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Agriculture & Environment

Landscape Ecology Summer School 2022 tackles Cities & Urban Ecological Resilience

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The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University led by the Deputy Principal, Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze, organized and hosted the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School, held from 21st to 22nd July, 2022. The summer school was attended by participants from twenty (20) countries including: Uganda, Kenya, Congo – Kinshasa, Ghana, Nigeria, Germany, the US, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Benin, Rwanda etc. The summer school was very intensive with a series of activities including several presentations, visits to three (03) informal settlements in Kampala including Kisenyi, Bwaise and Acholi Quarters. In Jinja, participants visited two (02) informal settlements including Kibuga – Mbaata, Rippon and the source of the Nile. Participants were hosted to a dinner in Jinja and cultural night at the Ndere Cultural Centre in Kampala. The school started with a theoretical and conceptual overview of urban ecologies of Kampala and Jinja cities at Makerere University. This was followed by a tour of Kampala city and the above selected informal settlements to gain valuable insights into their complex urban ecologies. During the visits, participants had the opportunity to engage with community leaders from the informal settlements as a way of gaining a deeper understanding into the motivations and logics behind the visions of communities living in unequal and precarious environments.

Participants during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School at Makerere University.
Participants during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School at Makerere University.

Under the theme “Cities and Urban Ecological Resilience”, the focus of the school was to “Understand Landscapes, Issues and Co-creation of Knowledge and Solutions” at relevant scales as well as addressing sustainability issues. The objectives of the summer School included:

  • Provide insights in recent conceptual, theoretical and technological developments in landscape ecology that enhance the UN Global Development Agenda 2030 and the African Union Agenda 2063.
  • Build a network of knowledgeable, skilled and competent multidisciplinary scientists with competencies to resolve complex issues.
  • Facilitate deepening of beneficial science-practice-policy interfaces along ecological sustainability and livelihood thrivability in the midst of increasing stressor.
  • Increase north-south and south-south networking, collaboration and partnership for increased knowledge creation and scholarship.
Participants during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School at Makerere University.
Participants during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School at Makerere University.

The landscape ecology network was initiated mainly to address contemporary issues that will lead to the actualization of agenda 2030 and more specifically, SDGs 1 (No poverty), 10 (Reduced inequality), 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), 13 (Climate Action) and their related targets. It is envisioned that the network will play an important role to improve public portfolios, skills and scholarships among African scholars as well as increase collaborations and networking. The network is expected to enable more contributions to publications, increased scholarship from African scholars and greater collaboration/networking. The network is headed by three principle investigators including: Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze (Makerere University), Prof. Henry Bulley (City University of New York) and Prof. Catherine Furst (Martin-Luther-Universitat Halle-Wittenberg).

Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze, Deputy Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, addressing the participants during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School at Makerere University.
Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze, Deputy Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, addressing the participants during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School at Makerere University.

In his opening remarks, Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze, Deputy Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, pointed out that Makerere University remains one of the top universities in Africa. The university was in the midst of commemorating 100 years since its inception. The summer school was therefore an important element within the broader contribution of the university as a knowledge generation and research institution not only for Uganda but Africa as a whole. According to Prof. Bamutaze, the network has already undertaken two (2) summer schools in Kampala, with the first one being held in 2021, the second one in 2022. The next summer school is scheduled to be shared between Kampala and Nairobi in 2023.

Following Prof. Bamutaze’s opening, Prof. Henry Bulley remarked that,

“If we are to go beyond resilience, we have to bring back nature. Therefore a lot has to be done collectively in order to address issues of climate change. For a city to develop we need to critique ideas, however our criticisms should be directed towards the methods or ideas not the human being…”

Prof. Henry Bulley, City University of New York giving his remarks during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School.
Prof. Henry Bulley, City University of New York giving his remarks during the 2022 Landscape Ecology Summer School.

Furthermore, Prof. Bulley applauded donor support for the network activities.

“We appreciate the money coming in from both donor foundations which has enabled us have the summer school this year (2022). If this is going to translate into anything, we need collaborations because if we start and improve partnerships we can change things for our communities. Everybody is now thinking about Agenda 2063 on ‘The Africa We Want’, with the majority of Africa becoming gradually urbanized. We want an organized urban Africa though the question is: how do we work towards this? “

According to him,

“…we need to showcase how we are doing things, what is there in terms of resources to achieve the Africa we want, copying from other African countries and the drivers of change (Sustainable Development Goals) to improve resilience for sustainability…”

Landscape Ecology Summer School Participants at Jinja City Local Government Offices.
Landscape Ecology Summer School Participants at Jinja City Local Government Offices.

Issues arising from the summer school

  • Inadequate physical planners for Africa as well as the need for mind transformation amongst the current group of planning professionals,
  • Initiatives geared towards addressing slum issues are lacking in some countries such as Congo – Kinshasa where resource extraction has eclipsed issues such as urban development,
  • There is need to balance diverse views and identities while generating useful knowledge within the current networks of professionals and academia across Africa,
  • Local experiences need to be translated into legitimate scholarly knowledge by engaging practitioners in documenting and publishing their experiences in journals, and other academic platforms,
  • Kampala informal settlements have challenges including: developments pressures, multi-land tenure system, urban sprawl,
  • Ghana’s urban planning system just like Uganda has serious challenges including institutional governance and implementation.
Prof. Bulley addressing participants and leadership of Jinja City.
Prof. Bulley addressing participants and leadership of Jinja City.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • There is need to reconcile donor demands with the practicalities of the summer school e.g. sending emails to undertake accountability is inappropriate and hence needs to be resolved urgently to improve the management of the whole process,
  • Networking is very key and according to Prof. Henry Bulley,

“You are not here to learn the basics of science. The key reason you are here is to network and collaborate. Social events allow us to see the humanity in ourselves, you may not know the person who will administer your grant. With all the degrees, if we don’t network we are joking”,

  • There is need for Africa’s cities to build their capacities to induce economic growth and foster transformative cultural change,
  • There is need to integrate environment issues e.g. urban greening and beautification, climate change in all development plans by local city governments,
  • Priority should be given to ALL forms of knowledge NOT academic knowledge only,
  • Complex academic concepts should be translated into relatable and practical narratives for local communities for greater impact,
  • Consideration should be accorded for the development of collectively agreed protocols for knowledge exchange and use,
  • There is need to increase the number of days a summer school takes per year. Although this can also be achieved through having more webinars or virtual – based activities,
  • Refresher training courses for follow-up on previous summer schools for continuity are critical hence the need to be integrated in the future network plans,
  • Physical planning is a critical component for addressing the challenges faced by informal settlements across urban Africa,
  • Increase student involvement in knowledge creation processes as a key resource for more impactful planning policy,
  • Documentation of the network activities so that future schools can build on the previous summer schools.
  • Adequate policy and proper stakeholder engagement in policy-making, accessibility to funding and proper information and capacity enhancement for more resilient cities,
  • The need for infrastructure that is sensitive to various kinds of people in Africa’s cities,
  • Inter – disciplinarity is a core element of planning for more resilient African cities,
  • There is need to alternate summer school venues across the continent for a more diverse experience for participants,
  • People have to be engaged in planning since they are at the center of all the decisions being made by development professionals.
Landscape Ecology Summer School Participants at Jinja City Local Government Offices.
Landscape Ecology Summer School Participants at Jinja City Local Government Offices.
Landscape Ecology Summer School Participants at Bugolobi Royal Suites. 
Landscape Ecology Summer School Participants at Bugolobi Royal Suites. 

Kasemiire Mariam is the Web Administrator, CAES & School of Law

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Agriculture & Environment

Soybean Breeders Deliberate Strategies for Improving Productivity

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Soybean breeders with the Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga (4th R); Deputy Principal, Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze (3rd R); and the Dean SAS, Dr John Baptist Tumuhairwe (2nd R) during their meeting at Makerere. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The breeders from USA, Brazil and across Africa, including scientists from CGIAR met at Makerere University on 28th November-1st December 2023 to share experiences, best practices and ideas on collaboration, and to brainstorm on ways of improving productivity.

Overview

Soybean (Glycine max) serves as one of the most valuable crops in the world, not only as an oil seed crop and feed for livestock and aquaculture, but also as a good and cheap source of protein for human diet and as a biofuel feedstock.  The protein content of soybean is the highest among legume crops, averaging 40% on a dry matter basis. Soy-foods are generally considered to be nutritious and healthy based on their nutrient composition which includes protein, fat, carbohydrates, dietary fibres as well as minerals and phytoestrogens (or isoflavones). Due to its nutritional superiority, soybean-based foods are highly recommended for children under 5 years, expectant mothers, and HIV/AIDS patients. Impact studies have shown that regular soy food consumption can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering serum cholesterol by about 33%. It can also reduce the risk of rectal cancer by 80%, mammary tumour by 40%, and breast cancer by 50%.

The Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga appreciated the breeders for leading soybean development initiatives. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga appreciated the breeders for leading soybean development initiatives.

Economic viability

Production of soybean stands at 264 million MT worldwide, with United States of America (USA), Brazil and Argentina being the largest producers. In Africa, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Uganda are the largest producers, with annual volumes estimated at 1.5 million metric tonnes (FAO, 2017). The Soybean Market size is estimated to reach $259 billion by 2030 (IndustryARC – Soybean Market Forecast 2023-2028).

Prof. Phinehas Tukamuhabwa, Principal Investigator for the Soybean Breeding and Seed Systems at Makerere briefs participants about the activities of MAKCSID. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Phinehas Tukamuhabwa, Principal Investigator for the Soybean Breeding and Seed Systems at Makerere briefs participants about the activities of MAKCSID.

The economic viability of soy production is determined by the commercial utilization of both its sub-products, meal and oil, which, respectively, account for about two thirds and one third of the crop’s economic value. Soymeal accounts for over 60% of world output of vegetable and animal meals and occupies a prominent position among protein feedstuffs used in the production of feed concentrates, while soybean oil is the single most important vegetable oil, accounting for 20% of global vegetable oil production. The widespread use of soybean oil in particular as edible oil is mainly due to (i) its plentiful and dependable supplies, (ii) its competitive price, (iii) its neutral flavour, and its stability in both unhydrogenated and partially hydrogenated form. Indirectly, the rapid rise in the demand for compound feed has contributed considerably to the rise in soybean and soyoil production. Soybean contributes significantly to the total value added by the agricultural sector in the major producing countries and particularly so in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the USA. In these countries, soybean and its two main sub-products also occupy an important position in export earnings from agriculture as well as in terms of total merchandise exports (FAO). In Uganda, soybean is number one income earner crop in Northern and Eastern Uganda. Farmers in the region earn at least UGX1,200,000 per hectare per season.

Prof. Brian Diers from the University of Illinois sharing updates from SIL. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Brian Diers from the University of Illinois sharing updates from SIL.

Challenges undermining productivity

Despite the significant strides registered by soybean growing countries, and the health and economic benefits that the crop presents, a number of challenges still undermine productivity.  These include; pests and diseases, prolonged droughts and prolonged rains, poor agronomic practices, inaccessibility to good seed by farmers, drudgery in the production chain (Planting and harvesting) and market price fluctuations, as well as mismatches in supply and demand. Surging input costs, supply disruptions of fertilizers and alternative crops caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and lingering COVID-19 effects have added more uncertainty and volatility to the soybeans market, driving up the prices. Home grown technologies, local seed business approach, and addressing the whole value chain, are envisaged as some of the strategies to overcome the challenges. Adapting crop management, conserving and improving soil conditions by minimizing tilling, increasing crop diversification, protecting soil from erosion, as well as the development of drought-tolerant varieties, will be key to withstand the emerging climate challenges.

Participants following Prof. Diers' presentation during the meeting. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Participants following Prof. Diers’ presentation during the meeting.

Soybean Breeders meeting at Makerere

Soybean breeders from USA, Brazil, and across Africa including scientists from CGIAR on 28th November 2023 met at Makerere University to share experiences, best practices, and ideas on collaboration, and to brainstorm on ways of improving soybean productivity. The meeting held at the School of Agricultural Sciences (SAS), College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) was organized by the Makerere University Centre for Soybean Improvement and Development (MAKCSID) and the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) of the University of Illinois with support from USAID. It was coordinated by Prof. Phinehas Tukamuhabwa, Principal Investigator for the Soybean Breeding and Seed Systems at Makerere, and Prof. Brian Diers from SIL, University of Illinois. It was graced by the Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga, the Deputy Principal, Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze, and the Dean, SAS, Dr John Baptist Tumuhairwe. During the meeting, participants shared progress reports of their respective institutions, highlighting the achievements registered in soybean breeding and seed systems, best practices, challenges undermining productivity, and strategies for improvement. In his presentation, Prof. Diers briefed participants on SIL breeding efforts, indicating that 20 varieties had been developed between 2019-2022 up from the 7 developed between 2013-2018. He also shared updates on the renewed funding from USAID, and the support extended towards new breeding programmes at IITA in Nigeria, IITA in Zambia, EIAR in Ethiopia, Makerere University, and SARI in Ghana.

Dr. Godfrey Chigeza from IITA, Zambia (Standing) responds to queries from Prof. Tukamuhabwa about his presentation. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Dr. Godfrey Chigeza from IITA, Zambia (Standing) responds to queries from Prof. Tukamuhabwa about his presentation.

Delivering a presentation on soybean research in Uganda, Prof. Tukamuhabwa noted that the country had registered significant strides with the production of six high yielding varieties namely; Maksoy IN, Maksoy 2N, Maksoy 3N, Maksoy 4N; Maksoy 5N, Maksoy 6N. Recent impact studies indicated that the new varieties developed by MAKCSID were the most planted and accounted for 93% of the soybean varieties grown by Ugandan farmers. Currently, Maksoy 1N is the most widely adopted variety by farmers, while Maksoy 3N has the largest quantities of foundation seed disseminated by the Centre. According to Prof. Tukamuhabwa, the Centre also established a state-of-the-art seed storage facility for early generation seed (Breeders and Foundation seed) and soybean germplasm used for breeding other varieties. Other facilities are soybean processing equipment (soycow) and Soybean roaster that are used to add value to soybeans. The growth of the soybean sub-sector in Uganda is mainly attributed to the availability of a wide range of improved varieties, government investment in soybean research, and increased private sector investment along the soybean value chain. Despite the achievements, Prof. Tukamuhabwa outlined a number of factors undermining soybean seed systems in Uganda including; the presumed high cost of seed by farmers, counterfeit seed in the market, limited interest in self-pollinating crops by most private seed companies, weak seed policy enforcement, limited access to seed, and unpredictable weather conditions. He expressed gratitude to all development partners that have supported the growth of the MAKCSID programme including; USAID through SIL, the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF VODP), NARO, NAcRRI, RUFORUM, AATF, AGRA, Soybean Africa Limited, NAADS, Smart Foods, ISSD Uganda, IITA, and all local soybean stakeholders.

Abush Tesfaye from IITA, Nigeria delivers a presentation about their programme. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Abush Tesfaye from IITA, Nigeria delivers a presentation about their programme.

At the meeting, participants including Godfree Chigeza from IITA, Zambia; Abush Tesfaye (IITA, Nigeria), Masresha Yirga (EIAR, Ethiopia), Harun Murithi (SIL), Andrew Scaboo (University of Missouri), Elizabeth De Meyer (University of Missouri), and Carrie Miranda (North Dakota State University) delivered presentations on the progress of their breeding and research programmes.

Left to Right: Participants - Dr Harun Murithi, Dr. Jenipher Bisikwa, Dr Tony Obua, and Dr Godfree Chigeza keenly following the presentations. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Left to Right: Participants – Dr Harun Murithi, Dr. Jenipher Bisikwa, Dr Tony Obua, and Dr Godfree Chigeza keenly following the presentations.

A major concern arising from the meeting was the increasing threat of rust. 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.

Participants following the proceedings. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Participants following the proceedings.

Going forward, participants emphasized the need to set up a rust reference centre, early warning systems, and disease nurseries – potential lines for monitoring virulence. They also called for an increase in germplasm acquisition, capacity building for germplasm storage and utilization, introduction of bruchid tolerant genotypes, introduction of soybean genotypes suitable for mechanical harvest, mechanization of production processes, leveraging the scarce research infrastructure, and the development of necessary skills amongst scientists and staff. 

Masresha Yirga from EIAR, Ethiopia delivering his presentation. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Masresha Yirga from EIAR, Ethiopia delivering his presentation.

In her remarks, the Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga expressed gratitude to participants for leading soybean development initiatives. She also appreciated the development partners for supporting the programme. Commenting on the significance of the crop, she said under NDPIII, soybean had been identified as a game changer and one of the crops to improve the country’s food systems. “The crop has been targeted for its oils and nutritional benefits. It is therefore important that we move it to the next level in terms of resistance to diseases, adaption to climate change, and development of fast growing varieties.” She specifically thanked the breeding team led by Prof. Tukamuhabwa for making Makerere the leading Centre in quality soybean seed production and distribution in the country. During their four-day visit, the soybean breeders visited the screen houses, soybean fields, and the Early Generation Seed Unit at MUARIK where they provided enriching insights for improvement. The team also toured Nakabango/Jinja trials as well as the Bugi ZARDI highland soybean trials.



More photos from the meeting

The Dean, SAS, Dr Johh Baptist Tumuhairwe addressing participants. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The Dean, SAS, Dr Johh Baptist Tumuhairwe addressing participants.
Some of the students on the soybean breeding programme. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Some of the students on the soybean breeding programme.
The visitors touring the soybean fields at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The visitors touring the soybean fields at MUARIK.
One of the soybean fields at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
One of the soybean fields at MUARIK.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa (2nd Left) talks to the breeders in one of the soybean fields at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa (2nd Left) talks to the breeders in one of the soybean fields at MUARIK.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa responding to an inquiry from Dr Chigeza. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa responding to an inquiry from Dr Chigeza.
Prof. Brian Diers (Right) and Andrew Scaboo (Left) assessing the crops in the soybean field at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Brian Diers (Right) and Andrew Scaboo (Left) assessing the crops in the soybean field at MUARIK.
Harun Murithi (Right) conducting an assessment in the field at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Harun Murithi (Right) conducting an assessment in the field at MUARIK.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa responds to inquiries about the soybean field. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa responds to inquiries about the soybean field.
The breeders team after touring the soybean field at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The breeders team after touring the soybean field at MUARIK.
The team at the solar irrigation facility at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The team at the solar irrigation facility at MUARIK.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa explaining how the solar irrigation facility works. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Tukamuhabwa explaining how the solar irrigation facility works.
The breeders touring the screen houses at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The breeders touring the screen houses at MUARIK.
The breeders at the soybean seed storage facility at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The breeders at the soybean seed storage facility at MUARIK.
One of the soybean seed storage facilities at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
One of the soybean seed storage facilities at MUARIK.
The breeders touring the Early Generation Seed Unit at MUARIK. Africa Soybean Breeders Meeting, 28th November to 1st December 2023, Makerere University, MUARIK, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The breeders touring the Early Generation Seed Unit at MUARIK.

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Agriculture & Environment

Stakeholders to work with Academia to strengthen Education & Research in Biodiversity Conservation

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Front Row: Assoc. Prof. Robert Wamala (4th R) who represented the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Mak Team Lead-Prof. John Tabuti (5th R), Head GAMSU, Prof. Sylvia Nannyonga-Tamuusza (2nd R), HSRW Team Lead-Ms. Nele Vahrenhorst (Rear: 7th R) and other officials at the kick off workshop on 16th November 2023 at Makerere University. Strengthening Education and Research Capacity for Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resources Use Project Kick Off Workshop, 16th November 2023, Senate Conference Hall, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

On 16th November 2023, national and international stakeholders participated in the kick off workshop hosted at Makerere University to further consolidate various schools of thought aimed at producing a holistic and relevant graduate student equipped with practical skills, research and problem solving abilities aligned to Sustainable Development Goals.

The blended kick off workshop, which brought on board the academia, researchers, private sector, civil society, business community and graduate students set the pace for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Partnership Project titled: Strengthening Education and Research Capacity for Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resources Use.

Expected to benefit over 350 graduate students and 20 members of staff, the SDG Partnership project that will be implemented by Makerere University (Mak) through the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) in collaboration with Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences (HSRW), and Central University of Technology (CUT) is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Welcoming the stakeholders to the kick off workshop, the research project team represented by Prof. John Tabuti from Makerere University and Ms Nele Vahrenhorst from Rhine Waal University of Applied Sciences highlighted that the project seeks to contribute to the following SDGs:

Assoc. Prof. Robert Wamala (2nd L) with Left to Right: Ms. Nele Vahrenhorst, Prof. John Tabuti and Assoc. Prof. Vincent Muwanika. Strengthening Education and Research Capacity for Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resources Use Project Kick Off Workshop, 16th November 2023, Senate Conference Hall, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Assoc. Prof. Robert Wamala (2nd L) with Left to Right: Ms. Nele Vahrenhorst, Prof. John Tabuti and Assoc. Prof. Vincent Muwanika.
  • Poverty Eradication (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Quality Education (SDG 4), Economic Growth (SDG 8), promoting sustainable consumption and production through developing business opportunities in natural resources use (SDG 12), Climate action through better management technologies and protection on natural resources and ecosystems reducing carbon emissions (SDG 13), as well as protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managed forests, combat desertification and halt reverse land degradation and halt bio diversity loss (SDG 15).

Prof. Tabuti stated that the mode of delivery will prioritise the student using an approach referred to as ‘Student-centred learning.”

The main objective of the project is to enhance SDG research and teaching through a strong North-South-South partnership between HSRW, Mak, and CUT, so as to prepare graduate students for the societal challenges ahead, and the requirements of the job market. The SDG project partnership will ensure that university graduates are highly equipped with the necessary competencies to develop appropriate resource management responses, and implement optimum biodiversity conservation strategies as well as dealing with dynamic and complex business problems. The project will address the issue of environmental degradation hence poverty reduction, food insecurity, natural resource depletion, and climate change.

The project will focus on mainly Uganda, being the most bio-diverse country in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 70% of its population relying on agriculture and use of natural resources. In addition, the loss of substantial parts of the natural habitat used in infrastructure development and extension is a major issue of concern. The research project states the urgent need to encourage the youths and students to foster their passion for SDGs premised on the rapid population growth in Uganda, with 50% of the population being under 16 years old.

Assoc. Prof. Robert Wamala (2nd L) prepares to make his remarks as Left to Right: Ms. Nele Vahrenhorst, Prof. John Tabuti and Assoc. Prof. Vincent Muwanika share a light moment. Strengthening Education and Research Capacity for Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resources Use Project Kick Off Workshop, 16th November 2023, Senate Conference Hall, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Assoc. Prof. Robert Wamala (2nd L) prepares to make his remarks as Left to Right: Ms. Nele Vahrenhorst, Prof. John Tabuti and Assoc. Prof. Vincent Muwanika share a light moment.

Officially opening the kick off workshop for the SDG partnership project, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, represented by Associate Prof. Robert Wamala from the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training commended the physical and online participants for accepting to engage in this highly interactive workshop. He further underscored the need to conduct research aligned to the SDGs, national development goals, and global challenges.

The Vice Chancellor pointed out that biodiversity, despite sustaining the planet, faces unprecedented challenges including: Climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and unsustainable resource use. He highlighted education and research as the most formidable tools in addressing these challenges. He noted the role played by Makerere University through its 5-year Strategic Plan that aligns with the National Development Plan III (2020/21-2024/25), by contributing to our transformation into a “research-led” institution with a multi-faceted research agenda and enhanced engagement with industry players.

Associate Professor Robert Wamala concluded by informing the audience that DAAD has been instrumental in his career growth, having sponsored both his Masters’ and PhD studies. Currently serving as Deputy Director (Research Innovations and Partnerships) at Makerere University, he applauded DAAD for supporting research and capacity building programmes at Makerere University.

Ms. Nele Vahrenhorst from Rhine Waal University of Applied Sciences makes her remarks. Strengthening Education and Research Capacity for Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resources Use Project Kick Off Workshop, 16th November 2023, Senate Conference Hall, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Ms. Nele Vahrenhorst from Rhine Waal University of Applied Sciences makes her remarks.

According to the Acting Head, Department of Environmental Management at Makerere University, Associate Professor Vincent Muwanika, the project will support practical training of students on problem identification, and staff in identifying and publishing local cases that are key in enhancing growth, not only at Makerere University but also in the private sector.

Associate Prof. Muwanika observed that the project’s alignment with SDG 15 will be guided by and greatly benefit from partnerships. He noted that partnerships are key in enabling us share and cross fertilize academic ideas and experiences, a feat that has kept Makerere University among top-tier research institutions.

Highlighting the importance of policies in churning out relevant products, Associate Prof. Muwanika commended the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for spearheading and overseeing policies and programmes that recognize, incentivize, and promote partnerships with industry, people and institutions outside Makerere University.

To further onboard the stakeholders, the project team leads namely Prof. John Tabuti and Ms Nele Vahrenhorst specified that the main activities of the project would include:  improving the teaching material on courses that assemble natural resources for use, socio-ecological issues, data analysis, genetics, entrepreneurship, and sustainable tourism. The project will focus on capacity building of teaching and research staff on various methods, develop case studies on sustainable natural resources use, develop networks with non-academic actors, enhance student mobility to strengthen international perspectives, as well as promote inter-country inter-disciplinary learning exchange, incorporate higher education management, internationalization, digitalization as well as monitoring and evaluation.

Associate Professor Vincent Muwanika, Acting Head, Department of Environmental Management, School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University. Strengthening Education and Research Capacity for Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resources Use Project Kick Off Workshop, 16th November 2023, Senate Conference Hall, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Associate Professor Vincent Muwanika, Acting Head, Department of Environmental Management, School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University.

Prof. Tabuti advocated for a strong stakeholder engagement for content development, research undertakings and case studies. “We have brought you on board because you are key people in the field. You are going to play an instrumental role in the development of case studies. Stakeholders will work with the academic staff to develop the content and teach our students,” said Prof. Tabuti.

In a highly interactive session involving a plenary and group sessions, the stakeholders contributed to the discussion on their needs and expectations regarding the graduate competencies and skills in biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resources.

Matters arising from the stakeholder workshop:

  1. With regard to the kind of graduates’ employers would wish to have, participants presented a number of qualities including: good communication skills, practical orientation, humility, openness to diversity, readiness to learn and unlearn, ability to adopt to work ethics, problem solving skills, articulateness, confidence with ability to collaborate, design thinking mindset, and innovativeness.
  2. In response to a question on how the partnership with stakeholders to support teaching and research shall be made possible, the participants presented proposals including: Identification of case studies linking to the lecture to be delivered, identification of key stakeholders, stakeholder engagement, identification of valid course content, design access and agreement on methodological approach to be used during the teaching and learning process, compilation of issues to be addressed before they are presented, design of a working document that can guide who does what, coming up with a team to develop a framework for developing the curricular.
  3. Responses to a question on how partners can collaborate in development of case studies included: contribution of knowledge to case study development, establishment of linkages with the community, identification of research gaps, sharing of available resources in public domain, documentation of intellectual property rights, collaboration in teaching and training of students, provision of internship opportunities, giving notifications for advance preparation.

During the presentations, stakeholders indicated the readiness to partner with Makerere University to contribute to the development of case studies and content production for lectures and community outreach.

Closing the kick off workshop, Prof. Tabuti conveyed his gratitude to Makerere University management for supporting the project. He acknowledged Ms Ritah Namisango, the Principal Public Relations Officer of Makerere University for moderating the workshop. He thanked Dr. Dorothy Nampanziira, Ms Ritah Namisango, Ms Aziidah Namatovu and Dr. Godfrey Mayende for the excellent coordination of activities leading to the successful hosting of the workshop. He also thanked the physical and online participants for actively contributing to the stakeholders’ workshop.

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Agriculture & Environment

RUFORUM 19th AGM Urges Africa to Take the Lead on Climate Action

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Dr. Ackim Mwape from the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases-GRA (Right) with alumni representatives from various countries during the launch of the GRA-RUFORUM Alumni Network in Africa on 1st November 2023 at a side-event of the 19th RUFORUM AGM. 19th RUFORUM AGM, Theme: “Transforming Higher Education to Sustainably Feed and Create Prosperity for Africa”, 28th October-2nd November 2023 “Accelerating and Scaling-Up Africa’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Actions: Experiences and Lessons” side-event 1st November 2023 at Palais de Congrès, Yaoundé, Cameroon, Africa.

By Agaba Issa Mugabo

As the impacts of climate change are increasingly being felt across Africa, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has reminded African Governments that their climate commitments are key to preserving the continent’s unique natural resources.

The appeal was made on 1st November 2023 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where higher education leaders, researchers, policy makers, development partners, students, farmers, among others from across the African continent and the world gathered to discuss and lay strategies to transform agricultural higher education to contribute to Africa’s development.

In line with thematic areas of the 19th RUFORUM Annual General Meeting (AGM), the “Accelerating and Scaling-Up Africa’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Actions: Experiences and Lessons side-event was held. The side-event provided a platform for participants to share experiences and lessons learned from initiatives such as; Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa project (AICCRA), the Global Research Alliance for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) and Responsible Artificial Intelligence for Climate Action in Africa (RAINCA). It served as a unifying platform where participants collectively envisioned a future characterized by integration and harmony of solutions.

Furthermore, the side-event emphasized the urgent need for swift and coordinated action to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate. The event featured discussions aimed at fostering efficiency, collaboration, and idea-sharing across various tracks. 

Africa by virtue of its overreliance on rain-fed agriculture is vulnerable to climate change impacts. Predictions show that global warming of 1.5°C or 2.0°C, a now more than likely scenario, will shorten crop growth duration, aggravate droughts, and consequently reduce yield for major staple cereals.

Climate change adaptation is therefore necessary to reduce the likely impacts on agricultural productivity. Furthermore, mitigation actions are required to reduce on greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration.

In addition to sharing lessons and experiences, the side-event provided a forum to address challenges in accelerating and scaling up Africa’s climate change adaptation and mitigation actions.

Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega welcomes attendees. 19th RUFORUM AGM, Theme: “Transforming Higher Education to Sustainably Feed and Create Prosperity for Africa”, 28th October-2nd November 2023 “Accelerating and Scaling-Up Africa’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Actions: Experiences and Lessons” side-event 1st November 2023 at Palais de Congrès, Yaoundé, Cameroon, Africa.
Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega welcomes attendees.

Speakers and discussants emphasized the vital role of climate finance in unlocking Africa’s green energy potential and fostering climate-resilient development, with a call on African governments to allocate more financial resources to address climate challenges effectively.

Dr. Florence Nakayiwa Mayega, the Deputy Executive Secretary of RUFORUM, welcomed the attendees with a powerful message. “Africa can play a bigger role in climate change mitigation” she said, urging that “Governments and their people must mitigate climate change while preparing for climate change”.

The Deputy Executive Secretary said that the main objective of the side event was to explore how universities can play an active role in addressing climate change issues. She added that universities should therefore take keen interest in the climate change initiatives RUFORUM is engaged in.

“Under the AICCRA programme, RUFORUM has developed curricula for enhancing the use of validated climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and/or the climate information services (CIS) knowledge products developed by the CGIAR Centres and other research institutions” added Dr. Nakayiwa Mayega.

The modules and other technologies, practices and innovations developed under the AICCRA programme were showcased at the side-event. The meeting also explored avenues for mainstreaming CSA/CIS into university activities including university curricula, research and outreach.

Dr. Robert Zougmore delivered the keynoted address. 19th RUFORUM AGM, Theme: “Transforming Higher Education to Sustainably Feed and Create Prosperity for Africa”, 28th October-2nd November 2023 “Accelerating and Scaling-Up Africa’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Actions: Experiences and Lessons” side-event 1st November 2023 at Palais de Congrès, Yaoundé, Cameroon, Africa.
Dr. Robert Zougmore delivered the keynoted address.

Dr. Robert Zougmore the AICCRA West Africa Cluster Lead delivered the keynote address on Accelerating and scaling-up Africa’s climate change adaptation and mitigation actions: Experiences and lessons learned from AICCRA. He reported that AICCRA which started in 2012 has reached three million smallholder farmers in six countries including: Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia. This, he said, had been achieved through a number of regional initiatives that complement national activities to deliver benefits for a broader range of stakeholders across East, West and Southern Africa.

“Africa, like other regions, has come to terms with the reality that climate change is already happening. The continent now knows that if left untamed, Africa’s economies, livelihoods and nature will be hit by severe climate-induced pressure,” said Dr. Zougmore.

“AICCRA has 45 packages that support millions of smallholder farmers across Africa to access and use proven innovations in climate information services and climate-smart agriculture,” he said.

Dr. Zougmore added that AICCRA believes that with better access to innovative technology and advisory services—linked to information about effective response measures—farmers are enabled to better anticipate climate events and take preventative action that helps their communities safeguard livelihoods and the environment.

He also said that close to 80 partner organisations across Africa are using AICCRA technologies to help farmers and ten agriculture data (Agdata) hubs have been established with the aim of transforming agriculture decisions in Africa. The hubs integrate data from multiple sources to help farmers make informed decisions about what crops or varieties to plant in a given location and when to sow them.

Dr. Ackim Mwape, from the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA). 19th RUFORUM AGM, Theme: “Transforming Higher Education to Sustainably Feed and Create Prosperity for Africa”, 28th October-2nd November 2023 “Accelerating and Scaling-Up Africa’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Actions: Experiences and Lessons” side-event 1st November 2023 at Palais de Congrès, Yaoundé, Cameroon, Africa.
Dr. Ackim Mwape, from the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA).

Addressing the audience on “Championing a transformative mode of Climate Change Action in Africa”, Dr. Ackim Mwape, from the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) called for the continent’s increased determination to accelerate action on adaptation and finance in order to deliver climate justice that Africa deserves.

Dr. Mwape said that there is need to inject more financial resources in climate action solutions in Africa to ensure that communities can bolster their climate resilience. “Only USD 30 billion in climate financing flows into Africa annually, which is only 11% of the climate financing needs estimated at USD 280 billion a year,” he said.

He said that governments, the private sector, multilaterals and development partners need to do more to help close the climate financing gap on the continent that is not only the hardest hit by climate change but also sleepwalking into a potential catastrophe. Dr. Mwape added that the ongoing initiatives by international partners are still a drop in the ocean compared to financial resources needed to protect the most vulnerable. 

He concluded by adding that failure to act now, not only exacerbates immediate risks but also threatens long-term resilience and contributes to social inequality and political instability. He reiterated that access to adequate financial resources is crucial for climate change adaptation and developed countries are expected to scale up climate finance for developing countries with a balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation.

Prof. James Hansen a Senior Research Scientist at IRI underscored Africa's need for climate information services. 19th RUFORUM AGM, Theme: “Transforming Higher Education to Sustainably Feed and Create Prosperity for Africa”, 28th October-2nd November 2023 “Accelerating and Scaling-Up Africa’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Actions: Experiences and Lessons” side-event 1st November 2023 at Palais de Congrès, Yaoundé, Cameroon, Africa.
Prof. James Hansen a Senior Research Scientist at IRI underscored Africa’s need for climate information services.

Discussing Climate Information Services (CIS) Curriculum Development and Research: Experiences from International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), James Hansen a Senior Research Scientist at IRI, said that Africa requires climate information services that effectively meet African farmers’ decision-making needs in a variable and changing climate.

He said that well-functioning weather and climate information services can save lives and livelihoods. He added that in order for African communities and businesses to adapt more effectively to the inevitable impacts of climate change, CIS must be strengthened as comprehensively as possible.

Prof. Hansen however acknowledged that uptake and use of CIS in Africa is influenced by many factors including the lack of reliable historical observations, coarse scale of future climate projections, and weakly coordinated CIS delivery, among others.

Participants were urged to mitigate the effects of climate-related weather events and manage residual risks through participatory planning and comprehensive service delivery.

The side event concluded with a resounding message to the effect that: Africa is not just a continent facing climate impacts; it is a continent poised to lead the world in climate solutions.

During the same event, the GRA-RUFORUM Alumni Network in Africa was launched.

RUFORUM convenings are held annually and rotationally in countries where its member universities are based.

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