Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) represented by Dr. Patrick Musinguzi, a Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Production, hosted a satellite event of the 2nd African Conference on Precision Agriculture (AfCPA) from 7th to 9th December 2022, at Protea Hotel in Kampala, Uganda. AfCPA is a biennial event and an initiative of the African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI) in partnership with Muhammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA), and the African Association for Precision Agriculture (AAPA). The satellite event offered an opportunity for the local presenters and stakeholders to participate in the main conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, on issues of precision agriculture as a novel management approach for optimizing soil/crop health and productivity. The mission of AfCPA is to build a forum dedicated to “connecting the science and practice needed to put precision agriculture in action for Africa.”
The conference was sponsored by OCP Africa, Global Phosphorous Institute, 4R Solution Global Affairs Canada, Digital Agriculture Convergence Laboratory, and Investiv. The conference aimed at strengthening and supporting the precision agriculture community within the African context. The conference engaged stakeholders including scientists, policy makers, extension staff, crop consultants and advisors, agronomists and service providers towards a common goal of building the capacity and resilience of African cropping systems.
AfCPA partner organizations that served as national satellite site hosts included:
- National Polytechnic Institute Félix Houphouët-Boigny (INP-HB), Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
- National Authority for Remote Sensing & Space Sciences (NARSS), Cairo, Egypt
- Ethiopia Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- CSIR-Savanna Agriculture Research Institute, Tamale, Ghana
- Nassarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria
- University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
- Advanced School of Agronomy/University of Lomé (ESA-UL), Lomé, Togo
- National Institute of Agronomic Research of Tunisia (INRAT), Tunis, Tunisia
- College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
- Plant Production Sciences and Technologies, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
Strategies to promote rapid adoption of precision agriculture
Education: Schools especially higher institutions of learning like universities should develop programmes and expand curricula to spur digital innovation and skills development of precision agriculture technologies and techniques.
Youth inclusion programmes: Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) should focus on youth inclusion and create programmes targeted towards the youth to educate, train and challenge them to engage in precision agriculture advancement.
Strengthening collaborations and knowledge sharing: Local organizations and international bodies should develop partnerships that ensure cross-fertilization of knowledge, ideas, and technologies in precision agriculture, with youth in the picture.
Research engagement: The youth are the powerhouse of innovative ideas and they posses the stamina needed in research that would advance precision agriculture. Research programmes must be developed to target and leverage the strength of the youth in Africa.
Policy Development: Government at all levels must develop policies and regulations that favour the advancement of precision agriculture in Africa, while encouraging the youth to lead with technology development and start innovations that promote precision agriculture.
Finance towards research and youth-led AgTech startup/SMEs: Precision agriculture product development especially in the African local context requires generous funding to prototype. Therefore funding is critically important to cause significant progress and to speed up precision agriculture in Africa.
Community engagement: The concept of precision agriculture comes with ideologies and it is vital to use the power of community engagement to bring about ideological change for rapid adoption of precision agriculture in Africa. The youth are valuable agency to deliver this change. When the youth accept precision agriculture, they easily influence the narrative its favour.
In her remarks, Dr. Mildred Ochwo, Head department of Agricultural Production, CAES said strengthening Networks would greatly boost precision agriculture in Africa.
The Deputy Principal of CAES, Prof. Yazidhi Bamutaze cited the need to embrace and optimize emerging technologies intended improve agricultural productivity. Prof. Bamutaze aslo noted the need for Uganda’s commitment to collecting quality data. “We need to redirect our efforts to data collection consistently in a clean way for science to work. With poor quality data you can not run simulations or models, and targeted interventions. We all have to work together towards this,” he said. According to Prof. Bamutaze, Uganda as a country is increasingly appreciating technology, and with leadership, we can work together, setup trials to ensure that what we are doing goes to the next level.
Prof. Bamutaze noted that the College was keen to work with partners, through student-staff mobilities. Prof. Bamutaze appealed to government for funding in order to produce competent students. “We can’t develop the country without good capital base, which requires resources,” he said.
According to Mr. Fred Kabango, Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, the ministry has undertaken many initiatives like climate smart agriculture, geared towards addressing the effects of climate change. Mr. Kabango called for adoption of precision agriculture as a measure to improve productivity. In achieving NDP Goal 3, on industrialization, were, one of the pillars is to increase production and productivity, Mr. Kabango emphasized the need to look at agriculture as business, and to retool farmers with the best agricultural practices.
Mr. Paul Senyange, Project Manager E-services, National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) presented an assessment of how the Authority can support the implementation of precision agriculture through Agriculture technology initiatives discussed in the conference. Mr. Senyange presented a number of ideas on how NITAU can support the initiative including: creating an enabling environment with special focus on necessary laws, connecting through the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI), supporting data sharing and security through the UGHUB which is a Government integration platform, supporting unit hosting of applications in the current cloud data centre, and supporting innovations and e-services in the precision agriculture space.
Improving Agricultural Services in Northern Uganda: Mak staff train 546 extension workers
Makerere University has trained 546 extension workers from Northern and Eastern Uganda. The five-month training that started on 5th September 2022 and ended January 2023 has been conducted by academics from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), College Natural Sciences (CoNAS), College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB), Makerere University Business School (MUBS), and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF). All the trainings were conducted at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK), and coordinated by Dr Bernard Obaa, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies at CAES. Through a programme titled; “Provision of Training Services to Technical Staff of Local Governments for improved Extension Service Delivery to Farmers in Northern Uganda” the extension workers have been trained in the areas of Integrated Pest and Disease Management, Climate Smart Agriculture and Postharvest Handling, Animal Feed Formulation and Dry Season Feeding, Fish Feed Formulation and Feeding, Animal Breed Improvement through Artificial Insemination, Fish Breeding and Hatchery Management, Apiculture (Queen rearing and breeding and value addition in honey), Farmer Institutional Capacity Development, Agribusiness and Market Linkages, and Financial Management.
The training was officially closed by the Minister of State for Northern Uganda, Hon. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny at a ceremony held at MUARIK on 27th January 2023. The closing ceremony was attended by a number of dignitaries from the European Union, the Office of the Prime Minister, MAAIF, NARO Uganda, district local governments, as well as members of staff from Makerere University led by the Academic Registrar, Prof. Buyinza Mukasa who represented the Vice Chancellor.
Background to the training programme
While notable strides have been made to enhance household food and nutrition security, reduce poverty and improve household incomes through agriculture, Northern Uganda is still lagging behind due to the long-term insurgency that left many households disintegrated. Uganda’s Vision 2040, the National Agricultural Extension Policy (NAEP), the National Agricultural Policy (NAP) and the National Agricultural Extension Strategy (NAES) strategically place agriculture as a key driver to achieve socio-economic transformation in the country. The Northern Uganda Region has immensely benefited from massive investments in agricultural infrastructure, but dismal efforts have been made to enhance actual service delivery. As a result, functional extension systems that efficiently and effectively respond to challenges that farmers experience along the value chain of key agricultural commodities have not been given adequate attention in the region. Consequently, the farmers continue to be constrained in terms of accessing inputs and advisory services on modern agronomic practices and market opportunities. Although the district and sub-county extension officers are expected to provide this service, they have inadequate knowledge and skills to enable them render improved and relevant advisory and support services to farming communities.
Last year, the Office of the Prime Minister through the Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (DINU) contracted Makerere University to offer the training services. DINU is a Government of Uganda programme supported by the European Union (EU) and supervised by the Office of the Prime Minister. It is a multi-sectoral programme aimed at improving livelihoods in 41 districts in the five sub-regions of Acholi, Karamoja, Lango, Teso, and West Nile for a duration of six years (2017-2023). The 150.6 million Euro programme covers interventions in three interlinked sectors; (1) Food Security, Nutrition and Livelihoods; (2) Infrastructure (transport, logistics, water; and (3) Good governance.
Objectives of DINU
- To increase food security, improve maternal and child nutrition, and enhance household incomes through support to diversified food production and commercial agriculture, through improving household resilience – notably to climate change, and through women empowerment
- To increase trade of commodities within the region, in the country and within neighbouring countries through improved transport infrastructure
- To strengthen capacity, gender-responsiveness, good governance and the rule of law at the level of local government authorities and empower communities to participate in improved local service delivery
Remarks by the Minister of State for Northern Uganda
Speaking at the closing ceremony held at MUARIK on 27th January 2023, the Minister of State for Northern Uganda, Hon. Grace Freedom Kwiyuchiny, said the greatest challenge affecting Northern Uganda was over reliance on subsistence farming. “This has kept us in poverty. The training of 546 extension workers will help improve the situation. On behalf of the people of Northern Uganda, I extend our appreciation to the Office of the Prime Minister for this and many other interventions aimed at restoring peace in the region. I also thank the EU for funding the project, and Makerere University for offering the training services,” she noted.
The Minister handed over equipment to representatives of extension workers from 18 districts to support their activities. The equipment included motorcycles, GPS machines, Artificial Insemination kits, laptops & fish pond water testing kits procured by Office of the Prime Minister with support from the EU.
Remarks by the representative of Makerere University Vice Chancellor
On behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Makerere University Academic Registrar, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi appreciated the Office of the Prime Minister for the timely intervention. “These trainings have been conducted timely at the start of the implementation of the Parish Development Model (PDM). We are confident the new knowledge and skills acquired through these trainings will enable the frontline extension workers to provide better support to our farmers. This will in turn enhance household food and nutrition security, reduce poverty and improve household incomes in the Northern and Eastern Regions that were severely affected by the LRA insurgency, he noted, expressing gratitude to the EU for supporting the programme. He also appreciated the Government of Uganda for supporting various development initiatives in the country. “With the wise guidance of the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni, the Government of Uganda has so far extended support to 750 research projects at Makerere University worth UGX90 billion. Through these projects, our researchers have come up with a number of innovations that directly address community challenges.” Prof. Buyinza implored the participants to use the knowledge and skills acquired to improve service delivery in their respective communities.
Remarks from MAAIF
Dr. Patience Rwamigisa, Director, Agriculture Extension Services at MAAIF noted that efficient extension systems are critical for building strong agricultural systems. “The training is therefore timely. I thank the trainers from Makerere University for the job well done, and the European Union and Office of the Prime Minister for supporting the programme.
In his remarks, the Head of the EU Delegation in Uganda, Ambassador Jan Sadek said the EU had extended considerable support to different local governments with the aim of improving service delivery and livelihoods. “I want to thank all those who have participated in the training of 546 extension workers from Northern & Eastern Uganda. We hope the knowledge and skills acquired will lead to better agricultural practices”.
Representing the Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga, the Dean School of Agricultural Sciences, Dr John Baptist Tumuhairwe expressed gratitude to the Office of the Prime Minister for choosing Makerere to conduct the training. He appreciated the EU for the funding and the trainers for committing time to offer the service. He appealed to the trainees to use the knowledge and skills acquired to promote climate smart agriculture in their respective districts.
The extension workers expressed gratitude for the training noting that it would enable them perform their duties effectively. They appealed for refresher trainings and improvement of their working conditions.
Mak Trains over 500 Technical & Extension Workers under DINU
On 27th January 2023, The Academic Registrar, Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi represented the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe at the closing ceremony of the training of technical staff of local governments under the Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (DINU) program. The training was conducted by a joint team from the Colleges of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-security (CoVAB), Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).
DINU is a Government of Uganda programme supported by a grant of 150 million Euros from the European Union (EU) and supervised by Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). It is a multi-sectoral programme aimed at improving livelihoods in 41 districts in the five sub-regions of Acholi, Karamoja, Lango, Teso and West Nile for a duration of six years (2017-2023).
Over 500 technical and extension workers have received training in the field of integrated pest and disease management, climate smart agriculture, apiculture, post harvest handling, integrated soil fertility management, marketing, agribusiness and financial management.
The Minister of State for Northern Uganda, Hon. Grace Freedom Kwiyuchiny was the Guest of Honour at the closing ceremony held at the Continuing Agricultural Education Centre (CAEC) of the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK).
The ceremony was attended by a representative of the Head of the EU delegation Ambassador Jan Sadek, Director of Agriculture Extension Services at MAAIF, Permanent Secretary OPM, and over 30 Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs). DINU will continue to partner with CAES to enhance knowledge, skills and practice in line with the Parish Development Model (PDM), which is aimed at serving as an engine for socio-economic transformation.
CAES Botanical Gardens Launched
The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) through the School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences (SFEGS) on 6th December launched the first CAES Botanical Gardens at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK). The Botanical Gardens will cover 30 acres of MUARIK land. This is one of the College initiatives geared towards the protection, conservation and recreation of ecosystems. The gardens will also be used for teaching and research. During the launch, over 300 trees were donated to the Gardens.
The CAES Botanical Gardens is an iconic monument set up to commemorate 100 years of Makerere University and 50 years of the School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences. The idea of the gardens was an initiative by Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, following his visit to Stellenbosch University where he was impressed by the green scenery.
Established in 1953, MUARIK is one of the research institutes of CAES, Makerere University, with the main role of supporting the College’s mandate of teaching, research, outreach and production. MUARIK carries out research based on the nation’s priorities, including: biotechnology, tissue culture technology, plant breeding, development of improved farming techniques, agro-processing, marketing and value addition. The institute has had a number of achievements including: increased banana plantation acreage, poultry unit renovation, increased soybean production to 14 acres between 2018-2020, expansion of pasture gardens, improvement of the coffee plantation, and provision of training services to education institutions.
On behalf of Makerere University Vice Chancellor, the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, commended CAES for the initiative, emphasizing the importance of forests in combating climate change. “We all rely on the environment and I am sure we have all witnessed how fast the environment is changing, and as a Civil Engineer I confess that we are part of the problem. We cut trees for construction purposes, with no effort to replace them,” he said.
Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga, Principal CAES, urged the First Year students at the College to take charge in as far as protection and conservation of forests is concerned. “Your cohort comes in at the beginning of a new century. We assign you the responsibility to take this forward,” she said. Prof. Nabanoga re-echoed the need for sustainable management of ecosystems for improved livelihoods.
According to Prof. Fred Babweteera, Dean School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, the CAES Botanical Gardens will serve as a centre for replicating a number of ecosystems, promoting and conserving the indigenous species, especially those with medicinal value, and setting up recreational spaces.
In her remarks, Hon. Kaaya Christine Nakimwero, Woman Member of Parliament, Kiboga District called on the public to support popularization of the Botanical Gardens. “I feel you are the centre of biological diversity, and having the gardens at the best University in Uganda is indeed something to celebrate,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water and Environment, represented by Commissioner Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi described the Botanical Gardens as a great initiative that would boost Government efforts geared towards preserving forests.
According to Dr. Daniel Waiswa, Lecturer, Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Climatic Sciences, CAES, the Botanical Gardens will serve as a laboratory for many studies. It will also help in the promotion and conservation of endangered and indigenous species, as well as serve as a recreation centre.
The event was moderated by Dr. Patrick Byakagaba, Lecturer at the Department of Environmental Management, CAES.
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