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CAES Acquires US$9k Video Conferencing Facility Under USAID Capacity Building Project

Mak's Head-DANRE, Dr. Gabriel Elepu (L) receives keys to the Video Conferencing Facility from Prof. Allen Featherstone (C) and Dr. Simon Byabagambi (L) on 16th November 2018, CAES, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. The US$9k Facility was donated under a USAID Capacity Building Project

A video conferencing facility worth US$9,148 has been installed at the School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) under the USAID Capacity Building project titled, “Upgrading the institutional capacity of the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics (DANRE)”.

The facility was handed over by Prof. Allen Featherstone to the Head, DANRE Dr. Gabriel Elepu on 16th November, 2018. Also present were Prof. Vincent Amanor-Boadu (KSU), Dr. Cosas Guvule, Dr. Simon Byabagambi and staff from Makerere University. KSU is an abbreviation for Kansas State University-USA.

The major components of the system are the codec, camera, microphone array, network and power connections, air conditioning, wireless ports, dimmer lights, security system, projector and screen.

Prof. Vincent Amanor-Boadu (L) speaks at the facility handover. Right is Prof. Allen Featherstone

“This technology will make work, communication and collaboration easier,” Prof. Allen Featherstone said.

Receiving the facility, Dr. Gabriel Elepu thanked the USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs for funding the DANRE/KSU Project at Makerere University. He applauded Kansas State University for accepting to partner with DANRE.

USAID’s Dr. Simon Byabagambi said DANRE and KSU need to interact at least weekly.

Dr. Simon Byabagambi speaks during the handover ceremony

“The technology will allow body language to be visible as well. We shall upscale this pilot study with time but before that, it needs to be used effectively to achieve its goals. We need to find out agencies which have a similar facility and hence strengthen interaction and collaboration with them”, Byabagambi said.

Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Programmes Coordinator, DANRE, Dr. Jackie Bonabana-Wabbi welcomed the initiative saying, it will address the challenge of poor communication systems often affected by intermittent connectivity.

“The facility will increase communication and collaborations between Mak- DANRE and KSU, enhance teaching and research experience. With time, we may levy a small fee for non-DANRE  members to take care of maintenance of the facility.’’ Dr. Bonabaana said.

L-R: Dr. Simon Byabagambi, Prof. Theodorah Hyuha and Dr. Jackie Bonabana-Wabbi listen to proceedings during the handover ceremony

She further said the target users of the facility are students, staff of DANRE and researchers who wish to collaborate with DANRE but because of distance, are not able to link up directly.

About Mak-DANRE/KSU Collaboration

In May 2018 over 40 Directors from USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs visited Makerere University Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics (DANRE) to assess the progress of the DANRE/KSU project on Up-Grading and Enhancing the Institutional Capacity of the Department. The team was impressed with the DANRE/KSU project’s progress.

From 12th to 15th November, 2018 the 2nd Joint NARO-Mak Joint Scientific conference & 1st Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition Annual Scientific Symposium was successfully held at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala where the USAID and KSU played a big role as major sponsors with experts giving key note speeches on food and nutritional security.

The DANRE/KSU Project concept was developed in 2011. Virginia Tech carried out the initial DANRE scoping study in 2014, followed by the DANRE Capacity Building Proposal submitted to USAID in 2015. A four-year project was approved. Michigan State University and the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) program were brought on board in 2015. BHEARD released an RFA to network universities in 2016. Six applications were received and reviewed, and three applications were selected for further evaluation. KSU was selected to implement the project.

Dr. Peter Walekwa and Mr. Brian Ogwenrwoth at the facility hand over

With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Makerere University Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics (DANRE) partnered with Kansas State University (KSU) Department of Agricultural Economics to implement the objectives of the project.

The specific objectives of the project are:

1.    To restructure and review the curricula structure of two postgraduate and undergraduate Programs including development of a taught PhD program;
2.    To strengthen DANRE’s unit for agricultural research and analysis
3.    Up-grade communication and instruction methods available to staff members.

The project focused on development of a strategic Plan on Up-Grading and Enhancing the Institutional Capacity of the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics, improving the Department’s educational program and teaching capacity as well as enhancing its grantsmanship.

The dimming lights and other amenities in the Video Conferencing Facility, DANRE, CAES, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

The program approaches and strategies centered on quality enhancement and assurance in teaching, research & outreach. The program also considered establishing a value system based on excellence, efficiency, empathy, integrity and accountability.

The program is also looking at the Multidisciplinary approach of engaging persons from other academic disciplines and backgrounds to contribute towards its cause. It will also lobby the top university leadership to gain access to university resources and facilities as well as engaging in Networking and building strategic relationships and partnerships with industry and other relevant stakeholders.

So far, three (3) PhD students have been placed at KSU. A strategic plan for DANRE was drafted and finalized. A Colloquium on Trading in Global Agricultural Economy (Coffee GVC) was also successfully organised. A Collaboration Draft taught PhD curriculum and other curricula (PGD, BSc. AAE, MSc NR&E) is ongoing.  Call for small grants proposals have been done with the exchange visits of administrators and faculty members going on.

Report compiled by;
Jane Anyango
Principal Communication Officer, CAES.


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