A committee of the Advisory Board constituted of nine eminent scientists and business people from various institutions in and outside Africa and the US including some of eminent Private sector companies on 11th – 15th March 2019 converged at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala Uganda to assess the annual progress recorded by the Makerere University Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI).
The committee which is appointed by the Vice Chancellor for a two-year term routinely sits to follow up progress with centre activities.
This year, the major advisory board activities included Curriculum planning/review, Informatory session and presentations on MaRCCI progress to the board, Private sessions of the board, Board meeting with the University management, Visit to MaRCCI home and touring the facilities at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo.
The Centre Director Dr. Richard Edema said, in the four days,they were presenting what the centre was able to do to in one year, challenges faced and some of the issues where they needed to adjust. This was to help the Advisory Board to understand how the centre was doing and to get appropriate advise.
“They have listened to our presentations in terms of what we do in training, research, staffing, financials, our level of integration and institutionalization and internal issues.
They also had an opportunity to interface with the Vice Chancellor (VC). They are happy with the progress and willing to keep going and to be associated with MaRCCI.
The board presented a report on MaRCCI to the VC detailing the accomplishments strength and some of the areas for improvement.”, The center Director Dr. Edema Richard explained adding that:
“We are lucky to have a board like this because we are running such a big platform which is basically selling and promoting Makerere’s visibility, adding to its core function and vision of being continental and research led by increasing graduate training”.
Dr. Edema reported that there has been an increase in the number of graduate students that have gone through the center to date.
“We have 71 MSc and about PhDs who have gone and are going through the precursor of MaRCCI and MaRCCI currently with a big number being foreigners.
We have developed a coherent breeding program on cow pea and sorghum breeding. It used to be on soybean. They have come to see the products we are making from cow pea and sorghum and they are doing it for free.
So,I can see that, with a team like this,MaRCCI can go very far because they are even selling us abroad, getting us new partners and advising on how to organize ourselves.” Dr. Edema added.
The board members also visited the MaRCCI home at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute (MUARIK) and toured the training and research facilities.
The Director disclosed that the centre was about to purchase another server to improve on the internet connectivity and research data storage given the rising number of graduate enrolment and research data generated.
“With this kind of work, we gather a lot of information used to develop new varieties. These days gathering information has been digitalized. Characterizing a plant and describing genes has been digitalized. With the increasing number of student intake there is a wealth of information and, that is why the committee members have advised to get a bigger server for storage.” Edema said.
While touring the university farm, Dr. Edema said the center will soon be holding the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the MaRCCI home. The university allocated two acres of land to the center for that cause.
“We are in the final stages of procurement, we have identified the company and the contracts committee is beginning evaluation of the companies. There will be a ceremony and we shall invite management and the VC to witness another milestone for MaRCCI and this will greatly contribute to the growth of the University.” Edema noted.
Out of the total $6 Million USD for MaRCCI, an allocation of UGX 2bn has been earmarked for the construction of this building. The key components of the building include staff offices, lecturer rooms and complementary facilities like screen houses, seed store for experiments, storage and safety .
The Advisory Board members also visited the Post Graduate Training Facility constructed under the AfDB-HEST project where MaRCCI had furnished one of the seminar rooms for use.
“The AfDB facilities are ready for use but we have been struggling with limited lecture facilities due to ever increasing no of students on MaRCCI. University management allowed us to already start with furnishing and use them to accommodate students.
Using our resources we bought 40 students’ chairs with flip able tables at shs. 15,812,000.The reason we are doing this, is that MaRCCI is looking forward to integrating its programs with sister programs like joint taught programs so, the facility will be very useful starting next semester.” The centre Director reported.
The other centre milestone is the initiative to add value to the local crops (cowpea and sorghum) to have better market values. According to the Centre Director, the centre started an initiative for every variety developed to increase value.
“We are working with CURAD to add value for easy storage and longer life span. For the first time, we are doing that for cowpea and some products are ready for marketing. The issue is Intellectual property. If such products are marketed, there will be increased demand leading to more productivity and eventually improved livelihoods”. Dr. Edema noted.
Advisory Board members commended MaRCCI for steady progress.
“I have a great fortune to have been part of the team at the conception of the MaRCCI… I am so pleased to see MaRCCI growth over the last two years. I remember coming back to the original old dormitory and now I am pleased to see see new buildings.
I had the opportunity to meet Makerere Vice Chancellor and the Principal CAES and some heads of departments and I got a sense that there is great excitement and potential that MaRCCI is offering to Makerere University, to the connections with NACCRI, NARO and all other research institutions. As advisory member, it is a great honor and, I am excited to see what comes in the future and wish MaRCCI so well”, said Dr. Craig Yencho, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Program Leader Sweet-potato and Potato Breeding and Genetics Programs – Department of Horticultural Sciences, North Carolina State University – USA
“I am really impressed with the progress that MaRCCI has made and the way they have utilized the investment from the Uganda Government and others from partners. It is really exciting to see the growth and to see the training support to Africa and contributing to training the workforce that will contribute to agricultural production for Africa.
I would like to commend on the Leadership because, the leadership of the center is extraordinary, they are dedicated, very talented, very passionate about training the next generation of Plant breeders.
And,by doing high quality scientific research, they are raising the visibility of Makerere as a university and increasing its stature at global stage. The partnership the MaRCCI has entered into collaboration are really elevated at a world level. I am particularly impressed with the partnership with NARO for being not only a resource for new genetic materials but also, a resource for students that will become a work force.
Coming here to the farm, it has been exciting to see these great resource. Besides the laboratories, lecture rooms, and accommodation facilities, I see this beautiful soil with a significant number of acres and am very happy that MaRCCI and students have access to utilize it for research,” said Prof. Rita Hogan Mumm, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Report compiled by;
Principal Communication Officer, CAES