By Jane Anyango
Over 40 Makerere University researchers from the School of Economics were on 14th October, 2021 trained on new methodologies of information treatment into improving Water bills payments in Uganda and other countries.
The training held virtually and physically was organized and hosted by the Environment for Development Imitative (EfD-Mak) Centre.
The seminar was facilitated by Dr. David Fuente from the School of Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina USA.
Dr. Fuente presented a number of studies conducted in different countries including Kenya and Ethiopia under the theme, “Testing information treatments to improve the Financial sustainability of water utilities”. The studies according to Dr. Fuente are premised on the Global water sanitation and infrastructure challenge and the Sustainable Development Goal on provision of safe and affordable water sanitation for all by 2030.
He said policy makers face the challenge of raising water prices and improving customer bill payment behaviour noting that both are politically difficult.
“Water infrastructure is capital intensive, but largely out of public view. Improving customer awareness of the capital intensity of water supply and sanitation service delivery may increase customer perception of, “fair” water prices, however, mode of information treatment likely matters and further research is needed”, the facilitator said.
Dr. David Fuente explained that customer arrears are a chronic problem in the water and sanitation sector in the global South which undermines utilities financial stability.
“Arrears undermine tilities financial stability. For example, in South Africa, households owed municipal governments 40 billion Rand (about 4 billion USD). In Kampala Uganda, 57% of residential customers accounts have arrears while in Nairobi Kenya, 60% of customers have arrears”, he cited.
Despite the challenge, Dr. Fuente observed that, very limited work on why customers do not pay their bills and common assumptions may be wrong and lead to substantial policy mistakes.
“Simple, low-cost information treatments may improve customer behavior, but evidence is needed and are likely to be panacea.Policy makers need to think carefully about deploying multiple, well targeted policy instruments to improve customer payment behavior”, he stated.
Dr. Fuente provided insights from a series of literature and studies from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa that examined customer perceptions of, “fair” water prices and information treatments to improve customer bill payment behaviour.
The studies sought to address whether information treatments can improve customer bill payments and which treatments are more effective at improving customer bill payment. The general information treatment interventions discussed to improve bill payment included hard threats of disconnection for non-payment, soft encouragement that informs tenants, simple payment reminders and routine billing information, use of subsidies, sanctions, moral suasion.
The goals of these studies were to reduce arrears and bill-nonpayment to improve the financial stability of utilities; Boost the agency’s financial position to cater for its investments and to increase the social welfare from the agency’s investments.
In Uganda Dr. Fuente said there is proposal that is competing for Sida funds titled, “Using information treatments to improve water bill payments under the National Water and Sewerage Corporation”.
The Director EfD-Mak Centre Prof. Edward Bbaale said, such a study is practical and primary on how to create a shock in the perceptions of people so that they can start responding to paying their bills.
Prof. Bbaale said this training was important not only to the country and researchers, based on reason that these are new techniques of analysis that researchers at the EfD-Mak centre needed to pick up and get interested to undertake similar studies.
The Director expressed the need for water agencies to have financial stability to give a good service noting that what is being proposed is to make sure that financial stability of water agencies is improved.
Prof. Bbaale shared that water supply is capital intensive and requires a lot of money to lay pipes and maintain the treatment plants and yet customers comparatively pay less. He said, to supply clean water, expand the reach and maintain constant water supply, water supply agencies require substantial resources.
He noted that the National Water and Sewerage Corporation of Uganda is constrained by resources to maintain their supply and pipes and at the same time lack enough resources to reach the unserved areas.
“There is no study yet in Uganda that is trying to utilize the methodologies learnt into analyzing how to improve water bill payments in Uganda despite the common knowledge that many customers have payment arrears.
I am hopeful that the proposed study in Uganda will win the Sida grant and will go a long way in informing NWSC and government on how to improve water bill payments. And, if this study is implemented, it will be a great opportunity for us to see what findings come forth and what recommendations are put forward for government to improve water bill payment”. Prof. Bbaale stated.
Participants speak on the training
Dr. Oryem John Bosco, a Lecturer in the School of Economics described the training as a good collaboration and chance for researchers to understand what is going on with other researchers.
“And in this case, understanding what research is going on in terms of utility payments and challenges that communities face in paying water bills is a good study which links with the SDGs and the national development goals.
So understanding why payments delay and what can make people pay their water bills is a very good innovation. From this training and the proposed Uganda study, the facilitator is intending to craft messages to the water consumers to ensure that public utilities get the desired revenue that can make them operate without too much financial constraints”, Dr. Oryem commended.
Mr. Peter Babyenda the Policy Engagement Specialist in charge of coordinating the Inclusive Green Economy (IGE) training program who is also a PhD student thanked EfD-Mak center for organizing the wonderful training.
“The presentation is new to us, and it touches on of the key issue-water, where we have so many problems. I heard there is a proposal for Uganda which I am so interested in and can’t wait to see how this study goes. I am interested in the findings and to learn more on the methodologies”, Mr. Babyenda stated.
Jane Anyango is the Principal Communication Officer, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES)
Makerere University to set up an agro-processing skilling hub in 2024
Makerere University in partnership with Promote Uganda Company Limited (PROUL) is set to establish an agro-processing skilling hub next year to expose students to agricultural machinery.
The hub that will be based at Makerere University main campus in Kampala will house agricultural machines that add value to agricultural products.
While unveiling the initiative on Thursday, November 23 during the opening day of the three-day 2nd Innovation and Agro-processing machine at Makerere University’s Freedom Square, Mr David Nsubuga, the Director for PROUL said many youths remain unemployed despite their academic qualifications and it is high time they embraced new technology to create more job opportunities for the graduates. He revealed that the university will be signing a memorandum of understanding with PROUL next week.
“On top of the courses students are studying, we are going to establish a skilling center where they can be exposed to the machines that add value to agricultural products. We believe that when they start buying and selling finished agricultural products, this, will start them on the journey of industrialists.” he noted
The Vice Chancellor, represented by his deputy Prof. Umar Kakumba, revealed that the university has student innovators who just need backup funds to transform the agricultural sector.
“They have innovated machinery that can do irrigation. We are partnering with Promote Uganda Limited to showcase some of the innovations and to be able to connect them to banks which can give them credit and be able to promote their machinery that they are producing including those that do a lot with production of finished goods.” He said in a message delivered by Prof Umar Kakumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics.
Student innovators of agricultural machinery are those pursuing degree programmes related to bioprocessing engineering, water resources engineering, dealing with mechanical engineering and students of business management sciences among others.
The 2nd innovation and Agro-processing machine expo is a three day exhibition that will run from Thursday, November 23 to Saturday, November 25.
Prof Kakumba understands 80 percent of Makerere graduates fail to get formal employment and revealed the need to inject money in such innovations to harness surging number of unemployed youth flooding the streets of Kampala looking for what to do saying, “Every year, higher institutions of learning and tertiary institutions produce about 150,000 students and yet government job slots are around 30,000 only which is a great blow to students who want white collar jobs,” he added
Mr Steven Byantwale Tibeijuka, the Director Crop Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Fisheries and Industries who represented the minister for Agriculture, Mr Frank Tumwebaze pledged on behalf of the government to support the skilling hub that will be established at Makerere University next year.
“I ask the University to put it into writing and address the letter to the minister, the government cannot fail to give you funds once everything is ready,” he pledged
Dr Cathy Mbidde, the manager of the Makerere University Innovation hub said the hub was established in August 2022 under the office of the Vice Chancellor to commercialise the innovations from basically research that the university does and their main goal is to create awareness of the agro-processing machinery.
She added: “When you look at the current Uganda National Development Plan III government’s agenda goal one is agri-industrialisation. As the University, yes we do research and teach but how do we work with the private sector to achieve that goal. We have students who have done research and discovered nutritional values but they don’t have the machinery and access.”
She believes this expo will act as an eye opener to young innovators to team up and purchase the agricultural machinery they need to start up small companies and food processing enterprises while still at the university.
According to her, every year Makerere University graduates around 13,000 students and they can’t find jobs anywhere so there is a need to come up with financing models through financing companies, Non-governmental organisations, and the government to help them to get machinery on credit.
Promote Uganda limited is a company that produces agricultural machinery and their partnership with the university is to introduce the idea of using machines to add value to agricultural products.
When many students graduate, they fail to get formal employment, and end up going to Arab countries where many have lost their lives.
Mr Nsubuga wants the skilling training on operation of agricultural machinery to be added to the students’ courses.
The skilling center will help students to become entrepreneurs and know how to utilise raw materials that are readily available from agriculture to make value added products. The expo is a cross-cutting student exhibition.
Mr Anthony Akandwanaho, a student from Busitema University, said had come to exhibit a day and night dryer invented by his lecturer.
“The machine uses solar thermal during the day to dry the products which it collects directly from the sun and transpires the heat to the products for drying and solar energy during the night,” he said
He noted that this machine dries products from both animal and plant types including meat, chicken, fruits and vegetables. And the maximum drying time for products is 24 hours, for those with higher moisture content like pineapples. However, for products like meat, it dries them within eight hours.
“The unique beauty with it is that you collect the water from the product and can be used for domestic purposes.” Mr Akandwanaho explained
The student also exhibited a chicken de-feathering machine which is able to rip all feathers from the chicken. The mode of operation is that you slaughter the chicken and soak it in warm water for about one minute and transfer the chicken to the machines and in 15 seconds, the feathers are all removed. Its production rate is three chicken per minute.
Some of the exhibited machinery include a garden sprayer, a maize mill, grain grinder stainless, potato slicer, electric chips cutter, vacuum sealer, food dryer, bone Shaw, meat cutter among others.
EfD Uganda Stakeholders Propose Sustainable use of Biomass
The Inclusive Green Economy program of the Environment for Development Initiative in Uganda on 17th November hosted stakeholders across the country’s sectors to get their perspectives on biomass transition to clean energy sources in Uganda.
Uganda’s IGE engagement specialists Dr. Peter Babyenda says this is one of the work plan item on on social inclusion where stakeholders were identified by IGE fellows during the 17th EfD Annual meeting in Ghana.
In a meeting held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, stakeholders gave the situation analysis of biomass use in the country, where they want to go, how to go there and who should take the country there.
“We found out that almost 90% of our households depend on biomass whether in rural areas or town. This is attributed to cultural issues where certain foods are believed to have good taste when cooked on firewood or charcoal, the fear to use electricity and gas that may result to shocks and fire explodes, inaccessibility to clean energy sources and affordability issues.”
The meeting resolved to primarily focus on behavioural change efforts of the sustainable use of biomass and gradual transitioning to clean energy sources.
’We concluded that for now we cannot say let us move to clean energy but go slowly go slowly on sustainable use of biomass by planting more trees so that instead of depending on natural forests, we depend on plantation forests, use energy saving stoves and those that can save users on effects of smoke and slowly move to clean energy sources by connecting households to electricity and make it affordable and make gas available at an affordable cost’´Babyenda said.
The meeting also proposed the need for more awareness creation about alternative energy sources such as biogas for schools and prisons.
Representing the Principal College of Business and Management Sciences, Dr. Yawe Bruno thanked Sida through the EfD Global hub at the University of Gothenburg for funding the IGE program and the EfD-Mak centre.
“The use of biomass in Uganda has persistently remained high. 80% use firewood and 13% charcoal for cooking but there is a proportion that use a combination of those two. This imposes great implication for household welfare.
Biomass usage affect our productivity, schooling of children, labour market participation especially by women and children. On health, the use of biomass especially firewood causes eye defects, breathing difficulties, snake bites, body dislocations and sexual abuse,” He explained.
Besides household effects, Yawe noted that reliance on biomass has effects on the environment.
Yawe reported that Uganda’s forest cover is being threatened by biomass usage reducing it from 24% in 1990 to less than 9% to date. Transiting to renewable and clean energy requires clear understanding of supply and demand relationship for both biomass and clean energy.
“We must know what drives the uptake and while many can afford gas and electricity, why are we insisting that we should have charcoal? Comparatively, a 6kg gas cylinder costs 60 thousand and today a bag of charcoal costs not less 70 thousand but some households find it cheaper which is expensive and because of the felling of trees, the quality of charcoal may not last more than a week,”
He challenged stakeholders to find out why the supply and demand for biomass is still high amidst detrimental effects and why the supply for clean energy is still low amidst numerous innovations.
Representing the Director EfD-Mak Center, the Dean, School of Economics Dr. Mike Okumu said many households are struggling to transition from firewood and charcoal due to socioeconomic characteristics that define them.
Okumu attributed the climate change effects to the household behaviours and enterprise behaviour and challenged stakeholders to find innovative ways of co-existing with the environment to enhance productivity and also feed communities
He congratulated the IGE engagement specialists for being intentional in identifying the participants taking into account that the majority and poorest population resides in the rural Uganda, and Uganda’s biggest population being the youth.
The meeting comprised specialists in environmental conservation, researchers in renewable energy specifically biomass energy, persons dealing in innovations in sustainable productivity, those working with rural energy transition and renewable energy through use of waste plants and animal residues and persons engaged in youth environmental initiative particularly agroforestry.
Okumu also congratulated the EfD-Mak centre for bringing on board collaborative partners from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies , the private sector and Civil Society organisations.
He expressed the centre’s commitment to engage in similar engagements for purposes of having a drive into a cleaner Uganda and mitigating climate change effects on Uganda’s economy and a drive to having persons making informed decisions towards a better climate sensitive Uganda.
Jane Anyango is the Communication Officer EfD Uganda
Researchers call for creating of fund to support industrial symbiosis for sustainable entrepreneurship
Government has been advised to create a fund to support Small and Medium Enterprises to implement symbiotic practices, which they say will foster sustainable development.
Dr. Saadat Kimuli Nakyejwe, the principal investigator, and Dr. Kasimu Sendawula from Makerere University Business School and the College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University, respectively, argued that if firms practice industrial symbiosis (working together to forge a mutually beneficial relationship), they are bound to grow. This symbiosis may take different forms, such as knowledge sharing, raw material sharing, and the sharing of machines and space, among other things.
Dr. Saadat said these mutually beneficial relations will result in more profitable businesses, conservation of the environment, reduction in production costs, and creation of jobs. Furthermore, he emphasized that industrial symbiosis can also lead to innovation and increased competitiveness within industries. By collaborating and leveraging each other’s resources, firms can develop new products and services that meet evolving market demands. Ultimately, this not only benefits individual businesses but also contributes to overall economic growth and sustainability.
Dr. Kasimu Sendawula, the Co-PI of the project, said there is a need to sensitize entrepreneurs about the benefits of industrial symbiosis, emphasizing that it can lead to cost savings through resource efficiency and waste reduction. Additionally, industrial symbiosis can foster a more circular economy by promoting the reuse and recycling of materials, reducing environmental impact, and promoting sustainable practices.
The research was looking at “Exploring the Potential of industrial Symbiosis as an Innovative strategy to foster sustainable Entrepreneurship in Micro and Small Enterprises in Uganda” a research funded by Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund.
The researchers also called for an amendment to the current Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) policy so that it can address the environmental, social, and economic issues undermining the potential of MSMEs to undertake industrial symbiosis. By incorporating industrial symbiosis into the MSMEs policy, it can provide the necessary support and incentives for businesses to adopt sustainable practices. This would not only benefit the environment but also enhance the competitiveness and resilience of MSMEs in the long run. The team also called on the government to put in place a symbiotic fund to support organizations. This fund could provide financial resources and technical assistance to MSMEs interested in implementing industrial symbiosis initiatives. Additionally, the team suggested that the government should collaborate with industry associations and experts to develop training programs and knowledge-sharing platforms to help MSMEs navigate the challenges and opportunities of industrial symbiosis.
Ms. Nakalembe Betty, one of the entrepreneurs that participated in the research, shared with participants during the research dissemination on November 9, 2023, that she had successfully implemented an industrial symbiosis initiative in her textile business. She emphasized the importance of networking and building relationships with other businesses in order to identify potential symbiotic partnerships. Ms. Nakalembe also highlighted the positive impact that industrial symbiosis had on her business’s sustainability practices and overall profitability. She shared that since the training, she has been able to use the waste textile materials to make decorative materials, masks, and glass covers, among other products. This, she said, has reduced her waste disposal and also increased her income. Additionally, Ms. Nakalembe mentioned that through industrial symbiosis, she has been able to establish a network of suppliers and customers who are interested in sustainable products. This has not only expanded her market reach but also allowed her to contribute to the circular economy by promoting the reuse and repurposing of materials. As a result, her business has become more resilient and environmentally conscious, positioning her as a leader in sustainable practices within her industry.
Ms. Natayi Aisha, who is in charge of recycling at Luuka Plastics, also shared that the company recycles plastic and polynene bags in an effort to reduce waste and minimize their environmental impact. By implementing recycling practices, Luuka Plastics is able to divert plastic waste from landfills and give it a new life, reducing the need for virgin materials and conserving valuable resources. This not only benefits the environment but also creates a positive image for the company, attracting eco-conscious customers who appreciate their commitment to sustainability.
Mr. Galiwango Hamza, the Director of Industrial Parks at the Uganda Investment Authority, welcomed the recommendations of the research team, saying that industrial symbiosis aligns with Uganda’s goals of promoting sustainable industrial practices. He emphasized the importance of companies like Luuka Plastics in driving economic growth while minimizing environmental impact. Additionally, Mr. Hamza expressed his hope that other businesses would follow suit and adopt similar practices to contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for Uganda. Mr. Ezra Byakutangaza, from the Research and Innovation Fund of Makerere University, the funding agency, congratulated the researchers and also thanked the government for the continued funding of research and innovation.
- Dr. Saadat Kimuli Nakyejwe
- Dr. Sendawula Kasimu
- Ms. Shamirah Najjinda
- Eng. Dr. Ismail Kizza K.
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