Makerere University’s World Bank funded Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) on Friday June 29th 2018 procured the recent first class agricultural equipment to help students in the tilling of land for crop improvement.
The equipment procured at a cost of about sh1b was received by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute (MUARIK) Kabanyolo.
Prof. Nawangwe while receiving the equipment stressed the need for the institute to embrace commercial production of crops which can help in the feeding of the University students, staff and other members of the general public.
He challenged the Agricultural College (CAES) to utilize the equipment to till the large chunk of land at Kabanyolo such that they can transit into commercial production.
“This can help us to utilize the proceeds not only to sustain our staffs but even to sustain the equipment such that agricultural expansion at the university can be enhanced, “he said.
Prof. Nawangwe also challenged the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) to take advantage of the partnerships the University has with Israel to have large plantations not only at Kabanyolo but also other places to grow crops such as Ovacado which has proved to have a huge market on the international scene.
He said the University has instituted a committee to begin investigations and recovery of all the land that belonged to the university.
He said the University is working with local governments to ensure that all the land that belongs to Makerere is free from encroachment so that the university can invest on it.
Prof. Nawangwe also applauded the college towards the equipment saying MaRCCI being a regional project, the first class equipment will enhance agricultural development in the entire region.
“I am impressed with what I have seen at our institute and I am sure that since they are the latest equipment they will greatly improve agricultural studies at the university and agriculture as a whole.
Dr. Richard Edema, the Director of the Regional Centre explained that the equipment worth sh1b include a tractor, a plough, a hauler, a planter ,an automatic fertilizer and insect side application machine and will greatly make mechanization and planting easier for the students.
“With this first class equipment, we shall help students open a lot of experimental land for cowpea, sorghum among other crops”, he said.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Makerere University won a $6 million USD World Bank Grant for the establishment of the Regional Centre of Excellence in Crop Improvement within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).
The Centre according to Dr. Edema is an expansion of current activities of the university Regional Graduate Programs in Plant Breeding with the main objective of strengthening the PhD program in Plant Breeding in Biotechnology, the MSc in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems, applied research in various crops, and outreach activities to improve Ugandan agriculture through enhancing the skills of public and private personnel supporting crop breeding and production activities.
He said the grant provides for additional scientific and support staff and enhancement of facilities and equipment with the goal of modernizing and expanding the teaching, research, and service activities of MaRCCI in a sustainable manner.
He re-echoed that the Institute used to do a lot of small level field trials but with the equipment a lot more acreage of land will be tilled to enhance field trials.
“There are some nice varieties that we want to expand the trials and we hope this will help us a lot to increase the acreage on top of producing good varieties which can be distributed to farmer’s multiplication.
He observed that sorghum and cowpeas are crops grown on low level for food, but they want to upgrade them to become raw materials for industries through increasing their yields to enhance industrial sustainability.
“We are trying to increase the yields of these two crops such that they can liberate the country in terms of industrial raw materials to help farmers increase their income at the same time fight against food insecurity”, he said.
The Principal of CAES Prof Bernard Bashaasha said the Institute has been having a problem of farm power equipment but with the new equipment, more land will be opened and be utilized beyond students.
He said the College is planning to involve everybody to promote the growing of avocados for commercial production.
He said the MaRCCI means a lot to the College and the entire university. MaRCCI is helping the College to achieve the objectives of training, research and outreach.
“It is enabling us to train for the region and for Africa as reflected in the number of international students who are part of the project equivalent to 40 students”, he said.
Towards research, Prof. Bashaasha stressed that the project is building the research value chain because it has produce state-of-the-art lab equipment to train both Uganda’s scientists and those in the region to breed new seeds developing them and trial testing them in the field and with farmers.
He said MaRCCI has done a lot on outreach where some students are carrying out farm trials where as some farmers come to the College for training on top of capacity building of the staff.
He said the Institute has about 600hectates of land at Kabanyolo which has not been maximally utilised. The Institutehas one tractor which has been overused and always breaking down.
“What we need now are the brand new long life tractors which we can use beyond students and staff experiments to open up more land for commercial production”, he said.
Dr. Dramadri Isaac Ojega, a crop breeder in cow pea said the project is helping him to improve cow pea for diseases, pests, drought and high yield.
“We are currently having cowpea varieties and we are evaluating a collection of cow pea line both locally in Uganda and also from the international collaborators in the University of California. The best line in the field that will be evaluated for three years will be recommended to farmers”, he said.
He said that the cowpea being a legume has a low production of less than 200,000 tones per a year which is quite very low.
“In most of the Northern, North East and some parts of Karamoja which are prone to drought and flooding, they really need this crop because it survives very well in such areas”, he remarked.