Following the discovery of commercial petroleum reserves in Uganda in 2006, Makerere University in 2009 pioneered teaching and research in petroleum programmes. The programmes are offered in the Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) at BSc, MSc and PhD levels. As Uganda moves to the next stages of petroleum development, there is need for highly skilled workforce at various stages of exploration, development, production, transportation and refining. However, the progression of teaching and research in these fields has been largely hampered by a serious shortage of sector specific physical infrastructure especially laboratories. There is total lack of specialized equipment to train for upstream, midstream and downstream petroleum operations. According to the Workforce Skills Development Strategy & Plan for the Oil and Gas Sub sector in Uganda (WSDSP), thousands of engineers and managers in the area of control centre operations, as well as geological and petroleum engineering will be required at the development, production processing, transportation and marketing stages in the sector. The education and training institutions therefore have to be equipped in order to meet current and future petroleum skills needs.
Project to identify and set up training infrastructure
Through a project titled, “An assessment to identify research and training laboratory and field equipment and infrastructure for petroleum geosciences and engineering in Higher Educational Institutions of Uganda”, researchers from CoNAS set out to establish a field research station in the Albertine Graben to support practical training in petroleum studies. The Project led by Prof. J.Y.T. Mugisha was supported by Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF). Other members on the project included; Prof. Michael Owor, former Head, Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies, and currently Dean, School of Physical Sciences (Co-PI); Dr John Mary Kiberu, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies; Mr Willy Kasule and Ms. Suzan Kigozi, technicians in the Department; and Mr. Tonny Mugabi, ICT officer in the Department. The main objective of the project was to identify requisite physical and technological infrastructure for high quality teaching, research and training in various disciplines of the oil and gas sector in Uganda and the East African region.
Commissioning of the Petroleum Field Research Station
As one of the outputs of the project, a Petroleum Field Research Station was set up at Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS) in Kibale. The station was officially commissioned by the Warden Research and Ecological Monitoring, Kibale Conservation area, Ms. Dorothy Kirumira on 6th August 2022.
Once fully equipped, the station will act as a one-stop centre for research and hands-on training for graduates in the oil and gas sector as well as geosciences. In her remarks, Ms. Kirumira informed participants that MUBFS is a global research station that can generate a lot of income for the University.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, the Principal Investigator, Prof. J.Y.T Mugisha noted that the country has over 400 petroleum and geosciences graduates with hardly any practical skills due to lack of training equipment. He appreciated the Government of Uganda for the support extended to the project through Mak-RIF.
Besides establishing a field research station, the researchers developed a database of petroleum research and teaching resources across the country. This will support relevant skilling and training for development of petroleum resources to contribute to economic development and the SDGs 4 and 7, quality education as well as affordable and clean energy. Through the project, the researchers intend to develop a funding proposal to support the establishment of requisite infrastructure for oil and gas training in the region.
The project dissemination and commissioning of the field research station was graced by the Head, Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies, Dr Arthur Batte, and officials from Mak-RIF, Ms Evelyne B. Nyachwo, Research Support Officer and Mr. Aziz Agaba from the Finance Department.
Status of facilities at MUBFS and assessment of geology training sites in the Semliki Basin.
Briefing participants on the status of facilities at MUBFS, the Assistant Domestic Bursar, Mr. Kato Innocent called for renovations on the computer lab, library, shower rooms and improvement of internet connectivity.
Besides the commissioning ceremony, participants toured facilities at MUBFS, and conducted an assessment of the study sites for geology students in the Semliki basin. The team also toured facilities at the Uganda Technical College- KIchwamba and engaged the Deputy Principal, Mr. Milton K. Mumbogwe on possible areas of collaboration including internship.
Proposed areas for further funding
- Exploring alternative field study and research areas across the country;
- Camp site ICT materials including remote access of database;
- Cataloguing all geoscience resources of academic institutions and industry;
- Database up-grading to cater for robust database engine;
- Refurbishment of sanitary facilities at MUBFS;
- Key field equipment, for example GPS, altimeters;
- Living quarters for field classes and researchers.
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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