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Annual Advisory Board Meeting Commends MaRCCI Progress and Initiatives

  • In General
  • 27 Mar 2019 - 6:24pm
  • By Mark Wamai
  • 1,149
The Chair MaRCCI Advisory Board, Dr. Yona Baguma (Rear 4th Right) and Principal CAES, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha (Rear 5th Right) with MaRCCI Director, Dr. Edema Richard (Front Right), Members of the Advisory Board and other participants after a Board Session on 13th March 2019, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala Uganda

A committee of the Advisory Board constituted of nine eminent scientists and business people from various institutions in and outside Africa and the US including some of eminent Private sector companies from 11th to 15th March 2019 converged at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala Uganda to assess the annual progress recorded by the Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI).

The committee which is appointed by the Vice Chancellor for a two-year term routinely sits to follow up progress with centre activities.

This year, the major advisory Board activities included; Curriculum planning/review, Informatory session and presentations on MaRCCI progress, Private sessions, Meeting with the University Management, a visit to the MaRCCI home and touring the facilities at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK).

The Chair MaRCCI Advisory Board, Dr. Yona Baguma (Right) and Principal CAES, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha (Left) share a light moment on the sidelines of the Annual Advisory Board Meeting, 13th March 2019, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala Uganda

The Centre Director Dr. Richard Edema said, in the four days, they were presenting what the centre was able to do to in one year, challenges faced and some of the issues where they needed to adjust. This was to help the Advisory Board better understand how the centre was doing and give appropriate advice.

“They have listened to our presentations in terms of what we do in training, research, staffing, financials, our level of integration and institutionalization and internal issues.
They also had an opportunity to interface with the Vice Chancellor (VC). They are happy with the progress and willing to keep going and to be associated with MaRCCI.

The Board also presented its report on MaRCCI to the VC, detailing the accomplishments strengths and some of the areas for improvement.” Explained the Centre Director, adding that:

MaRRCI Director, Dr. Edema Richard presents the progress and initiatives to the Board

“We are lucky to have a Board like this because we are running such a big platform which is basically selling and promoting Makerere’s visibility, adding to its core functions and vision of being research-led by increasing graduate training”.

Dr. Edema reported that there has been an increase in the number of graduate students that have gone through the Centre to date.

“We have about 171MSc and 71PhDs who have gone and are going through the precursor of MaRCCI with a big number being foreign students.

Members of the MaRCCI Advisory Board interact with students in one of the lecture rooms on 15th March 2019 at MUARIK, Makerere University

We have developed a coherent breeding program on cowpea and sorghum. It used to be on soybean. They have come to see the products we are making from cowpea and sorghum and they are doing it for free.

So, I can see that, with this Advisory Board, MaRCCI can go very far because they are even selling us abroad, getting us new partners and advising us on how to better organize ourselves.” Dr. Edema added.

The Board members also visited the MaRCCI home at MUARIK and toured the training and research facilities.

Dr. Edema Richard (Right) and Advisory Board Members tour the Biotechnology Lab on 15th March 2019 at MUARIK, Makerere University

The Director disclosed that the centre was about to the upgrade the internet connectivity and purchase another server to improve on research data storage given the rising graduate enrolment and research data generated.

“With this kind of work, we gather a lot of information used to develop new varieties. These days gathering information as well as characterizing a plant and describing genes has been digitalized. With the increasing student intake there is a wealth of information and, that is why the committee members have advised us to get a bigger server for storage. ” Edema said.
While touring the university farm, Dr. Edema said the centre will soon hold a ground breaking ceremony for construction of the MaRCCI home. The University allocated two acres of land at MUARIK for this cause.

“We are in the final stages of procurement and the contracts committee is beginning evaluation of the companies. There will be a ceremony and we shall invite the VC and Management to witness another milestone for MaRCCI and this will greatly contribute to the growth of the University.” Edema noted.

Advisory Board Members sample some of the products made from sorghum and cowpeas during their tour of MaRCCI facilities at MUARIK, Makerere University

Out of the total US$6Million allocation to MaRCCI, UGX2billion has been earmarked for the construction of this building. The key components of the building include staff offices, lecture rooms and complementary facilities like screen houses, seed store for experiments, storage and safety.

The Advisory Board members also visited the Post Graduate Training Facility constructed under the AfDB-HEST project where MaRCCI has furnished one of the seminar rooms for use.

“While the AfDB facilities are ready for use, we have been struggling with limited lecture facilities due to the ever increasing number of students on MaRCCI. The University Management allowed us to furnish and use them to train students.

One of the Seminar Rooms in the Graduate Training and Research Laboratory facility at MUARIK furnished by MaRCCI

Using our resources we bought 40 students’ chairs with flip able tables at UGX15,812,000. The reason we are doing this, is that MaRCCI is looking forward to  integrating  its programs with sister programs like joint taught programs, so the facility will be very useful starting next semester.” The centre Director reported.

The other centre milestone is the initiative to add value to the local crops (cowpea and sorghum) to have better market value. According to Dr. Edema, the Centre started an initiative to add value to every variety developed.

“We are working with CURAD (Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Limited) to add value for easy storage and longer life span. For the first time, we are doing that for cowpea and some products are ready for marketing. The issue is Intellectual property.  If such products are marketed, there will be increased demand leading to more productivity and eventually improved livelihoods”. Dr. Edema noted.

Advisory Board members commended MaRCCI for steady progress.

Dr. Craig Yencho, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor NCSU commended MaRCCI on forming collaborations with leading research agencies such as NARO

“I have the great fortune to have been part of the team at the conception of the MaRCCI… I am so pleased to see MaRCCI’s growth over the last two years. I remember coming back to the original old dormitory and now I am pleased to see new buildings.

I had the opportunity to meet the Makerere Vice Chancellor,  Principal CAES and some Heads of Department and I got a sense that there is great excitement and potential that  MaRCCI is offering to Makerere University, to the connections with NACCRI ,NARO and all other  research institutions. As advisory member, it is a great honor and, I am excited to see what comes in the future and wish MaRCCI so well”, said  Dr. Craig Yencho, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Program Leader Sweet-potato and Potato Breeding and Genetics Programs – Department of Horticultural Sciences, North Carolina State University – USA.

“I am really impressed with the progress that MaRCCI has made and the way they have utilized the investment from the Uganda Government and others from partners. It is really exciting to see the growth and to see the training support to Africa and contributing to training the workforce that will contribute to agricultural production for Africa.

Prof. Rita Hogan Mumm, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign commended the MaRCCI leadership for the dedication to training the next generation of plant breeders

I would like to commend the Centre Leadership because, they are extraordinary, dedicated, very talented, and very passionate about training the next generation of Plant breeders.  

And, by doing high quality scientific research, they are raising the visibility of Makerere as a university and increasing its stature at the global stage. The partners MaRCCI has entered into collaboration with are really elevated at a world level. I am particularly impressed with the partnership with NARO for being not only a resource for new genetic materials but also, a resource for students that will become a work force.

Coming to the farm, it has been exciting to see these great resources. Besides the laboratories , lecture rooms, and accommodation facilities, I see this beautiful soil with a significant number of acres and am very happy that MaRCCI and students have access to utilize it for research,” said Prof. Rita Hogan Mumm, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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

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