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Selected SDGs at Population Level in Eastern Uganda – a Subnational Analysis 2019-2020

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To achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) signed up in 2015, reliable data will be essential. Without it, governments will be unable to measure progress against the goals, nor to fine tune policies to make their attainment more likely. Testing new policies and programs and monitoring the impact of old ones require robust data collected over a sustained period of time. Accurate and timely data will ensure that resources are not wasted on ineffective interventions, pointing policymakers instead towards programs that will hasten their country’s progress towards the goals. Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems (HDSSs) provide methodologies and designs that can be replicated in national statistics and data systems. Many health interventions used routinely across the world were first trailed using HDSS platforms. HDSSs provide the engineering that can be applied in generating valid indicators.

Makerere University Centre for Health and Population Research (MUCHAP) is a research and research training platform of Makerere University. MUCHAP runs the Iganga Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site (IMHDSS) that was established by Makerere University in partnership with Karolinska Institutet of Sweden and the district authorities of Iganga and Mayuge districts. IMHDSS conducted a population-based baseline census in 2005 and has been following up that population cohort to-date in selected villages. The primary objectives of setting up the site were to:

  • a) Provide a platform for conducting community-based research, and research training for students and faculty at Makerere University, as well as other researchers from within and outside Uganda
  • b) Register and monitor important health and demographic population indicators that can be used at local and national level planning for population development
  • c) Conduct essential household level policy relevant research tailored to inform local and national policy formulation.

The purpose of the Centre is to generate population based information that is useful to guide policy and the decision making process at district and national level. Information on demographic events at individual and household level data on births, deaths and migrations is monitored and routinely updated twice a year. The cause of every death that occurs in the community is determined through the verbal autopsy approach and evaluated by the physician. As of 2017, the total population under surveillance was 94,568 individuals from over 19,000 households in 65 villages and seven sub counties within the two districts of Iganga and Mayuge.

SDGs are a universal call for action to improve the welfare of populations by striving to end poverty, protect the environment and ensure that people live in peace and prosperity. The 17 SDGs were built on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice amongst other priorities.
While some of the SDGs have been assessed through national periodic surveys like the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS), the National Housing and Population Census and national health indicator survey, it is important to assess SDG indicators at sub-National and regional levels.

Method of measurement

This measurement was conducted on selected indicators to understand the current status and progress of SDGs at a sub national rural population. A descriptive cross sectional survey was conducted in a population-based cohort covering 65 villages in seven sub-counties of Iganga and Mayuge districts in Eastern Uganda. A total of 5500 households were randomly sampled from the population cohort. A structured questionnaire was administered to collect data and information on the indicators of selected SDGs. In this phase of measurement, a survey to assess the progress on indicators for SDGs 1, 2, 3 and 6 was done.

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Computing & IS

DeepMind supports the establishment of Master’s scholarships to study AI at Makerere University

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Press Release [For Immediate Release]
DeepMind will make a donation to Makerere University to fund the establishment of four scholarships in the field of Machine Learning beginning in the academic year 2021/2022. The scholarships will support students who wish to study MSc. Computer Science programme (Track: AI and Data Science) taught in the Department of Computer Science at Makerere University beginning in the academic year 2021/22. The scholarships will be open to students from Uganda, other East African countries, or International students from a Sub-Saharan African country. The scholarship package will include full financial support for tuition, stipend, equipment, AI conference participation and mentorship. International students will also be eligible for a relocation grant to move to Makerere to begin their studies.

Makerere University will join other leading universities in partnering with DeepMind to offer scholarships, including Stellenbosch University in South Africa and international partners, such as the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, University College London and Imperial College in London.

The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe applauded the partnership between Makerere University and DeepMind.

“In this era, Universities in Africa should embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution if they are to remain relevant and competitive. To achieve this, Makerere University is partnering with reputable partners at the national and international levels to train hi-tech human resources and establish state-of-the-art teaching, learning and research facilities. So, the partnership between Makerere University and DeepMind is aligned to the already ongoing efforts by Makerere University to build the future workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution through our College of Computing and Information Sciences. This is a valuable partnership that will enable Makerere University to train and produce graduate students/researchers and scholars with expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science. Thank you DeepMind for coming on board and for choosing to partner with Makerere University,” remarked Prof. Nawangwe.

Obum Ekeke, Global Lead, University Relations & Education Partnerships at DeepMind, added, “We are very proud to be further expanding our scholarships in Africa with Makerere University, and look forward to welcoming new African scholars to our programme. DeepMind’s education efforts recognise that talent must be nurtured in regions which can bring a diverse range of perspectives into AI research, to ensure AI is a technology that can bring benefits for all.”

Engineer Bainomugisha, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science at Makerere University, said “We are delighted that DeepMind has provided funding to support graduate training in AI and Data Science at Makerere University. The Department of Computer Science is committed to providing relevant skills in AI and machine learning. The scholarships will complement our ongoing efforts in AI training and research with emphasis on its applications to unique African challenges in the sectors of health, agriculture, and environment, among others. The scholarships will contribute to the growth of the African AI ecosystem.”

About DeepMind
DeepMind is a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, machine learning experts and more, working together to research and build safe AI systems that learn how to solve problems and advance scientific discovery for all.

Best-known for developing AlphaGo, the first program to beat a world champion at the complex game of Go, DeepMind has published over 1000 research papers – including more than a dozen in Nature and Science – and achieved breakthrough results in many challenging AI domains from StarCraft II to protein folding.

DeepMind was founded in London in 2010, and joined forces with Google in 2014 to accelerate its work. Since then, its community has expanded to include teams in Alberta, Montreal, Paris, and Mountain View in California.

http://deepmind.com/scholarships

About the Department of Computer Science atMakerere University
The Department of Computer Science is one of the four Departments in the School of Computing and IT of the College of Computing and Information Sciences at Makerere University. The Department is recognized as one of the top Computer Science departments in Africa. Faculty and students in the Department are undertaking innovative research in areas such as machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, and software systems security. The Department of Computer Science hosts the Makerere AI research lab that specialises in AI research and its applications to real world challenges including the automated diagnosis of crop and human diseases, auction design for mobile commodity markets, Google-funded research on monitoring and analysis of air pollution and traffic patterns in African cities.
http://cs.mak.ac.ug

Eligible students for the scholarships need to be admitted to the MSc Computer Science programme. Applicants for the Msc Computer Science at Makerere University should look out for a call for graduate admissions for 2021/22 around the end of February 2021 (tentative) the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training website. For more information about the DeepMind scholarships please contact cs@cis.mak.ac.ug. The scholarship announcement will be published around May 2021 on the Department and University websites.

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Agriculture & Environment

Highlights of 16 Years of Soybean Research at Makerere University

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Part of the Research Team L-R: Prof. Phinehas Tukamuhabwa-Soybean Breeder, Paul Kabayi-Senior Technician, Tonny Obua-Soybean Breeder, Mercy Namara-Training Coordinator, George Yiga-Technician

Sixteen years of soybean research at Makerere University have led to a rapid increase in the number of industries engaged in processing soybean in Uganda and neighbouring countries.

This report provides highlights of the contribution of rust-resistant soybean varieties to the agricultural sector in Uganda. It contains forward-looking research results based on current research findings and forecasts made by the Centre for Soybean Research and Development from 2002 to 2018.

Soybean was first introduced in Uganda way back in 1908. Its production was emphasized to combat malnutrition and to provide soldiers with highly nutritious food during the Second World War. Like most new crops, soybean was not readily accepted by the local people based on claims that it depleted soil fertility, could not be cooked like commonly known legumes, had beany flavor and lacked a readily available market.

The soybean crop was also not given consistent recognition by the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) and suffered decline in production due to a major out break of soybean rust disease in 1996.

Makerere University in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) of the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) undertook research to control soybean rust disease and to promote and disseminate soybean seed of locally developed superior varieties.

Through efforts of the Centre for Soybean Improvement and Development (MAKCSID), the soybean rust pandemic was brought under control, through breeding and dissemination of superior varieties to the farming communities. Currently over 93% of these varieties are grown across the country.

These efforts were spearheaded by Prof. Phinehas Tukamuhabwa from the Department of Agricultural Production.

Please see Downloads for the detailed report.

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Agriculture & Environment

Uganda launches its first meeting to kick off the “Unlocking Resilient Benefits from African Water Resources” project

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Prof. Noble Banadda (Top Left) with stakeholders from Mak, MWE, NWSC, KCCA, Rhodes University, University of Sheffield and Lancaster University during the first virtual RESBEN Uganda country meeting convened by Makerere University on 5th February 2021

Story highlights

  • Makerere University convened its first high level meeting virtually to introduce Uganda’s participation in the international project “Unlocking Resilient Benefits from African Water Resources”.
  • The project is funded by UKRI GCRF through the ARUA Water Centre of Excellence at Rhodes University, South Africa, and it involves six nodes in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa as well as UK partners.
  • The Ugandan node will look at the sources, pathways and impact of pollution in urban water.
  • While the meeting was well represented by top academics from Makerere University and formal water institutions at different levels of government, the node is in the process of revisiting its approach to engaging a wide range of stakeholders including local residents, civil society, non-governmental organisations and private business, government ministries, local governments, water management agencies  and
  • By bringing together a wide array of knowledges from Uganda, and in partnership with African countries and the UK, the project aims to shift water development practice towards greater equity and sustainability.

Makerere University has committed to continue the momentum on the international project “Unlocking Resilient Benefits from African Water Resources” (known as RESBEN). The project involves six nodes in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa as well as UK partners. It is funded by UKRI through the ARUA Water Centre of Excellence at Rhodes University, South Africa. The super goal of this project is to produce knowledge that shift water development practice towards greater equity and sustainability.

After a lot of background work dealing with administrative hoops presented by international grants, COVID challenges and cross-country logistics, Uganda convened the first RESBEN country meeting on Feb 5, 2021.

Uganda brought together 17 stakeholders from a mix of backgrounds from formal water institutions including the Ministry of Water and Environment and the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Kampala Capital City Authority as well as top academics from the Universities of Makerere, Rhodes (South Africa, SA), Sheffield and Lancaster (UK).

Prof. Noble Banadda, node lead for Uganda and OR Tambo Research Chair and Chair of the Department of Agricultural and BioSystems Engineering at Makerere University, opened the session and welcomed participants. After participants’ short introduction, Professor Tally Palmer, Principal Investigator of RESBEN, gave a project overview and explained the Adaptive Systemic Approach that underpins RESBEN. This approach considers the close interconnection of complex social and ecological systems. In attending to complexity, Prof Palmer stressed the importance of linking social sciences with natural sciences as well as the equal representation of diverse stakeholders at the discussion table.

The opening was followed by Prof Banadda’s presentation of the background to project in Uganda. In particular, he explained the Ugandan node will look to understand the sources, pathways and impact of pollution in urban water and will compare findings with other urban water research nodes in Lagos (Nigeria) and Cape Town (SA)

MA students recruited as research assistants will play an important role in shedding light on the backbone of pathways of water pollution. Sandra Mutesi and Christine Namuddu gave two sterling presentations about preliminary thoughts on their research directions. Ms Mutesi, who will complete a MA in natural sciences, is considering looking at pollutants in Nakivubo water drainage channel and fish at Ggaba landing site and into Lake Victoria, including pollutants in fish and water. From the social sciences angle, Ms Christine Namuddu plans to examine the relationship between the local people and the water governance institutions and identifying potential indicators of change.

After the presentation, Prof Banadda opened the floor to questions. Dr Florence Adongo from the Ministry of Water expressed her interest in being involved in the project and facilitating data for the MA students to conduct their literature review. Similarly, Chris Kanyesigye from NWSC reported that they have done two phases of Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP) research into this area and is happy to share findings to inform the literature review and methodology.

Other participants including Prof Vanessa Speight, Dr Sally Weston (Sheffield) and Dr Ana Porroche-Escudero (Lancaster Environment Centre) agreed that the research projects look exciting and proposed ways to facilitate methodological and contextual dialogue between the two students so their work complement and strength each other.

The Ugandan node is in the process of revisiting its approach to engaging a wide range of stakeholders including local residents, civil society, non-governmental organisations and private business and

Although the agenda was busy and the meeting was well attended, the chair managed to create an engaging and dynamic atmosphere and kept the meeting running to time!

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