The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has injected US$565,026 (approx UGX2.1bn) into Makerere University’s Regional Centre for Crop improvement (MaRCCI) to promote cassava breeding in addition to similar efforts in cowpea and sorghum. The funds will be channeled through the Cornell University under the next generation cassava project.
Dr. Richard Edema the Director MaRCCI confirmed this and said that the funds are part of the second phase of funding to MaRCCI from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We are putting this money into training five students; three of them are Masters Students from Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania while two of them are PhDs both from Tanzania.
These funds are in support of the MaRRCI regional training programme because we have been trying to raise funds from all corners.
We initially got the funds from the World Bank to set up this centre at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) and admitted 45 students at Masters and PhD level, all fully funded, “he added.
He explained that the five students will be trained in collaboration with the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) Namulonge Cassava program, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria and the Ministry of Agriculture, Tanzania.
“The five students are part of the junior staff in these institutions and they are in need of further training to support their programs back home but overall, the next generation cassava program goal is to improve cassava breeding in Africa, “he said.
He observed that despite its importance in Uganda, cassava has been one of the crops that have been very difficult to breed due to a variety of problems surrounding it, noting that lately it has suffered from a lot of viruses.
“We grow is for its root and 2/3 of the people from Northern Uganda eat it. It used to be a small crop but now it is becoming an industrial crop, a raw material for beer, on top of being a source of starch under which a starch industry can be supported, “he said.
Additionally, Dr. Edema noted that cassava can also serve as a source of starch when making chicken feeds. He emphasised that if the breeding programme can improve cassava’s starch quality and protect it from viruses and diseases, then overall, its productivity can be improved.
He stated that cassava can thrive in semi-arid conditions where other crops fail, hence making it an important crop in which money can be invested.
For that reason therefore, Edema stated that through the next generation cassava project, scientists are helping to build human capacity that will trickle down to improvement in the three countries of Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria.
“We did this before, where nine students from the same countries trained, and this is additional money to the centre of excellence to continue doing the same work.
We are proud that many of these students would go to Europe for their PhDs but this funding means that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Cornell University recognise the quality of education that comes from the Makerere University graduate program, mostly from the Master of Science in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems and the PhD in Plant Breeding and Bio-technology, “he said.
He applauded the Gates Foundation for the funds extended to MaRCCI saying it will make Makerere contribute towards the development of Cassava improvement in Africa.
The support, he revealed, is part of the total funding to Cornell University amounting to about US$35m, with Tanzania being a new entrant. The original institutions were Cornell University, Makerere University, NaCRRI and National Root Crops Research Institute Umudike, Nigeria.
“This funding has been supporting infrastructure, research and training. We are therefore very proud that they are recognizing the quality of our education. However, despite the importance of cassava for food security on the African continent, it has received relatively little research and development attention compared to other staples such as wheat, rice and maize. The key to unlocking the full potential of cassava lies largely in bringing cassava breeding into the 21st century, “explained Edema.
According to him, ensuring the future of cassava breeding will require training young scientists to excel. “We are proud of NextGen’s new graduates and we are excited to see their contributions to research in the years to come, “he added.
Brief about cassava
Cassava (Manihot esculenta), a major staple crop, is the main source of calories for 500 million people across the globe. No other continent depends on cassava to feed as many people as does Africa. Cassava is indispensable to food security in Africa. It is a widely preferred and consumed staple, as well as a hardy crop that can be stored in the ground as a fall-back source of food that can save lives in times of famine.
Story compiled by Agnes Nankebe Nantambi,
For Communication Office, CAES
Veteran Professor changed Makerere and Higher Education
When Professor John Ssebuwufu ambled up to receive a certificate of recognition for his ‘exceptional’ contribution to higher education from the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) at Makerere University (MU), he was thinking of many things, such as rewarding staff, that he could have done differently to impact university education more.
But he did what he could have done, under the circumstances.
He presided over MU (in 1993) when student enrolment was 5,000 and left in 2004 when the population was surging to more than 15,000.
He emphasised the use of information communication technologies in almost all the institutions he had been involved in and sent many academic staff on exchanges to boost research and innovation. Now, more African universities engage in ground-breaking research.
So, he proceeded to accept his recognition and make his acceptance speech, which was mostly about gratitude.
Ssebuwufu, 74, who is currently the chancellor at Kyambogo University and the vice-chancellor of the University of Kisubi, is credited for his exemplary leadership and pragmatic methods that have shaped higher education in Uganda and Africa as a whole.
Japan Africa Dream Scholarship (JADS) Program 2021/2022
The Japan Africa Dream Scholarship (JADS) Program is a capacity building project by the AfDB and Japan which was initiated in 2017 with the aim of providing two-year scholarship awards to highly achieving African graduate students to enable them to undergo post-graduate studies (i.e. a two-year Master’s degree program) in selected priority development areas on the continent and Japan. The overarching goal the AfDB and the Government of Japan seek to attain is to enhance skills and human resources development in Africa in under the Bank’s High 5s agenda (i.e. “Feed Africa”, “Light up Africa”, “Industrialize Africa”, “Integrate Africa” and “Improve the quality of life of the people of Africa”) and key Japanese development assistance initiatives. JADS core areas of study focus include energy, agriculture, health, environmental sustainability, and engineering. The program also seeks to promote inter-university collaboration and university-industry partnerships between Japan and Africa. Upon completion of their studies, the JADS scholars are expected to return to their home countries to apply and disseminate their newly acquired knowledge and skills in the public and private sectors, and contribute to national and continental socio-economic development.
About the JADS program
The JADS Program is open to applicants from AfDB member countries with relevant professional experience and a history of supporting their countries’ development efforts who are applying to a graduate degree program in energy development and related discipline. The program does not provide scholarships to any other graduate degree program.
The scholarship program provides tuition, a monthly living stipend, round-trip airfare, health insurance, and travel allowance.
Upon completion of their studies, the beneficiary scholars are expected to return to their home countries to apply and disseminate their newly acquired knowledge and skills, and contribute to the promotion of sustainable development of their countries.
Who is Eligible to Apply?
The program is open to those who have gained admission to an approved Masters degree course at a Japanese partner university. Candidates should be 35 years old or younger; in good health; with a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in the energy area or related area; and have a superior academic record. Upon completion of their study programs, scholars are expected to return to their home country to contribute to its economic and social development.
- Applicant requests for information and application forms and procedures from the chosen JADS partner university. For any inquiries, please contact JADS@AFDB.ORG
- Applicant completes required documents and sends them to the university.
- University evaluates and selects applicants.
- University sends selected candidates to the AfDB.
- AfDB reviews submissions from universities, prepares and approves the final list.
- AfDB contacts selected awardees, and informs the universities.
WHS Regional Meeting Africa 2021: Finance Chairperson’s Update
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