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
Rotary International President visits Mak
Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta has appreciated Makerere University for supporting and carrying forward the newly introduced programme aimed at advancing peace on the African Continent. Launched in January 2020, the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University runs a postgraduate diploma programme in Peace-building and Conflict Transformation. The hands-on program entails coursework that addresses topics including human rights, governance, and the role of the media in conflict. Other studies focus on refugees and migration, as well as resource and identity-based conflicts.
At a high level meeting held with the University leadership on 15th September 2021 at CTF1, President Shekhar Mehta said Rotary International was proud to be partnering with Makerere to promote peace on the African Continent. “The mere absence of war does not translate into total peace. Besides war, there are many other factors undermining peaceful co-existence. It is our duty to address these issues so as to create harmony in our communities. Through the Rotary Peace Centres across the globe, we are undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at promoting peace. Since 2002, the Rotary Peace Centres have trained more than 1,300 fellows who are working to advance peace in more than 115 countries. We are happy to work with Makerere University to foster peace and development on the African Continent,” he noted. President Shekhar Mehta, who was on a three-day tour of Rotary projects in Uganda, was visiting Makerere for the first time since the University won the bid to host the International Rotary Peace Centre, the first of its kind on the African Continent.
President Shekhar Mehta, who was in company of past and current Governors of Districts 9213 and 9214, said peace was a necessary catalyst for the progress of humanity and general development of nation states across the globe. Elected for the 2021-22 term, President Shekhar Mehta, through his year theme Serve to Change Lives, asks Rotarians to participate in service projects where they can make a difference in their communities and the people who live in them. Since he joined Rotary in 1984 as a member of the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar, West Bengal, India, President Shekhar Mehta has led many major service initiatives in India and South Asia, including among others, constructing 500 homes for Tsunami survivors at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and starting the Shelter Kit programme in India which has served about 20 disasters and benefited about 75,000 disaster victims.
Delivering her remarks, the Chairperson Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara appreciated Rotary International for entrusting Makerere University with the mandate to host the first rotary peace centre on the African Continent. “Choosing to house the Centre at Makerere University shows Rotary International’s trust and confidence in Makerere and her vision for building for the future. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of Rotary International’s agenda. We also sincerely appreciate Rotarians all over the world who have committed funds to support the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University,” she noted. Similarly, she appreciated The Rotary Foundation (TRF) of Canada for setting up an endowment fund for the Peace Centre. “This will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the Peace Centre at Makerere University. The fund will help in the Capstone week where Fellows will present their social initiatives. These initiatives will showcase how the Rotary Peace Centre contributes to positive peace initiatives all over the world.”
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe informed the President that the decision to establish the first Rotary Peace Centre in Africa at Makerere University was welcomed with ‘excitement and gratefulness’. “We consider this to be a vote of confidence in our efforts in the peace and conflict resolution agenda. We extend our appreciation to Rotarians in Uganda and beyond for selflessly supporting this noble cause.” The Vice Chancellor appreciated the leadership of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere, and the Director of the Centre, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala for their tireless efforts in ensuring the centre achieves the intended objective.
By the end of this year, the Centre will have hosted two cohorts of peace fellows. The first cohort was at Makerere University between February and May, 2021. Currently, these Peace fellows are carrying out their peace initiatives in their communities. The second cohort will report on September 27, 2021. In both cohorts, Peace Fellows were chosen from 20 countries and by the end of the year, the Centre will have had a total of 36 Fellows.
Intentionality Key to Nurturing More Women Leaders
The Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD), Makerere University on 14th September 2021 presented findings from phase one of the study on Enhancing Women’s Participation and Visibility in Leadership and Decision-Making Organs of Public Universities in Uganda through Action Research. The study team led by the Director GMD and Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine also consists of Assoc. Prof. Consolata Kabonesa, Dr. Anna Ninsiima, Ms. Frances Nyachwo, Ms. Susan Mbabazi and Mr. Eric Tumwesigye.
The team is also made of coordinators from participating Universities such as Busitema University-Ms. Elizabeth Birabwa, Kabale University-Sr. Dr. Eva Tumusiime, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)-Dr. Specioza Twinamasiko, Muni University-Ms. Amandru Stella Wawa, and Gulu Univeristy-Sr. Rosalba Aciro.
Funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the study was inspired by the fact that women are persistently few in numbers as staff, more so in leadership and decision-making organs of Ugandan Public Universities. “This is despite all the various efforts at national and international levels; the numbers are not growing as fast as needed to meet development goals of the country” explained Dr. Euzobia.
Based on this background, the study team therefore sought to conduct a situational analysis of the gender terrain of the six public universities to obtain baseline information encompassing the composition of governance and leadership organs and senior staff by sex, as well as a needs assessment and profiles of potential mentors and mentees.
Furthermore, the team sought to explore the capacity to conduct gender-responsive research as well as the role of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions within the universities as the drivers of development.
Dr. Mugisha-Baine shared that results of the baseline would then be used to design participatory training manuals or guides on gender and leadership. The manuals would cover; Institutionalized mentorship, How to conduct gender-responsive research, gender and equity budgeting, among others.
“Within these manuals, we shall have a male staff engagement strategy in gender equity interventions in universities” she explained.
The development of the aforementioned materials would then be followed by their adoption and use to build capacity for women not only in leadership of participating and other public university but also beyond. “We shall periodically evaluate whether the capacity we have built has influenced women’s participation in leadership and decision-making organs of the university” supplemented the PI.
The capacity building trainings for women, it is envisaged, will lay the foundation for the formation of a functional Uganda University Women’s Think Tank, starting with the six participating universities. Dr. Mugisha Baine added that through this Think Tank, a monitoring and tracking system for gender representation in recruitment, promotion, retention/turnover and leadership of public universities shall be established and maintained.
At the conclusion of phase one, the study team had drafted participatory training manuals in gender and leadership with content on; gender specific critical analysis of the leadership spectrum of public universities, positioning of individual women within the institutional framework and strategies for their advancement, gender equity advocacy in the university setting, institutional mentorship, building capacity in conducting gender-responsive research, among others.
“This content will be validated by the participating universities before the actual research training is conducted” added the PI.
On behalf of the research team, Dr. Mugisha Baine thanked the Government of Uganda for providing the resources that facilitated phase one of the study and prayed that the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) would support the next phase of capacity building.
Speaking on behalf of the Mak-RIF GMC Chairperson, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dr. Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala thanked and congratulated the team led by the Director GMD upon the milestones registered in the critical research.
“We are very proud of that work that is being done by all researchers in Mak-RIF and we would like to most sincerely thank Management for all the support throughout this process” she remarked.
Dr. Nkabala encouraged the research team to continue disseminating and using the findings for the furtherance of gender mainstreaming, particularly through the aspect of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions.
Prior to delivering the keynote address of the day, the Executive Director National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) Prof. Mary Okwakol thanked the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for inviting her to the important forum, noting that women’s participation in decision making and governance is a priority area of the Uganda Gender Policy 2007.
She commended Makerere University for being at the forefront of gender mainstreaming in Uganda, noting that this prominence was one of the reasons why the Gender in Education Policy 2007 provides for replicating the institution’s strategy in all other Higher Education Institutions.
Prof. Okwakol whose keynote address was punctuated incisive personal examples reaffirmed the statistics that women are generally not visible in leadership of Universities. That notwithstanding, in instances where they rise to leadership and decision-making positions, they are regularly subject to roles traditionally deemed as women’s inconsiderate of their managerial seniority and experience.
She nevertheless rallied the women to play their respective roles in enhancing participation and visibility at a personal level. The following were some of the strategies she proposed; work hard to acquire academic credentials so as to compete favourably with men, acquire necessary administrative training and experience, network among women, join professional networks as well as do research and publish.
On joining professional networks, she shared her personal experience as a young zoologist who joined UNESCO’s Tropical Biology and Fertility Programme. “Within a short time I was appointed Coordinator for Africa and after two years, I was elected as a Member of the International Board of Management. After serving for two years, I became Vice Chairperson of that Board and finally I became Chairperson of that International Board.”
At the institutional level, Prof. Okwakol appealed to the Chairperson Council and Vice Chancellor to proactively recruit women who meet the requirements for leadership positions even if it means actively seeking out the reluctant ones. In this regard, she shared that it would be useful for the university to develop a database of women and their qualifications to ease this process.
She shared that NCHE has in recognition of female underrepresentation at every level in Higher Education approved the establishment of a Gender and Equity Unit with the aim of promoting inclusive gender participation in the sub-sector.
“This unit has been placed under the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Accreditation which implies that as we look out for and regulate quality, gender will be a very important aspect of that regulation” she reassured.
Prof. Okwakol concluded by urging participants to read the; Third National Development Plan (NDPIII), Uganda Vision 2040, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) noting that there is no way all three can be achieved while women are left behind because they each make a case for inclusion of the female gender.
“What we are addressing here are historical injustices” said Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe as he commenced his remarks, “And in the case of Makerere University, it is well known that the institution started as a male-only institution and we all know the original motto was ‘Let us be men’” he added.
Citing examples from history such as; Marie Curie – one of the smartest physicists, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra – prominent Pharaohs of Egypt, George Eliot, Rosa Luxemburg and Hypatia – all great philosophers as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel – first female Chancellor of Germany, the Vice Chancellor said there is no plausible argument that there are things women cannot do as well as their male counterparts.
He said it was against this knowledge and in a bid to correct historical injustices that Makerere University pioneered initiatives such as putting in place affirmative action for girls, establishing a Gender Mainstreaming Directorate as well as a School of Women and Gender Studies. The Vice Chancellor nevertheless stressed the need to go beyond pioneering to protecting these gains through legislation. “Historically we have seen that discrimination can only be addressed by laws and policies.”
Prof. Nawangwe thanked the Government for providing funds to support Mak-RIF as well as the Funds GMC and Secretariat for ensuring that these funds are put to good use. He equally thanked the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara for her not only her support but also sparing time to attend a good number of the research dissemination events.
Delivering the concluding remarks, Mrs. Magara acknowledged that the study was timely and relevant the contemporary University, as one of the critical drivers of the national and international development agenda. She therefore reechoed the Vice Chancellor’s thanks to the Government of Uganda for generously supporting the University’s research through Mak-RIF.
Turning to the keynote speaker she said, “I thank Prof. Okwakol for ardently discussing the critical issues affecting the female gender, the strategies to overcome the challenges, including sharing her inspiring personal experiences.”
Mrs. Magara equally thanked Prof. Okwakol for her very instructional analysis, providing mentorship guidance with the resultant impact of enhancing the female gender in decision-making positions. In the same breath she congratulated the PI and her team upon successfully concluding phase one of the project.
“Phase one has generated insights in understanding the status of women in leadership in public universities, the legal and policy framework and its implications on women’s visibility, the institutional mentoring systems and the gaps therein” she observed.
The Chairperson of Council acknowledged that the challenge of underrepresentation of women in leadership roles cannot be resolved at an individual level. She therefore advocated for broad based strategies that can address deep-seated structural and cultural biases facing women. “These include developing mentorship networks, enacting laws and policies that address the imbalances and providing training programmes to address the leadership gaps.”
She therefore pledged the University Council’s unwavering support to the Gender Mainstreaming Programme by ensuring an enabling policy environment that facilitates gender-responsive teaching, learning, research innovation and community service.
The research dissemination was moderated by the Principal Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ms. Ritah Namisango and the Director Communications, Learning and Knowledge Management, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and PRO Mak-RIF, Ms. Harriet Adong.
Section Editors & Associate Editors Wanted-CABI Agriculture & Biosciences Journal
The CABI Agriculture and Biosciences Journal (CABI A&B) is still in search of both Associate Editors to join the CABI A&B Editorial Board, as well as a Regional Editor-in-Chief to lead for Africa in addition to serving as a Section Editor in the area of either Environmental and SOIL SCIENCE, AGROECOLOGY, OR AQUACULTURE AND FISHERIES. Ideally CABI wants Section Editors (SE) who are prominent members of their research communities, with high-level established positions at a research institution, with a strong, current record of international collaborations and publication, with an H-index of at least 25. For Associate Editors (AE) we hope for researchers who have with established positions at a research institution (e.g., not post-docs or Ph.D. candidates), with a strong growing record of international collaborations and publication (e.g., around 8 publications in the past two years), and have an H-index of at least 15.
Very importantly, CABI hopes for SEs and AEs who are good communicators and are passionate about serving and building the journal to be an outlet for both large and small steps of sound science that will improve the lives and livelihoods of people worldwide.
Please see Downloads for the CABI EDITORIAL DIRECTORY
Interested applicants should email PHILIPPA J. BENSON, PH.D. MANAGING EDITOR | _CABI A&B | P.BENSON[at]CABI.ORG