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Prime Minister Advocates for Value Addition in Uganda’s Agri-business and Nutritional Sector

R-L: Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem, Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut, Hon. Christopher Kibazanga, Dr. Gity Behravan and other officials tour the WFP Exhibition during the 2nd NARO-MAK Conference, 12th November 2018, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala Uganda

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda has emphasized the need to promote post-harvest handling and value addition to boost Uganda’s agri-business and nutritional sector.

This was at the official opening of the 2nd Joint National Agricultural Research Organisation and Makerere University (NARO-MAK) Scientific Conference and the 1st Feed for Future Innovation Lab Nutrition Annual Scientific Symposium on Monday, 12th November 2018. The event is set to run from 12th -15th November 2018 at the Speke Resort Munyonyo.

The Conference and Symposium brought together scientists, policy makers, private sector, innovators, technology developers, entrepreneurs and students to share recent advances in knowledge and technology in agriculture and related sectors Under the theme: “Research for Innovative Agri-Food Systems and Nutrition.”

Dr. Imelda N. Kashaija (R) flanked by Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences-Prof. Bernard Bashaasha (Left) delivers her remarks

“During the four days, we are expected to showcase our work  and learn from the practical experiences of experts from the two great institutions especially in the field of science, technology and innovations for social economic transformation and national development,” said Dr. Imelda N. Kashaija, the Deputy Director General, In charge of Agricultural Technology Promotion; NARO.  In a statement, Dr. Kashaija acknowledged the Chairperson of the Conference Organising Committee, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha-the Principal of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University for providing excellent leadership.

The 2nd Joint NARO-MAK Scientific Conference and the 1st Feed for Future Innovation Lab Nutrition Annual Scientific Symposium was organised by National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and Makerere University (MAK) in partnership with Tufts University.

 In a speech read by the Cabinet Minister in Charge of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut, the Prime Minister said that the agro-business products where value has been added not only enjoy a higher profit margin than basic commodities but also tend to exhibit long-term real-price stability on the market.

Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut represented the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda

“Our sustained promotion of commercial agriculture will be a let-down to the farming community unless it goes hand in hand with the promotion of post-harvest handling and value addition. As His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni constantly states, unless we learn to add value to our produce, we are giving away the much-needed jobs of our young men and women,” he stated.

According to Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, value addition is the only answer to entrenching Uganda’s import-substitution drive and facilitating the attainment of middle-income status by retaining the much needed foreign currency spent on importation.

He therefore commended Makerere University for contributing to import substitution through the Food Technology and Business Incubation Centre (FTBIC). He equally commended National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) for scaling-up and scaling-out demonstrations of proven agricultural technologies to various districts of Uganda through its Research Institutes.

The State Minister for Agriculture Hon. Christopher Kibazanga delivers his speech

On science and knowledge economy as a critical point in sustainable livelihoods, Dr. Rugunda stressed the need to increase the utility of space science, earth observation and geospatial science and technology to detect the early warning signs of disaster to save lives and safeguard the environment for transformative benefits of society.

“Uganda has redirected its strategic position and has now created a full ministry of Science and Technology since July 2016 that will at policy level facilitate a heightened utility of geospatial technology for sustainability. Uganda also has plans to establish a National Remote Sensing Center. All these efforts are part of our strategic direction to transform Uganda into a middle-income country by the year 2021,” the Prime Minister mentioned.  

The State Minister for Agriculture Hon. Christopher Kibazanga noted that adding value to coffee produce and branding the products can be the only way to save the slowly declining quantities of coffee products that are exported.  

The Chairperson Council-Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem (C), Vice Chancellor-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (R) and Principal CAES-Prof. Bernard Bashaasha confer during the Event

He cited the need to integrate ICTs into the Uganda’s agricultural sector. In reference to the conference concept that stated, “Africa’s potential to feed the world is enormous and is poised to drive the global agricultural revolution.” The Minister said that Uganda will not be able to match the trends of the global agricultural revolution unless the Agricultural sector continually integrates ICTs into all stages of value chains.
 
“Our colleagues in the Far East are already realizing the value of employing agricultural drones to spray their vast fields. Colleagues in Europe are utilizing satellite data to detect nutrient deficiency and therefore selectively apply fertilizer, while weather prediction applications are predicting the best times for farmers to plant their crops,” he said.

“ICTs are therefore helping to reduce labour costs, improve crop yields and mitigate climate change associated losses. In Africa, we therefore have the opportunity to leapfrog technology and learn from all our colleagues past experiments to apply the most effective ICTs to our Nation’s agriculture sector,” he added.

The Director General NARO, Dr. Ambrose Agona delivers his address

The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe said that Africa’s potential to feed the world is enormous and is poised to drive the global agricultural revolution. He was however, concerned about the low productivity on the global market due to limited use of productivity-enhancing agricultural technologies and incomplete linkages in the food value chain particularly in the sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Prof. Nawangwe, with poor post-harvest management and health concerns, the question of food safety during post-production becomes pertinent, despite availability of ample quantities of food.

He also noted that Africa’s dire food situation is compounded by a fast growing population, youth unemployment, persistent gender biases, and the effects of a changing climate. In the face of climate change, increased use of agro-chemicals and a general rise in the risks associated with agriculture, institutions must progressively innovate in order to close the gaps in the agri-food system.

The Chaiperson of Council-Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem (R) and Cabinet Minister in Charge of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut (L) at the Conference

“Addressing the ever evolving agri-food systems challenges requires that multi-stakeholder platforms are utilized to channel novel research, technologies, and advocacy efforts to deal with old problems and emerging challenges. Policies and institutional innovations geared towards agricultural rural development and enhancing the efficiency of the agri-food value chain are urgently needed,” he noted.

The Director General of National Agricultural Research Organization Dr. Ambrose Agona said that the world is critically challenged now and in the future in ensuring food security, nutrition security and safety. This is exacerbated by the rapid population growth.

He encouraged the importance of reconciling the new technologies and concerns of the people when he said, “we need to take what is good about innovation and science in food production and put in the service of the society. Not for the profit of a few, but as a way to address the challenges that are ahead of us to feed more with the less, to reconcile increased production with environmental concerns.”

Prof. Vincent Amanor-Boadu delivered a Keynote address on Agri-prenuership and Value Chains as Welfare Safety Nets for Improved Livelihoods in Africa

The first session of the 2nd Joint NARO-MAK Scientific Conference and the 1st Feed for Future Innovation Lab Nutrition Annual Scientific Symposium was chaired by Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem, the Chairperson of Makerere University Council. During the Opening Ceremony, Prof. Vincent Amanor-Boadu delivered a Keynote address on Agri-prenuership and Value Chains as Welfare Safety Nets for Improved Livelihoods in Africa. Discussed by Dr. Jackie Bonabana-Wabbi, the Keynote address stressed the need to profile African farmers as agribusiness people rather than dependants.

Other activities of the day included; Keynote addresses on the respective topics, plenary sessions and an exhibition.

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