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Agriculture & Environment

MAKNAI Hand Pump Automation to Eliminate COVID-19 Spread at Boreholes



“Boreholes and shallow wells account for 67.6% of the water sources in rural areas in Uganda and supply water to an estimated 18,540,000 persons” remarked Dr. Nicholas Kiggundu. “Each well or borehole supplies about 300 persons in the wet seasons, and more than 1,000 persons during dry spells,” continued the Principal Investigator as he gave a background of the project.

MAKNAI is an acronym for the Makerere UniversityMAK NAyIkondo – vernacular for borehole, a prototype to automate cranking of the hand pump that draws water from a well. Designed by a team from the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (DABE), School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering (SFTNB), College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) the prototype consists of a PV (photovoltaic) panel, battery, solar charge controller, inverter, motor, pulleys, belt, reciprocating arm and a foot switch. The foot switch further serves to replace the use of palms and fingers to crank the pump handle, as is the practice while drawing water at boreholes.

The MAKNAI v1.0 prototype setup at the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering (SFTNB), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

Funded by the Government of Uganda under the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the research project was titled: “Automation of communal hand water pumps to eliminate COVID-19 transmission”. The title was motivated by the observation that alternative solutions of limiting the spread of COVID-19 such as washing hands with water and soap or use of chemical sanitizers are difficult to enforce especially in the low income rural and peri-urban communities where the boreholes are found.

In addition to eliminating COVID-19 transmission at boreholes, this project is in line with the Ministry of Water and Environment’s efforts to replace hand pumped boreholes with submersible pumps as a means of eliminating drudgery, prolonging the life of boreholes, and supplying water to bigger populations in a shorter time. Other members of the project team are; Dr. Prossie Nakawuka, Mr. Sam Cherotich, Eng. Joseph Kizito, Eng. Robert Baluku and Mr. Gyaviira Ssewankambo a student researcher.


The PI-Dr. Nicholas Kiggundu (L) with part his team during the MAKNAI research dissemination event.

Welcoming participants to the research dissemination event held on 30th December 2020 at the SFTNB Conference Hall, the Chair DABE, Prof. Noble Banadda applauded the Government of Uganda for enabling members of staff to turn research ideas into innovations that are transforming livelihoods and communities through Mak-RIF.

“If there is anything that has proved to the world that research is important, it is COVID-19. The MAKNAI prototype is one of several innovations that the Department has developed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These include: The Touchless Handwashing (Tw-20) Kit, the thermal imaging detector of COVID-19; and the use of 3D printing technology to make biodegradable face masks, and on a wider scale, to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics and plan urban centres” said Prof. Banadda.

As Chair, he expressed pleasure at leading a team whose every member holds a PhD, is committed to undertaking research, which has led to innovations and the production of at least 27 publications in different journals. “I am happy to inform you that this year, I have been able to mobilise research grants worth 10million USD” he added.

The Deputy Principal CAES, Dr. Gorettie Nabanoga addresses the audience

In her remarks the Deputy Principal CAES, Dr. Gorettie Nabanoga applauded Dr. Kiggundu and his team for bringing great pride to the college and University. “Your innovation is going to be a flagship of some of the activities that the college has done because it touches the most rural individual in this country.”

Dr. Nabanoga who represented the Principal CAES, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha acknowledged that women in villages are involved in gardening, fetching water from boreholes, taking care of children and other household chores. She added that the MAKNAI innovation would help women save time and energy which would have otherwise been expended on this laborious task.

She thanked the Vice Chancellor for the excellent leadership that conforms to his manifesto and dream for a better Makerere. “We have been recognized in the whole country as the source of knowledge and innovation that contributes to the development of the country.”

Presiding over the event, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe thanked all invited guests particularly from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as Local Governments for sparing time to attend the research dissemination. Citing his manifesto theme for the Vice Chancellorship – “Unlocking the potential of Makerere University, he prayed that numerous innovations would lend credence to the fact that the University’s potential was being unlocked.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe could not hide his delight while presiding over the MAKNAI research dissemination event and prototype launch

Prof. Nawangwe thanked the Government of Uganda for recognizing the importance of homegrown solutions by allocating specific funding for research and innovations at Makerere University. He commended the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) for ensuring that awardees account for the funding received, “and I am glad to say that over the last two to three months, there has been a launch of a product or innovation at Makerere University almost every day because of RIF.”

He expressed confidence that by producing innovations such as MAKNAI, Mak-RIF has the potential to turn around the country’s fortunes in a very short time by providing employment to the exploding young population. “This innovation alone if well handled can change a lot of lives and generate income for Makerere, and I am happy to hear that one of the team members is going to immediately work on registration of Intellectual Property for it.”

Dr. Kiggundu while presenting the research findings shared that the study conducted in the districts of Wakiso, Mukono, and Buvuma was informed by; i) time taken to fill a 20 litre jerrycan, ii) maximum power needed to draw water from the borehole, iii) borehole dimensions and iv) borehole discharge. Based on data from the three districts, the PV (photovoltaic) system, battery to supply the needed power, and the motor to drive the system were sized and sourced from the market.

Eventually, a 1.4 horsepower Alternating Current (AC) motor with a crank speed of 100 rpm and generating average torque of 68 Nm was obtained. The other units of the system including the pulleys, belt reciprocating arm and foot switch were developed in-house at Makerere University.

Residents of Kisaali B Landing Site, Buvuma Island gather to witness the MAKNAI v1.0 prototype in action during a field test. Photo credit: MAKNAI

Nevertheless, Dr. Kiggundu reported that parts such as a 1 horsepower Direct Current (DC) motor were hard to find on both local and international markets. The team also faced challenges during in-house fabrication as the parts produced weren’t often an accurate fit.

Despite the various challenges, the team produced the MAKNAI v1.0 prototype which after successful field tests was able to fill a 20 litre jerrycan within an average time of 50seconds at boreholes with depths ranging from of 12 to 70 metres. The communities where the prototype was installed appreciated and welcomed the innovation as it reduced the time spent by each user at the borehole by over 70%.

“MAKNAI eliminated the drudgery experienced by the users especially children, the elderly and expectant mothers because pumping water at a borehole requires lots of energy;” shared Dr. Kiggundu, before comically noting that, “you don’t need to go to the gym if you go to the borehole daily.” He appealed for more support from stakeholders to help scale-up the project. 

The highlight of the research dissemination was the unveiling of a working MAKNAI v1.0 prototype installed at SFTNB by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe. The event moderated by Ms. Ritah Namisango, Principal Public Relations Officer and DABE’s Dr. Joshua Wanyama, Principal Investigator of the “Development of a Green Low-Cost Touchless Handwash Technology (TW-20 Kit) for public Shared Spaces” project.

Article by Public Relations Office

Agriculture & Environment

Sasakawa Africa Association President Dr. Makoto Kitanaka visits Mak



The President SAA-Dr. Makoto Kitanaka (3rd R) and the Principal CAES-Prof. Bernard Bashaasha (3rd L) with L-R: Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe, Prof. Johnny Mugisha, Dr. Roselline Nyamutale and an SAA official during the meeting at CAES, Makerere University on 4th June 2021.

By Jane Anyango

Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) President Dr. Makoto Kitanaka and several of his entourage from Tokyo, Japan on 4th June 2021  visited Makerere University’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES)  for a partnership meeting with the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies (DEIS). The meeting  was aimed at discussing modalities of enhancing the universities capacity  to engage with the community and also help women and youth to productively engage in Agriculture as a business.

The team also shared what SAA has in store for Makerere and their strategic direction. They emphasized the need to promote sustainable, resilient and regenerative agriculture looking at integrated soil fertility management, Nutrition sensitive agriculture promoting nutrient dense crops and skilling university and rural youth to engage in market-oriented agriculture and agribusiness.

The meeting held in the Conference Room, School of Agricultural Sciences was also graced by the Director SAA Regional Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dr. Mel Oluoch,  SAA Country Director Uganda Dr. Roselline Nyamutale and her team.

Also present was the representative of the Principal, Bukalasa Agricultural College. The university runs a program with Bukalasa to reach out to and certify farmers and agribusiness personnel. The outreach program gives farmers credentials recognizing what they are doing in terms of business and good farming practices.

The  team was received by the Principal CAES, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, the Dean, School of Agricultural Sciences Prof. Johnny Mugisha and the Head DEIS, Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe. Also present were the Head Department of Agricultural Production (DAP), represented by Dr. Mildred Ochwo and DEIS staff led by Drs. Richard Miiro, Sarah Akello, Losira Nasirumbi, Boniface Orum, Prossy Isubikalu and Assoc. Prof. Paul Kibwika.   

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Agriculture & Environment

Mak GREAT & IRRI Train 30 Scientists from Asia on Gender Responsive Plant Breeding



A screenshot of some of the GREAT-IRRI Course Participants and Trainers. Source:

By Jane Anyango

Makerere University’s Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project in collaboration with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has trained 30 plant breeders and social scientists from South Asia and South-East Asia on gender responsive rice breeding. The two weeks training was conducted via zoom from 17th-20th & 24th-27 May 2021

The purpose was to enhance the capacity of partners to develop gender responsive rice breeding strategies and products and understanding of gender responsive preference analysis to ensure the products address needs of men, women and the youth.

At the end of the training, participants virtually received certificates of participation from Makerere and Cornell University signed by the Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and the Director of International Programmes at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University Prof. Ronnie Coffman.

The training dubbed,  “GREAT-IRRI” adopted a  blended approach of  Self-study materials on Google classroom platform comprised of exercises, handouts and discussion activities, Online interaction among trainers and participants through forums and discussion boards and Live delivery/ Synchronous by Trainers through Zoom (3 hours a day).

The  course which  attracted   participants from the biophysical and social  Sciences (28 participants from South Asia and two  from South East  Asia) was  conducted  by  experts in gender and agriculture from Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), the School of Women and Gender Studies (SWGS), Cornell University and international experts.

The trainees  were drawn from various disciplines  including breeders, soil scientists. horticulturalists. plant pathologists, agronomist, seed system experts, agricultural economists, Social scientists , agricultural extensionists and project managers and evaluators among others.

Majority (50%) were from Nepal (15), Bangladesh (10) India (3) and  Philippines(2) representing different institutions including the International Rice Research Institute(CG) Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARs), Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture. Other institutions represented were Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Ministry of Agriculture and Development Nepal and from the Prime Ministers Agriculture Modernization project, Nepal.

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Agriculture & Environment

Mak Launches Native Chicken Program & Incubator



MUARIK Director-Dr. Okello Cyrus Ongom (6th R), Project leader-Dr. Donald Kugonza (6th L), Project Advisor-Prof. Maurice Agaba (5th L) with the research team and students after the launch of the native chicken incubator and pig AI semen lab on 26th May 2021 at MUARIK, CAES, Makerere University.

By Jane Anyango

Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) has launched a locally manufactured incubator with a capacity of 1000 eggs at the University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK ) for purposes of training, research and farmers capacity building.

The UGX 4.5 million incubator is made in Uganda by Butenga Farmers, a company based in Kiira. An imported incubator of the same capacity costs UGX 10 million. The incubator is to serve the university for teaching courses on poultry production, hatchery management and for people who want to conduct experiments.

The incubator was procured under the Native Chicken Project funded by the African Union (2019-2021). It is a collaboration between institutions from two countries Mozambique and Uganda with the project lead at Eduardo Mondlane University Mozambique.

At Makerere University, the project is spearheaded by Dr. Donald Rugira Kugonza from the Department of Agricultural Production, CAES.

The project objectives are to increase the number of eggs and meat produced by local chickens and to evaluate the effective models or processes of disseminating improved chicken technologies in Uganda and Mozambique.

One of the main challenges of producing native chicken is that a hen lays 10-15 eggs and takes a period of three weeks to incubate and hatch them. The hen takes an additional six weeks brooding the chicks, which translates into 10 weeks lost in terms of egg production. The same hen repeating the cycle three times a year implies that it has limited time laying eggs as it spends more time brooding.

The project researchers carried out surveys in 60 districts of Uganda, collected 2,000 eggs from 40 districts incubated, hatched and evaluated them for growth rate and egg production.

The project aims to breed native chicken that can produce 100 eggs per hen per year as opposed to the current production of 30-45 eggs. The project also aims to reduce the maturity period from the current six to three months.

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