The field of Environmental Science plays a very important and yet not often talked about role in society today. For example, did you know that Lake Nabugabo is scientifically considered very safe for recreation by WHO, US-EPA (World Health Organisation, United States-Environmental Protection Agency) standards owing to its natural inability to sustain snails; the intermediate hosts for bilharzia? Thanks to research by Environmental Scientist; Prof. James Okot-Okumu, we have access to such information, as well as more worrying trends. This world Ramsar Site could easily be destroyed within the next ten years unless the rapid development of recreation centres along its banks is regulated.
However, did you know that one of nature’s own Phytolacca Dodecandra also locally known as Luwooko in Central Uganda produces chemicals that can kill fresh water snails; the intermediary hosts of bilharzia? Research by other Environmental Scientists in Ethiopia has gone on to prove that Phytolacca Dodecandra is best stored in powder and not in seed form for maximum potency. All this and more came to light as Prof. Okot-Okumu delivered the Professorial Inaugural Lecture before friends, family and students in the Main Hall, Makerere University on 25th October 2019.
Congratulating Prof. Okot-Okumu upon reaching his milestone, the Acting Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Dr. Umar Kakumba noted that Professorial Inaugural Lectures mark the apex of the scholarly journey of University academics the world over.
“Professors are appointed to this rank following a scholarly journey of searching for new knowledge in their areas of expertise. It is therefore important that they should make this information accessible to the public, by way of contribution to society” added Dr. Kakumba.
The Acting Vice Chancellor also paid tribute to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), and the Department of Environmental Management; the academic home of Prof. James Okot-Okumu in particular, for its contributions to research, and added “your outgoing Department Chair is both challenging and inspiring you today.”
Earlier on, the Chairperson of the Professorial Inaugural Lectures Organising Committee, Prof. Elly Sabiiti had introduced the theme of the Lecture; “Evolution of Environmental Science: The Science of Integration”. He shared that this was an important subject concerned with the relationship between the environment, man and society, which is more relevant today as the world contends with the effects of climate change.
Prof. Sabiiti noted that although Professorial Inaugural Lectures are meant to be given following appointment to the rank, Professors may present them at different points in their career.
“I therefore wish to take this opportunity to encourage both recently appointed and the longstanding Professors to make use of this unique opportunity to showcase their expertise as intellectuals, by demonstrating the value and worth of being Professor” urged Prof. Sabiiti.
It was a moment of pride for CAES as the Principal Prof. Bernard Bashaasha took to the podium to read the citation in honour of Prof. James Okot-Okumu.
“This afternoon as it is in the tradition of this great university; Makerere University, we have a presentation of the Professorial Inaugural Lecture that follows the conferring of the rank of full professor on an academic by the university. This is a tradition that has been practiced by universities the world over, to celebrate the professional achievements, scholarship and the contributions of a Professor to the university, social and economic development of the nation” beamed Prof. Bashaasha.
Prof. Bashaasha shared that Prof. Okot-Okumu joined Makerere University as a Lecturer in 1990 and gradually grew through the ranks of Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor to full Professor. Since then, he has taught courses such as: Water Resources Management, Cleaner Production, Solid Waste Management, Pollution Analysis, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and Environmental Audit.
Prof. Okot-Okumu has conducted research on water quality, water pollution and solid waste management and shared his findings through publications in scientific journals and book chapters. He has also supervised graduate students of Environmental Science and Natural Resources at Makerere University as well as students of Waste Management at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Kenyatta University, Kenya.
Before delving into his presentation, Prof. James Okot-Okumu paid tribute to his wife; Mrs. Judith Achen Okot, his children, other members of the family present and colleagues. The family man could not hide his love and appreciation for his family, whose support had seen him scale the academic ladder. He equally thanked his colleagues for the encouragement and mentorship over the years.
It was clear from the presentation that Prof. Okot-Okumu takes great inspiration from quotes. Right from Ernest Haeckel (1834-1919) who coined the term ecology, to George Washington Carver (1865-1943) who introduced modern day farming in the USA, the Professorial Inaugural Lecture deliverer took the audience on a journey of appreciating science in the context of history its contribution to current body of knowledge.
For example, Prof. Okot-Okumu shared that Forest Rivers near Kampala City specifically in Mabira, Kitubulu, Zika and Mpanga have historically apart from sustaining the forest hydrology, also carried along water with nutrients and other materials obtained from the forests that feed the downstream ecosystems. This, he noted, is however being threatened by the continued encroachment on these forests as human activity increases.
“With the rapid degradation of these forests mainly from illegal felling of trees, the evapotranspiration and infiltration components of the hydrological cycle are reduced while runoff water losses are increased in these locations within the Lake Victoria basin and are putting stress on environmental maintenance requirements of the rivers” warned Prof. Okot-Okumu.
He also made reference to the increasing cost of piped water supplied by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation as another effect of human and industrial activity polluting the Murchison bay of Lake Victoria.
“Water treatment at this utility is now gradually replacing Aluminium sulphate with synthetic polymers as coagulant at an added cost to consumers. There is therefore need to think about innovative cheaper way to treat water especially for the sector of the community who cannot afford the current costs of water” he explained.
Thankfully, Prof. Okot-Okumu and fellow researchers in 2015 conducted research on the use of alternative solutions readily available in nature to treat water.
“Having seen drawbacks in some of the conventional methods, we have tested some readily available plant materials that required simple preparation methods and were cheap to use. These are seed powders from Java plum, Jackfruit and Moringa that worked very well as coagulates to clarify water from community wells” shared Prof. Okot-Okumu.
He added that the same seed powders, when used in certain concentrations were able to remove turbidity (matter suspended in water) by more than 95% as well as the bacterial effects of agents like E. coli, P. aeruginosa, S. Typhii, S .dysenteriae, S. aureus and S. faecalis within the range of 98 -100% hence making the water safe for drinking.
As the urban centres continue to expand, increasing amounts of solid waste are being generated and poorly disposed of in the environment. Prof. Okot-Okumu therefore advocated for the application of approaches of Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM), which he said would help prolong the lifespans of landfills such as Kiteezi owned by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
“Applying approaches of ISWM such as Cleaner Production (CP), Lean Production (LP), Industrial Ecology (EC), Circular Economy (CE) and Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) that are Green Development Strategies can mitigate the impacts of solid wastes” advised Prof. Okot-Okumu.
He proposed that science needs to copy more from nature whereby the waste from one organism or system becomes a raw material or input for another. This, he further shared, would create a very efficient system for sustainability and mitigate damage to the environment caused by poorly disposed of solid waste.
Whereas Prof. Okot-Okumu admitted that Makerere University through the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) plays a leading role in training the best Environmental Science graduates in Uganda, he his concluded his Professorial Inaugural Lecture with a call to action.
“The university can still do better by allowing the training programs at DEM to evolve together with the national and global challenges of environmental management. By working in collaboration with other Departments in Science and Social Sciences at the university, DEM can improve on the training and research in environmental science to support Uganda’s sustainable development efforts” Prof. Okot-Okumu concluded.
Article by Public Relations Office
The 19th RUFORUM AGM in Yaoundé calls for consolidated efforts towards transforming higher agricultural & tertiary education to contribute to sustainable development & food security in Africa
The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), a consortium of 163 universities in 40 African countries held its 19th Annual General Meeting at the Palais De Congres in Yaoundé, Cameroon from 28th October to 2nd November 2023. The first of its kind in West and Central Africa, the RUFORUM AGM 2023 provided an opportunity for over 600 delegates from Africa and beyond including; Ministers, Development Partners, University leaders, students, private sector leaders; farmers and farmer representatives; emerging and early career researchers as well as other key stakeholders in agriculture and higher education to share experiences and chart a way forward for transforming higher agricultural and tertiary education to contribute to sustainable development in Africa under the theme: Transforming Higher Education to Sustainably Feed and Create Prosperity for Africa.
Officially opened by His Excellency Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, represented by Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo, Cameroon’s Minister of State, Minister of Higher Education, the 19th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting in Yaoundé provided a platform for participants to deliberate on key strategies for transforming higher agricultural and tertiary education to contribute to national, continental and global development as well as building consensus among key stakeholders in agriculture and higher education on the actions required to strengthen the role and/or integration of universities in agricultural and national development processes in line with the aspirations of the African Union Agenda 2063 ‘The Africa We Want’.
In a speech presented by Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo at the official opening ceremony, His Excellency Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon stressed RUFORUM’s significant efforts to support the African Union Agenda 2063 when he said, “RUFORUM’s vision 2030, makes the body a significant contributor to transformation of Africa and vehemently seeks to harness the discovery, engagements and learning of vibrant transformative universities to catalyze sustainable, inclusive agricultural development to feed and create prosperity for Africa.”
According to him, it is worth indicating that agriculture in Africa should be understood in its broadest sense to include but not limited to animal and crop production, livestock, wild life, fisheries and forestry. Hence RUFORUM’s mission since its inception in 2004, of strengthening the capacities of universities to foster innovation responsive to demands of small holder farmers through the training of higher quality researchers, the output of impact-oriented research and maintenance of collaborative working relations among researchers, farmers, national agricultural research institutions, the Private sector and government is worthy prioritizing.
He called upon participants to use the meeting forum to change the face and image of the African continent through constructive and fruitful deliberations on agricultural production, food safety research and better health food security. To him the RUFORUM AGM is a bigger opportunity to think and act, make proposals, formulate recommendations and necessary resolutions which if acted on can change the face of the African continent.
“This is the turning point for the African continent to think big and have the courage to dream big. This is our opportunity to make a difference in our world. This is the opportunity Africa needed to change the target of its demand of action. We have to mutualize and federate our actions and voices in the interest of a united, strong and prosperous Africa,” he said.
The 19th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting carried a unique vibrant turn as being the first to be held in West and Central Africa. The weeklong event broke the record as the most and well attended ever with over 600 participants across the region as well as international delegates. The colorful event was embroiled with informative, constructive, edutainment activities in form of pre-AGM events, side events, Business Meetings, capacity building and mentoring sessions, scientific conferences, poster sessions and exhibitions well aligned to key thematic areas as well as the AGM theme: Transforming Higher Education to Sustainably Feed and Create Prosperity for Africa.
Additionally, high-level policy dialogues with Ministers, Senior Government Leaders and Development Partners were held to review the finance and other resource mobilization strategies as well as following up on the actualization of the available national, regional and global policies geared towards higher education transformation and ensuring of food security in Africa.
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Prof. Theresia Nkuo-Akenji, the RUFORUM Board Chair and Vice Chancellor University of Bamenda thanked His Excellence Paul Biya and the Government of Cameroon for accepting to host the 19th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting and equally appreciated the financial support towards the same cause.
In a special way, Prof. Theresia Nkuo-Akenji thanked the Ministry of State for Higher education and all the sister ministries of Government of Cameroon that worked hard to see to it that the 19th RUFORUM AGM is a success. Equally, the Board Chair, extended her sincere gratitude to the people of Cameroon for the warm reception and support.
“My special tribute goes to the members of AGM 2023 Sub committees. You have indeed done a great job throughout the ten months of organizing this significant event. On behalf of RUFORUM Network, I thank you. To the RUFORUM Secretariat under the dynamic leadership of Prof. Patrick Okwori, accept our immense gratitude for your strong determination and dedication,” she gratefully said.
She recognized the tremendous achievements and developments aligned to RUFORUM’s nineteen years (19) of existence noting that the strong network has wisely selected its priority areas of focus to transform higher education and agricultural sector in Africa as;
- Reform the training agenda for Africa to meet the development needs
- Entrepreneurship and business incubation for wealth creation
- Research for Development and wealth creation
- Partnerships for scale and impact
“As African people, permit me to use the adage of a broom; it is easy to break a single broom piece but when you combine several small brooms together they then make a broom stack that will not be easy to break. The collective power that RUFORUM has put together through 163 universities from across 40 countries bears such strength. The Vice Chancellors gathered here today remain committed to the core values and foundations of the network. To illustrate this Your Excellency, each of the Vice Chancellors meet their own costs of participation.” She happy said.
In the same spirit the RUFORUM Executive Secretary Prof. Patrick Okori deeply thanked the host Universities that is, University of Bamenda, University of Ngaoundere, University of Dschang, University of Buea and University of Maroua under the strong and able leadership of the RUFORUM Board Chair, Prof. Theresia Nkuo-Akenji for successfully hosting the 19th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting.
He also recognized the Former Vice Chancellor of University of Ngaoundere Prof. Florence Uphie Chinje Melo who heavily supported the AGM preparations. He was astonished with the presence of the Africa Development Bank, MasterCard Foundation, research international communities, RUFORUM for Agricultural Research in Africa, the Africa Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services, sub regional Agricultural organizations such as the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF).
“You have all provided support for this engagement, thank you very much. Together we will continue this journey of transforming Africa’s Agricultural and higher education to produce human resources and development solutions that Africa and indeed the world needs,” he said.
Reflecting on the AGM’s theme, Prof. Okori emphasized the need for Africa to become food secure when he said, “Africa must be an equal opportunity creator for the young generation, it must create wealth for its people and provide opportunities for the present and future and these are well summarized in agenda 2063. It is our collective duty therefore to turn these opportunities and actions into investment.”
According to him, the RUFORUM Network remains strong in building capacity and providing the necessary development solutions and opportunities. He noted that Africa generates about 10-12 million job entrants annually but the continent’s economy in its current configuration can only produce 3 million jobs. To him, for Africa to therefore reap from its demographic dividends, there is need to strengthen the paths to demographic transition of keeping young girls in school.
Prof. Okori also mentioned that RUFORUM is currently intensifying its inclusion and diversity targets. From 45%, the network has an ambitious target of at least 70%. “We must slow the rate at which girls give birth when young. It is the only way we are going to benefit from our population dividend,” he said.
According to him, the higher degree needs for Africa is pretty dire. The World Bank recommends 10,000 PhDs to Africa. This can be compared to India whose signal population of 1. 4 billion registers 24000 PhDs a year. The pressure therefore on Africa’s side to intensify graduate training is real.
“Our graduate training in sciences therefore is one of the drivers to achieve this and it is the immense reason as to why in this meeting we have social and development partners. We are launching a journey with the Africa Development Bank that will bring us together as apex organizations in Africa to work together and solve our own challenges. However, as we do all these, we need to celebrate Africa. We should be recognizing and celebrating people who made what Africa is today,” he said.
Africa is informed by a number of important mutually interacting factors that collectively, are affecting the growth and progress of the continent. The economic outlook of the African continent in 2023 by the African Development Bank and other global apex development financial institutions was positive. However, Africa’s economic growth has since then decelerated, and is now projected to be lower than the previously projected rate of 4.1%.
Agriculture a key sector, continues to be affected by both natural and human induced factors. It continues to face serious threats from climate. Studies by the United Nation’s Convention to Combat Desertification show that Africa accounts for 44% of severe droughts recorded globally in the last 50 years, causing economic losses of more than USD 70 billion. In 2022, an estimated loss of US$ 8.5 billion in economic damages was experienced due to climate change. Clearly, climate change and weather variability, remains one of the grand challenges of the 21st century for Africa and the World, because it affects key livelihood and strategic areas of emerging economies.
Unemployment facing Africa’s dominant demographic-the youth, raises questions about education, skilling and jobs creation while inclusion and diversity, the underpinning for an equal society, remains challenging. The question then to academia, researchers, development practitioners and policymakers is, “what step must we take right now to address the challenges to our current and future generations?”
“Our resounding response as RUFORUM is in line with what Malcolm X said many years ago, “Education and research for development are the passports to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” said Prof. Partick Okori.
According to the Deputy Minister for Education in Malawi, Her Excellence Mdooko Nancy Chawola who represented the visiting ministers of RUFORUM partner countries, African countries should put in place vibrant resource mobilization mechanisms to collectively finance Africa’s education and support governments that are battling with competitive budgetary demands.
“For the universities to offer solutions for the challenges the continent is facing, there is need to rebuild the curriculum that responds to our current needs and not what we needed yesterday. Our respective countries are grappling with higher levels of unemployment, can investors assist by producing graduates with entrepreneurial skills so that they are able to employ themselves and others. Of course there will be need to put in place support mechanism for such graduates to take over,” she said.
She equally acknowledged the national regulatory frameworks such as the Malawi Regulation Framework 2063 developed inline with the African Union Agenda 2063 the Africa we want, in which the continent aspires to be prosperous by 2063 through various means such as modernizing agricultural for increased production and productivity there by making people food secure.
She applauded RUFORUM’s efforts towards zero hunger in Africa through its vision 2030. According to Mdooko Nancy Chawola, food security is supposed be prerogative as well highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) that is geared towards ending hunger, attaining food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable development.
In Cameroon, Agriculture and Education have been prioritized as drivers for economic growth and transformation. Through an agricultural flagship program initiated by His Excellence Paul Biya, science programmes and financial services as well as favorable ways of accessing market have been introduced in the country with the aim of transforming agricultural sector into a value added industrialized and integrated system engine of economic growth.
According to Prof. Ngomo Horace Manga- Vice Chancellor, University Buea, the government of Cameroon has resolved to grant its people with education that can help them manage their personal, national and Africa’s present and future economic destiny. In 2022, His excellence Paul Biya endorsed the recruitment process of 2000 lecturers in universities to ensure the quality of higher education in Cameroon.
“Collectively these education reforms and investment actions affordably can transform the people of Cameroon into a strong emerging market. Cameroon carries the highest science female adoptive rate in sub-Saharan Africa at 73%. This is a strong result of government delivery of United Nations SDG 5 of achieving education and build human capital for the country,” he noted.
The Opening Ceremony for the 19th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting unlocked the floor for critical discussions and meetings throughout the week. At the same function, RUFORUM presented a contemporary painting to His Excellence Paul Biya, President of the United Republic of Cameroon in recognition of his outstanding, selfless and patriotic services s to the people of Cameroon and Africa at large.
On 25th October 2023, the RUFORUM Network equally participated in the Cameroon Higher Education Day, the first of its kind in the country.
2nd Issue of Mak-Research & Innovations Fund Bulletin
Welcome to the 2nd Issue of the Mak-RIF Bulletin. Makerere University has continued to receive funding from the Government of the Republic of Uganda, earmarked to support faculty members to conduct high impact Research and Innovations that contribute to national development.
In this issue of our Bulletin, we share about how the Mak- RIF Research Agenda and themes highlighted there in are guiding and contributing to our operations, awards made in the past financial years, a highlight of the research achievements, impact to-date, and a flash back to some of the fund activities among others.
Dates for 74th Graduation Ceremony
The Academic Registrar wishes to inform the public that the 74th Graduation ceremony will be held from Monday 22nd to Friday 26th January 2024.
DATES FOR THE DIFFERENT COLLEGES/SCHOOLS
DATE: MONDAY, 22nd JANUARY, 2024
- College of Natural Sciences (CONAS)
- College of Health Sciences (CHS)
- School of Law (SOL)
DATE: TUESDAY, 23rd JANUARY, 2024
- College of Education and External Studies (CEES)
- College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES)
DATE: WEDNESDAY, 24th JANUARY, 2024
- College of Business and Management Sciences (COBAMS)
- College of Computing and Information Sciences (COCIS)
- College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-Security (COVAB)
DATE: THURSDAY, 25th JANUARY, 2024
- Makerere University Business School (MUBS)
DATE: FRIDAY, 26th JANUARY, 2024
- College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT)
- College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS)
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