The products from stingless bees may be little but are so valuable. Stingless bees have many benefits to various sectors of the economy, more especially the Health and Agricultural sectors. The project titled – “Exploring Forage Resources for Stingless Bees in Uganda: The Case of Meliponula bocandei”seeks to preserve them and to maximize their benefits to the economy.
It is led by Dr. Perpetra Akite, Lecturer in the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences and supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).
Launch of the project
Researchers from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University on 18th November 2021 launched a project to explore forage resources for Stingless bees in Uganda, with special focus on the Meliponula bocandei species. The launch held at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) in Nakyesasa, Wakiso District was presided over by the Commissioner, Entomology at the Ministry of Agricultural, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Mr Lawrence Tusimomuhangi. It was grace by among others, the current Head, Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, Dr. Eric Sande, and former heads, Prof. William Banage, Prof. Gilbert Isabirye Basuta and Prof. Anne Mary Akol.
Objectives of the project
Supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the project seeks to profile forage resources for Meliponula bocandei in the Western highlands and Lake Victoria Crescent AEZs of Uganda. It also aims to characterize pollen in honey of Meliponula bocandei collected from the Western highlands and Lake Victoria Crescent AEZs of Uganda. Under the project, the researchers plan to develop a Meliponula bocandei beekeeping calendar for Uganda. Once developed, the beekeeping calendar will guide farmers on the approximate date and duration of the blossoming periods of the important honey and pollen plants in their area, and the kind of flowers available for the bees in the course of the year.
The study follows two previous research projects that sought to domesticate stingless bees in Uganda and to explore the nutritional and medicinal values of their products.
According to the research team, stingless bees present enormous benefits to the Health and Agricultural Sectors. Their products have high nutritional and medicinal values. The pollination services associated with the stingless beekeeping industry can boost crop production especially in the urban settings. The stingless beekeeping industry also has great potential to generate employment. However, the continued destruction of the environment through deforestation and soil pollution presents a major challenge to the survival of the bees since they feed on restricted plant species. It is on this basis that the researchers have set out to study and preserve forage resources for stingless bees.
Presenting an outline of their study, the Principal Investigator, Dr Perpetra Akite said the project will largely contribute to the development of the stingless beekeeping industry in Uganda. “The project will impact positively at several frontiers, especially on the role played by stingless bees in crop pollination for food security. Scientists and other key actors will benefit from the knowledge generated from this action research on the identification of forage for stingless bees in Africa, and the economy will largely improve due to increased participation in stingless bee enterprises,” she noted. Other expected outcomes include; a baseline information and platform for developing stingless bee forage in Uganda, a stingless beekeeping calendar to promote meliponiculture and improvement in livelihoods.
Addressing participants, the Commissioner, Entomology at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr. Lawrence Tusimomuhangi applauded the researchers for the initiative. “The Government is deeply interested in insect related interventions. However, many questions in the area of entomology remain unanswered. There is need for substantive research into productive insects and Makerere should lead on this.We need to invent technologies for continuous production of insects like grasshoppers that have high commercial benefits. The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries is relying on Makerere and other research institutions to guide on the development of appropriate technologies for insect management interventions, and the promotion of agro industrialization in line with the National Development Plan III,” he explained. NDP III seeks to promote sustainable industrialization for inclusive growth, employment and wealth creation.
Proposals by participants
During the engagements, participants observed that there was need to study the behaviour of stingless bees at different locations (adaption to the environment) and variations in seasons before designing the beekeeping calendar. They also noted that it is important to collect data during both the dry and wet seasons for better results. Additionally, participants called for studies on the toxicological effects of agrochemicals on stingless bees.
In his remarks, the Head, Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences at Makerere University, Dr Eric Sande commended the research team for writing a successful project. He appreciated the Government of Uganda for the enormous support towards research activities at Makerere. “Exploring Forage Resources for Stingless Bees in Uganda: A Case of Meliponula bocandei” is one of over 700 projects that have so far been supported by the Government of Uganda through Mak-RIF.
Additionally, Dr Sande acknowledged the presence of the former heads at the event and their continued support towards the development of the Department.
Briefing participants on the NaLIRRI, the representative of the Director, Dr Patrice Kasangaki appreciated the long standing collaboration between the Institute and Makerere University Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences. The Department has collaborated with the NaLIRRI on several research projects and continues to offer practical training as well as supervision of students. NaLIRRI supported the department in research on domesticating stingless bees and exploring the nutritional and medicinal values of their products. The Institute has pledged support for the current project aimed at exploring forage resources for stingless bees in Uganda.
As part of the project launch activities, participants toured the Meliponary at NaLIRRI to learn more about the preservation of stingless bees.
Mak Paves Path to Biodiversity Leadership: Inaugural ABS Project Workshop Strengthening Uganda’s Nagoya Protocol Capacity
By Laban Lwasa
In a groundbreaking event that unfolded at Makerere University‘s Telepresence Center on November 7, 2023, the Inception Workshop for the ABS Project took center stage, hosted by the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Department of Plant Sciences, Microbiology, and Biotechnology. Prof. Tumps Ireeta, Principal of CoNAS, set the tone with a warm welcome, highlighting Uganda’s rich biodiversity and the pivotal role of the Nagoya Protocol in ensuring the legal utilization of genetic resources. The collaboration between NEMA and Makerere University, supported by the GEF, aims to equip professionals with ABS knowledge and position Makerere at the forefront of Nagoya Protocol compliance.
Prof. Arthur Kajungu Tugume, Dean of the School of Biosciences, emphasized the project’s significance in institutional capacity strengthening for the Nagoya Protocol’s implementation in Uganda, showcasing the School of Biosciences as a hub for genetic resource research and training. The pilot project, in collaboration with NEMA, GEF, and UNEP, aims to expand countrywide and potentially across the African continent. It seeks to empower a skilled workforce informed on ABS issues, contributing to economic development and poverty eradication as aligned with SDG 1.
Mr. Achuu Peter, Project Manager from NEMA, highlighted Uganda’s extraordinary biodiversity and the need to explore the benefits of genetic resources for medicines, food, and more. He emphasized the importance of the Nagoya Protocol in mitigating biodiversity loss and highlighted challenges faced by Uganda in terms of weak institutional capacity, inadequate policies, and lack of coordination for ABS. The project focuses on strengthening ABS frameworks, capacity building, community-level management, and raising awareness to ensure equitable benefits from genetic resource utilization.
Mr. Daniel Abowe, UNCST ABS Project Officer, shed light on the complex landscape of national ABS laws in Uganda, resulting in legal complexity and high transaction costs for users. He also detailed the Uganda research approval process, emphasizing UNCST’s role in ABS implementation, which includes issuing access permits and ensuring benefit-sharing agreements. The multifaceted project aims to align Uganda with the Nagoya Protocol’s goals and foster collaboration between higher institutions and local communities for the management of genetic resources.
Dr. Katuura Esther, the Project Principal Investigator at Makerere University, highlighted the institution’s pivotal role in training and research. Makerere University aspires to be a thought leader, committed to providing transformative teaching, learning, research, and services that cater to dynamic national and global needs. The institution’s strategic goals encompass leadership in high-quality programs, knowledge dissemination, research, scholarship promotion, and corporate social responsibility. Dr. Esther also addressed the challenges and opportunities in preserving indigenous knowledge, emphasizing the role of digital technologies and collaboration between research institutions and local communities.
The programs designated for updating at Makerere University are a comprehensive effort to align with the Nagoya Protocol. Notable among these programs are BSc Applied and Economic Botany, BSc in Conservation Biology, Bachelor of Biotechnology, Masters in Botany, Masters in Genetics, Masters in Plant Pathology and Crop Science, and Masters in Economic Botany. This holistic approach aims to contribute to the conservation and equitable utilization of genetic resources.
Dr. Cyprian Misinde, the Director of Quality Assurance at Makerere University, emphasized the importance of incorporating international and global standards into the academic curriculum. He underscored the crucial role of projects like ABS in enhancing the capacity of professionals and equipping them to become part of a globally competitive workforce. This workshop marked a significant stride in Uganda’s journey towards sustainable biodiversity management and conservation, creating a ripple effect that extends far beyond its borders, leaving a lasting impact on the world stage.
Laban Lwasa is the Senior Administrative Assistant, Makerere University, Grants Administration and Management Support Unit (GAMSU)
Ugandan student Dorothy Akoth wins 2023 GBIF Graduate Researchers Award
Ms. Dorothy Akoth, a Master’s student at the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University has been named one of two winners of the 2023 GBIF Graduate Researchers Award. An expert jury selected Akoth, who was nominated by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology together with National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI), for the instrumental role of her research in improving the knowledge of the distribution and imperilment status of 110 native fish species outside the iconic Haplochromine tribe of East African cichlids. The student was supervised by Prof. Fredrick Muyodi and Dr. Jackson Efitre
from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences at CoNAS, Makerere University, and Dr Vanny Natugonza of Busitema University.
Since its inception in 2010, the annual GBIF Graduate Researchers Award (previously the Young Researchers Award) has sought to promote and encourage innovation in biodiversity-related research using data shared through the GBIF network.
CARTA Fellow Anywar Selected as Fellow of ASLP
Godwin Anywar (cohort 6 graduate, Makerere University) was selected as a fellow of the Africa Science Leadership Programme (ASLP) based at the Future Africa Campus at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, on September 8, 2023.
Within the month, he:
- Will be participating in the Uganda-Swiss Museum Cooperation Workshop from September 24 – October 4, 2023, in Kampala, Uganda, and will present on ‘Traditional Medicine in Transition.’
- Presented a keynote paper on ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing during the PhD Journey’ at the Makerere University Business School (MUBS) 27th Annual International Management Conference (AIMC) under the theme “Leveraging Governance, Human Capital and Technology for Sustainability in Kampala – Uganda on September 25 – 27, 2023.
- Presented a paper on ‘The Cannabis/Marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) Landscape in Africa: An Overview of its Cultivation and Legal Aspects’ at the 20th International Napreca Conference on Natural Network for East and Central Africa (NAPRECA) in Harare, Zimbabwe on September 20, 2023.
- Attended the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Science Forum at the University of Nairobi on September 20, 2023, to celebrate 50 years of DAAD in East Africa.
Source: CARTA Newsletter Issue 69
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