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Natural Sciences

Mak Presents ‘BEST INNOVATION’ at the Appropriate Technologies Expo 2023

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By Harriet Adong

Makerere University faculty, students and administrative staff diversely engaged at the Appropriate Technologies Expo. One of the over 850 multidisciplinary projects funded by the Government of the Republic of Uganda through Makerere University’s Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) https://rif.mak.ac.ug/ emerged ‘BEST INNOVATION’ (out of 46 showcased innovative solutions) at the Expo. This was Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment – Appropriate Technology Centre (ATC) 2023 Expo organized in partnership with Makerere University and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It was the second Expo held at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds; Thursday February 2nd through Saturday February 4th, 2023 guided by the Theme: “Showcasing Appropriate Technologies that can be adopted to improve health, hygiene, social wellbeing, agriculture and environmental conservation”. Seven projects funded by the Government of the Republic of Uganda through Mak-RIF participated in this Expo.

The Winner and Best Innovation at the Expo is Makerere University’s project titled: Valorization of Waste Chicken Feathers for Water Purification: Designing and Constructing Low-Cost Keratin Based Nanofilters as Adsorbents of Heavy Metals and Nanosized Contaminants (MAK-RIF/CH/02/21). This project is being incubated at Makerere University College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) under the leadership of Dr. Alice Nabatanzi, the Principal Investigator.

“This is very exciting news, it is evident that innovations start small, just think without the box, explore and leverage readily available resources and put these into use to propose solutions to address community challenges. Thank you so much Government of Uganda for the funding. Thank your Makerere University management for the enabling environment and thank you team at Mak-RIF for the opportunities for us to showcase our solutions. We pledge our best”, said Dr. Nabatanzi.  She added that the efforts at hand currently are geared towards scaling the project for wider reach and in saying this she called upon potential partners, donors including the government of Uganda to embrace further supporting such innovative solutions to scale. Other team members include; Mr. Stanley Ofwono, Project Technician and Ms. Irene Achede, Project Administrator. Like other supported project teams, this team is engaging external stakeholders; Mr. Samson Okwir from Ugachick Poultry Breeders Ltd supports project implementation. In addition, mentorship of students is key at a higher learning institution like Makerere University and for this reason Mr. Thomas Wanyama and Tropher Ssali; Bachelor of Science Biotechnology students at CoNAS are team members of this project and they greatly supported at the Expo.

Waste chicken feather processing. Courtesy Photo.
Waste chicken feather processing. Courtesy Photo.

This project developed a keratin-based nanofilter using waste chicken feathers. This is a new technology and one of its kind in Uganda and Africa at large.  The project aimed at efficiency and sustainability while promoting a circular economy. The developed filter is able to clean and purify water through removal of micro-organisms, heavy metals and other nano contaminants. The filtered water is safe and ready for use and even drinking. This project purposes to control environmental pollution through recycling of waste chicken feathers as it contributes to improved health, food safety, food security and environmental safety. This project majorly contributes towards SDGs 3, 6, 9, 13.

The second-best Innovation was the Trenching Machine that eases excavation of trenches during laying of water pipes and the third was an application used in the operation and maintenance of a water supply system both by teams from Busitema University. Congratulations!

Other Mak-RIF projects showcased at the Expo include the following;

  • Green synthesis of graphene from Agro waste for energy storage devices – Dr. Nobert Mukasa – College of Engineering Design Art and Technology (CEDAT).
  • Towards a Food Secure Uganda Under a Changing Climate – Dr. Isaac Mugume, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).
  • Environ e-Watch App for increased community surveillance in environmental monitoring catchment degradation and restoration – Dr. Patrick Musinguzi, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).
  • Functionalized XEROGEL – Carbon Water Filters – Dr. Ibrahim Karume, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS).
  • E-Participatory Innovation Platforms for Improved Access to Forestry Extension Services – Associate Prof. Justine Namaalwa, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).
  • Green Low-Cost Touchless Handwashing Technology (TW-20 Kit) For Public Shared Spaces, Dr. Dr. Joshua Wanyama,College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). Details about the launch of these kits are shared on https://rif.mak.ac.ug/mak-unveils-a-touchless-handwashing-kit-for-public-shared-spaces-in-response-to-covid-19-pandemic/

Upon receipt of this exciting news, Prof. Fred Masagazi-Masaazi, the Mak-RIF Chairperson Mak-said “Wow, Congratulations to all exhibitors at the just concluded ATC 2023 Expo and specifically to Makerere University’s Dr. Nabatanzi and your project team. I am happy that the adjudicators at the Expo identified this project and recognized it as the ‘BEST INNOVATION’. Indeed, we have many more potentially transformative projects being supported under the Mak-RIF initiative with funding from the Government of the republic of Uganda”. “We are forever grateful to the Government of Uganda for supporting research and innovations at Makerere University. This fund has continued to have spillover effects to other institutions of learning and organizations with whom our researchers and innovators have continued to work” Prof. Masagazi added.

The Appropriate Technologies 2023 Expo was an opportunity for Ministry of Water andEnvironment inpartnership with Makerere University and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to showcase 47 innovative solutions directed towards positively impacting communities in which we live and serve. It was also at this Expo where the general public received various health services including HIV and Aids Counseling and Testing, Vaccination,testing for lifestyle diseases and Safe Male Circumcision etc. from Makerere University Hospital team. The Expo was attended by Members of Parliament, government officials including commissioners and assistant commissioners, private sector, researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, the Media, Higher Education Institution faculty and students among others.   Details about the Appropriate Technology Centre (ATC) are shared on https://atc.mwe.go.ug/

Engineer Christopher Tumusiime, Commissioner of the Water Utility Regulation Department at Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment welcomed all participants to the Expo noting that the Expo was an opportunity to showcase water supply, sanitation and environmentally appropriate technologies to spur social economic development in Uganda. “We are using this Expo to show that science and technology can be used to adjust effects of climate change, improve access to safe water, improve data management among others”, Engineer Tumusiime added.  He thanked Makerere University Hospital team for providing health services during the Expo. He also thanked Prof. William Bazeyo, the ATC Chairperson for mobilizing Expo participants noting that he was also grateful to the Expo partners for all the support which enabled it to happen.

Mr. Yakubu Al Hassan Kassim, WASH Officer at UNICEF commended all stakeholders for a job well done at the Expo. He noted that the theme was well thought out especially in this error of socio-economic development efforts. “Let us give all these technologies support to scale. UNICEF focusses on sustainability of these technologies because this is authentic for home grown solutions. We are proud to be part of this and please, whenever there is an opportunity, call on us” he added.

Prof. William Bazeyo, the Appropriate Technology Centre Chairperson called upon all stakeholders to support Uganda’s innovations to get into the different markets. He said “Our people in the communities deserve even more especially using some of the simple technologies for example purification of water”. Prof. Bazeyo thanked Hon. Aogon for sparing time to engage with each exhibitor while offering guidance. He requested Hon. Aogon to please take the message to the committee he is leading that what they are looking for is all at the ATC Expo. “One day, Uganda will be a source of what the region requires for example employment of the youth” he added. He also thanked Makerere University and UNICEF for the partnership noting that he is always proud to be part of Makerere University and would continue working with the teams to spur research and innovation.

Honorable Silas Aogon, Uganda’s Member of Parliament for Kumi Municipality, Kumi District and Chairperson Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) graced the expo as Chief Guest. He commended Ugandans who are researching and innovating including those embracing research and innovation. He called upon all to make technology and its aspiration viral. “Let new circles influence upcoming circles to grow technology” he noted. “We need appropriate technologies to save our natural bodies, control pollution, and reduce carbon emission” Hon. Aogon added. He also said that appropriate technologies need to trickle down to the last mile communities and thus the need to continue supporting the growth and development of technology. “On behalf of Government of Uganda, we pledge to continue supporting technology growth in Uganda and beyond. Let us all accord technology and innovation a priority so that we all benefit in one way or another” he said. He applauded the two Professors; Prof. William Bazeyo, the ATC Chairperson and Prof. Sylvia Nannyonga Tamusuza, Chairperson Makerere University Grants Administration and Management Unit and Head of Department Makerere University Department of Performing Arts and Film who joined in the Expo. He also appreciated the Makerere University Department of Performing Arts and Film for entertaining the Expo participants noting that when people sing properly then one is able to even work properly. He concluded by noting that by the time someone carries out research by him or herself, then that is a calling from God and may God continue to bless all researchers and innovators.

This Expo was also livestreamed online

Day 1 of the Expo – Follow the engagement on https://www.youtube.com/live/LI2z4hKCWvA?feature=share

Day 2 – https://www.youtube.com/live/qL8OcMJ0OvQ?feature=share

Day 3 – https://www.youtube.com/live/NjrK2s3FQak?feature=share

Harriet Adong is the Communications Officer, Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)

Contributor: Dr. Alice Nabatanzi, Project Principal Investigator

Natural Sciences

Call For Applications For Masters Scholarship Under The Biosorption For Sustainable Small-Scale Gold Mining In Uganda (BioGold) Project

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The JICA Building, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) as approached from the Mary Stuart Road Roundabout, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

BioGold Project is a three-year collaborative project among five academic institutions including, Kyambogo University, Makerere University, Gulu University, University of Pretoria and University of Continuing Education, Krems, Austria funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation under the APPEAR Partnership. The project will combine principles of biosorption and chemical remediation to treat contaminated wastewater, tailings, rehabilitate contaminated soils so as to protect vulnerable ecosystems surrounding artisanal gold mining (ASGM) areas in Uganda. This study will design biochar composites from locally available biomass to enhance mercury removal from wastewater and tailings as well as rehabilitate mercury-contaminated soils making them fit for agriculture. The project envisages to train and build capacity of young researchers in Uganda. As such the project has been allocated an MSc. position under Component II, to support to full-time student to undertake studies in Austria. The successful MSc candidate is expected to undertake research on characterizing, optimizing biochar and modify the biochar to improve the sorption capacities.

The project consortium is now inviting qualified and interested persons to apply for nomination for the award of the scholarship. The project has strong preference for female candidates, therefore strongly encouraged to apply.

Eligibility criteria

In addition to APPEAR requirements https://appear.at/en/implementation/embedded-scholarship-application, the applicants should:

  1. Not be older than 30 years (women not older than 35)
  2. Demonstrate interest and capability to work in the priority themes
  3. Present a concept note to provide understanding of the subject
  4. Have a minimum of second- upper class bachelor’s degree in any of the following programmes: BSc in Chemistry, BSc in Environmental Science, & BSc in Environmental Engineering

Benefits

The successful applicants will receive a full scholarship (up to 24 months) which includes;

  1. Return air ticket and visa costs to Austria
  2. Monthly stipend of €1000 while in Austria to cater for personal welfare, accommodation and local movement
  3. Research related expenses.

Application process

  1. A complete application form
  2. A one-page motivation letter
  3. Curriculum vitae (maximum 2 pages)
  4. A completed Master Scholarship Application Form for Embedded APPEAR Projects
  5. Copies of Academic documents
  6. Photocopy of the passport and/or ID
  7. Recommendation letters from two academic referees.
  8. All applications must be sent electronically to Dr. Mary Kaggwa (marykaggwa@kyu.ac.ug) and copied to Dr. Peter Akoll (peter.akoll@mak.ac.ug) and Dr. Denis Nono (d.nono@gu.ac.ug) not later than 5.00pm East African Time on 20th June 2024.

Members of staff with former students interested in biochar technology and its use in heavy metal removal are requested to share the advert with them.

Full Advert and Application form may be accessed below.

Note: Only successful applicants will be contacted.

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Natural Sciences

Mak Researchers Set Out to Address the Challenge of African swine fever in Uganda

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Professor Charles Masembe, CoNAS, Makerere University. Image:ASF

The Project is supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).

Overview

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral haemorrhagic disease of domestic pigs; and has recently spread to new areas including Eastern Europe and in Asia as far as Papua New Guinea. This disease has neither vaccine nor treatment and is currently a big challenge to many smallholder pig farmers in Uganda. In Uganda, ASFV genotype IX has been reported to cause outbreaks on a regular basis and is an impediment to development of the swine industry. The disease was previously reported with a mortality of 100%. However different forms of the disease have recently been observed in domestic pigs. Indeed, some studies have shown that pigs that survive ASF become resistant to the same viral isolates although they do not produce classical neutralizing antibody. These observations could have the key for vaccine development strategies.

The Principal Investigator of ASF-RESIST, Dr. Charles Masembe; an Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences (ZEFS), CoNAS, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda
The Project Principal Investigator (PI), Prof. Charles Masembe.

The research project

Through a project titled “African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda”, a team of researchers led by Prof. Charles Masembe from the Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences at Makerere University registered the need to correlate clinical studies of ASF virus with full genome sequences and virus structural data to identify potential candidate genes for vaccine development. The team set out to isolate and characterise highly virulent and low virulent ASF viruses circulating in the swine population in Uganda using next-generation and Electron Microscopy to inform the development of ASFV vaccines and other therapeutic strategies. The team also set out to sequence the whole genome of low and high-virulence African swine fever viruses circulating in the domestic pig population in Uganda; compare the whole genome sequences of low and high-virulence ASF viruses in Uganda, and to find genomic variations and their effects on the virulence and viral evolution. Whole blood and organ tissue samples together with clinical-epidemiological information, were collected from acute and chronic cases of pigs in reported ASF outbreaks in the districts of greater Masaka, Greater Gulu, Mukono, Wakiso, Kakumiro, and additionally in other districts were outbreaks were reported during the study period. The project was supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF). Other members on the project are; Assoc. Prof. Vincent Muwanika (Co-PI), Dr. Rose Ademun (Scientist), Dr. Mathias Afayoa (Scientist), Dr. Tony Aliro (Field Scientist), Mr. Peter Ogweng (Field Scientist),  Mr. Mayega Johnson Francis (Lab Technologist), Okwasiimire Rodney (Lab Technologist), and Mr. Bright Twesigye (Administrator).

The Project team at the research dissemination workshop in Gulu District. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
The Project team at the research dissemination workshop in Gulu District.

Dissemination of the research findings

On 15th May 2024, the project team held a workshop at Doves Nest Hotel in Gulu District to disseminate the research findings, and to fact check by mapping pig farms, abattoirs, slaughter slabs, and pork restaurants in both Gulu District and Gulu City for on-going and future research.

The workshop was officially opened by the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Gulu District, Mr. Okidi Cosmas James on behalf of the CAO. In his remarks, Mr. Okidi appreciated the project team, noting that the workshop was timely since piggery as a poverty alleviation programme had been embraced by most farmers as a replacement for cattle. Sharing his experience, he expressed concern over the increasing threat of ASF, a factor he said was undermining the growth of the swine industry in Uganda.

Prof. Masembe interacts with the participants during the workshop. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Masembe interacts with the participants during the workshop.

During the meeting, the Project PI, Prof. Charles Masembe presented the status of ASF research in Uganda and globally, highlighting the complexity of ASF, dangers of ASF, ASF diagnostic advances, importance of keeping pigs and scientific efforts to control ASF, including the advances in the development of the ASFV vaccine. 

Other presentations focused on ASF control and prevention mechanisms, potential role of production systems in ASF transmission, community involvement in disease control, spatio-temporal spread of ASF at the wildlife-livestock interface, the role of carrier pigs in ASFV transmission and maintenance, biosecurity implementation and challenges. All these presentations evoked discussion points from the participants. Participants expressed the need to understand how ASF is transmitted, and the extent to which farmers can trust veterinarians since they are considered to spread the disease. They highlighted the need to institute quarantine during ASF outbreaks and called for sensitization on the acceptable methods for disposing off infected pork. Another concern arising from the meeting was the need to understand if ASF is zoonotic and if not, why ASFV infected pork should not be eaten. Participants also sought guidance on why farmers should continue to keep survivor pigs if they spread ASFV, and why the government has not constructed slaughter slabs in all villages to control the spread of ASFV.

Participants in an exercise to map out pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants in their respective sub counties to support the research process. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Participants in an exercise to map out pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants in their respective sub counties to support the research process.

Recommendations by participants;

  1. Strengthening community awareness through different production departments in the district and city by organizing workshops as closer to the farmers as possible for example at every parish or ward.
  2. Makerere University ASF research team should collaborate with Gulu University, Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Studies so that ASFV diagnosis and research is jointly done at the University which is nearer to the farmers for quick response to ASF outbreaks.
  3. City, District, and sub-county leaders should formulate a by-law to enforce the implementation of ASF control and prevention methods.
Mapping pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Mapping pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants.

During plenary, participants were tasked with mapping pig farms/farmers, abattoir/slaughter slabs and pork restaurants in their respective sub-counties in Gulu District and Gulu City, in addition to generating a comprehensive farm/farmer list in the two areas. Mapping was successfully done and presented for purposes of clarity by each team representing a particular sub-county. The participants were then given a template to populate on the farm/farmer list since they could not recall all farms/farmers name and their mobile phone contacts.

Participants pose for a group photo. Prof. Charles Masembe, Department of Zoology, Entomology, and Fisheries Sciences, College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)-funded "African swine fever virus (ASFV) severity and viral genomic structural features: opportunities for development of a vaccine in Uganda” project research dissemination, 15th May 2024, Doves Nest Hotel, Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa.
Participants pose for a group photo.

Remarks by Gulu District RDC

In his closing remarks, the RDC of Gulu District, Mr. Oryem Auric thanked the research team for choosing the district for the workshop, noting that the feedback from the participants indicated that the workshop was very beneficial to them. He pledged to dedicate some of the free airtime offered to his office on Radio Mega, a popular FM Radio Station in Gulu City affiliated to Radio Uganda, towards the popularization of the project activities. He reiterated that the objectives of the project were in line with the current Government of Uganda programme on wealth creation through the Parish Development Model and the 4 acre model of which piggery is one of the means recommended for poverty alleviation by the President of Uganda. He called on the farmers to embrace and utilize the knowledge acquired to improve their farms and increase their household incomes.

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Natural Sciences

CoNAS Annual Report 2023

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Cover page of the CoNAS Annual Report 2023. College of Natural Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS) is one of the 10 constituent Colleges of Makerere University with over 2,000 students and 153 members of staff spread across 2 schools and seven departments namely: School of Physical Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Geology and Petroleum Studies) and School Biosciences (Departments of Plant Sciences, Microbiology and Biotechnology; Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences; and Department of Biochemistry and Sports Sciences). The College is the cradle of basic sciences at Makerere providing a foundation for all applied sciences offered at the University. This report is a presentation of the performance of the College in 2023.

Key highlights include performance of the College at the 74th graduation of Makerere University, the award of an Honorary Doctor of Science to Prof. Leif Abrahamsson for his contribution to the development of Mathematics in the East African region, the development of an E-Supervision Web Portal (https:/mastersresearch.ug/) to support the tracking of Masters Research supervision processes, the formation and operationalization of the Biology Society of Uganda (BioSU), support rendered towards the development of aquaculture in the country, the development of five high-value nutritious products (baby food, sauce, maize meal, snacks, and seasoning) using Mukene through the NutriFish Project, the development of an application for tracking fish catches as a measure to prevent overfishing, development of solar tent driers – greenhouse-like structures that reduce the risk of contamination – provide clean and efficient storage and drying, especially during the wet season subsequently reducing post-harvest losses, equipping students and members of the general public with skills needed in the installation and maintenance of solar energy Photovoltaic systems and biogas plants, the Joint African- Nordic Conference in Mathematics, as well as the 2023 Eastern Africa Algebra Research Group and Women in Sage workshops. The report also highlights the research grants received in the course of the year, conferences held, community engagements, activities by students, awards received by the different members of staff, staff publications, and matters of Human Resources at the College.

Management conveys appreciation to all development partners and the Government of Uganda for the support extended towards the different projects at the College. We also thank the University Council and Management for creating a conducive environment for both staff and students to explore their full potential.

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