consider this to be a vote of confidence in our efforts in the peace and conflict resolution agenda. We extend our appreciation to Rotarians in Uganda and beyond for selflessly supporting this noble cause.” The Vice Chancellor appreciated the leadership of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere, and the Director of the Centre, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala for their tireless efforts in ensuring the centre achieves the intended objective.
By the end of this year, the Centre will have hosted two cohorts of peace fellows. The first cohort was at Makerere University between February and May, 2021. Currently, these Peace fellows are carrying out their peace initiatives in their communities. The second cohort will report on September 27, 2021. In both cohorts, Peace Fellows were chosen from 20 countries and by the end of the year, the Centre will have had a total of 36 Fellows.
Intentionality Key to Nurturing More Women Leaders
The Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD), Makerere University on 14th September 2021 presented findings from phase one of the study on Enhancing Women’s Participation and Visibility in Leadership and Decision-Making Organs of Public Universities in Uganda through Action Research. The study team led by the Director GMD and Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine also consists of Assoc. Prof. Consolata Kabonesa, Dr. Anna Ninsiima, Ms. Frances Nyachwo, Ms. Susan Mbabazi and Mr. Eric Tumwesigye.
The team is also made of coordinators from participating Universities such as Busitema University-Ms. Elizabeth Birabwa, Kabale University-Sr. Dr. Eva Tumusiime, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)-Dr. Specioza Twinamasiko, Muni University-Ms. Amandru Stella Wawa, and Gulu Univeristy-Sr. Rosalba Aciro.
Funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the study was inspired by the fact that women are persistently few in numbers as staff, more so in leadership and decision-making organs of Ugandan Public Universities. “This is despite all the various efforts at national and international levels; the numbers are not growing as fast as needed to meet development goals of the country” explained Dr. Euzobia.
Based on this background, the study team therefore sought to conduct a situational analysis of the gender terrain of the six public universities to obtain baseline information encompassing the composition of governance and leadership organs and senior staff by sex, as well as a needs assessment and profiles of potential mentors and mentees.
Furthermore, the team sought to explore the capacity to conduct gender-responsive research as well as the role of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions within the universities as the drivers of development.
Dr. Mugisha-Baine shared that results of the baseline would then be used to design participatory training manuals or guides on gender and leadership. The manuals would cover; Institutionalized mentorship, How to conduct gender-responsive research, gender and equity budgeting, among others.
“Within these manuals, we shall have a male staff engagement strategy in gender equity interventions in universities” she explained.
The development of the aforementioned materials would then be followed by their adoption and use to build capacity for women not only in leadership of participating and other public university but also beyond. “We shall periodically evaluate whether the capacity we have built has influenced women’s participation in leadership and decision-making organs of the university” supplemented the PI.
The capacity building trainings for women, it is envisaged, will lay the foundation for the formation of a functional Uganda University Women’s Think Tank, starting with the six participating universities. Dr. Mugisha Baine added that through this Think Tank, a monitoring and tracking system for gender representation in recruitment, promotion, retention/turnover and leadership of public universities shall be established and maintained.
At the conclusion of phase one, the study team had drafted participatory training manuals in gender and leadership with content on; gender specific critical analysis of the leadership spectrum of public universities, positioning of individual women within the institutional framework and strategies for their advancement, gender equity advocacy in the university setting, institutional mentorship, building capacity in conducting gender-responsive research, among others.
“This content will be validated by the participating universities before the actual research training is conducted” added the PI.
On behalf of the research team, Dr. Mugisha Baine thanked the Government of Uganda for providing the resources that facilitated phase one of the study and prayed that the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) would support the next phase of capacity building.
Speaking on behalf of the Mak-RIF GMC Chairperson, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dr. Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala thanked and congratulated the team led by the Director GMD upon the milestones registered in the critical research.
“We are very proud of that work that is being done by all researchers in Mak-RIF and we would like to most sincerely thank Management for all the support throughout this process” she remarked.
Dr. Nkabala encouraged the research team to continue disseminating and using the findings for the furtherance of gender mainstreaming, particularly through the aspect of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions.
Prior to delivering the keynote address of the day, the Executive Director National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) Prof. Mary Okwakol thanked the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for inviting her to the important forum, noting that women’s participation in decision making and governance is a priority area of the Uganda Gender Policy 2007.
She commended Makerere University for being at the forefront of gender mainstreaming in Uganda, noting that this prominence was one of the reasons why the Gender in Education Policy 2007 provides for replicating the institution’s strategy in all other Higher Education Institutions.
Prof. Okwakol whose keynote address was punctuated incisive personal examples reaffirmed the statistics that women are generally not visible in leadership of Universities. That notwithstanding, in instances where they rise to leadership and decision-making positions, they are regularly subject to roles traditionally deemed as women’s inconsiderate of their managerial seniority and experience.
She nevertheless rallied the women to play their respective roles in enhancing participation and visibility at a personal level. The following were some of the strategies she proposed; work hard to acquire academic credentials so as to compete favourably with men, acquire necessary administrative training and experience, network among women, join professional networks as well as do research and publish.
On joining professional networks, she shared her personal experience as a young zoologist who joined UNESCO’s Tropical Biology and Fertility Programme. “Within a short time I was appointed Coordinator for Africa and after two years, I was elected as a Member of the International Board of Management. After serving for two years, I became Vice Chairperson of that Board and finally I became Chairperson of that International Board.”
At the institutional level, Prof. Okwakol appealed to the Chairperson Council and Vice Chancellor to proactively recruit women who meet the requirements for leadership positions even if it means actively seeking out the reluctant ones. In this regard, she shared that it would be useful for the university to develop a database of women and their qualifications to ease this process.
She shared that NCHE has in recognition of female underrepresentation at every level in Higher Education approved the establishment of a Gender and Equity Unit with the aim of promoting inclusive gender participation in the sub-sector.
“This unit has been placed under the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Accreditation which implies that as we look out for and regulate quality, gender will be a very important aspect of that regulation” she reassured.
Prof. Okwakol concluded by urging participants to read the; Third National Development Plan (NDPIII), Uganda Vision 2040, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) noting that there is no way all three can be achieved while women are left behind because they each make a case for inclusion of the female gender.
“What we are addressing here are historical injustices” said Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe as he commenced his remarks, “And in the case of Makerere University, it is well known that the institution started as a male-only institution and we all know the original motto was ‘Let us be men’” he added.
Citing examples from history such as; Marie Curie – one of the smartest physicists, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra – prominent Pharaohs of Egypt, George Eliot, Rosa Luxemburg and Hypatia – all great philosophers as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel – first female Chancellor of Germany, the Vice Chancellor said there is no plausible argument that there are things women cannot do as well as their male counterparts.
He said it was against this knowledge and in a bid to correct historical injustices that Makerere University pioneered initiatives such as putting in place affirmative action for girls, establishing a Gender Mainstreaming Directorate as well as a School of Women and Gender Studies. The Vice Chancellor nevertheless stressed the need to go beyond pioneering to protecting these gains through legislation. “Historically we have seen that discrimination can only be addressed by laws and policies.”
Prof. Nawangwe thanked the Government for providing funds to support Mak-RIF as well as the Funds GMC and Secretariat for ensuring that these funds are put to good use. He equally thanked the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara for her not only her support but also sparing time to attend a good number of the research dissemination events.
Delivering the concluding remarks, Mrs. Magara acknowledged that the study was timely and relevant the contemporary University, as one of the critical drivers of the national and international development agenda. She therefore reechoed the Vice Chancellor’s thanks to the Government of Uganda for generously supporting the University’s research through Mak-RIF.
Turning to the keynote speaker she said, “I thank Prof. Okwakol for ardently discussing the critical issues affecting the female gender, the strategies to overcome the challenges, including sharing her inspiring personal experiences.”
Mrs. Magara equally thanked Prof. Okwakol for her very instructional analysis, providing mentorship guidance with the resultant impact of enhancing the female gender in decision-making positions. In the same breath she congratulated the PI and her team upon successfully concluding phase one of the project.
“Phase one has generated insights in understanding the status of women in leadership in public universities, the legal and policy framework and its implications on women’s visibility, the institutional mentoring systems and the gaps therein” she observed.
The Chairperson of Council acknowledged that the challenge of underrepresentation of women in leadership roles cannot be resolved at an individual level. She therefore advocated for broad based strategies that can address deep-seated structural and cultural biases facing women. “These include developing mentorship networks, enacting laws and policies that address the imbalances and providing training programmes to address the leadership gaps.”
She therefore pledged the University Council’s unwavering support to the Gender Mainstreaming Programme by ensuring an enabling policy environment that facilitates gender-responsive teaching, learning, research innovation and community service.
The research dissemination was moderated by the Principal Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ms. Ritah Namisango and the Director Communications, Learning and Knowledge Management, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and PRO Mak-RIF, Ms. Harriet Adong.
Section Editors & Associate Editors Wanted-CABI Agriculture & Biosciences Journal
The CABI Agriculture and Biosciences Journal (CABI A&B) is still in search of both Associate Editors to join the CABI A&B Editorial Board, as well as a Regional Editor-in-Chief to lead for Africa in addition to serving as a Section Editor in the area of either Environmental and SOIL SCIENCE, AGROECOLOGY, OR AQUACULTURE AND FISHERIES. Ideally CABI wants Section Editors (SE) who are prominent members of their research communities, with high-level established positions at a research institution, with a strong, current record of international collaborations and publication, with an H-index of at least 25. For Associate Editors (AE) we hope for researchers who have with established positions at a research institution (e.g., not post-docs or Ph.D. candidates), with a strong growing record of international collaborations and publication (e.g., around 8 publications in the past two years), and have an H-index of at least 15.
Very importantly, CABI hopes for SEs and AEs who are good communicators and are passionate about serving and building the journal to be an outlet for both large and small steps of sound science that will improve the lives and livelihoods of people worldwide.
Please see Downloads for the CABI EDITORIAL DIRECTORY
Interested applicants should email PHILIPPA J. BENSON, PH.D. MANAGING EDITOR | _CABI A&B | P.BENSON[at]CABI.ORG