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MaRCCI exhibits at the 1st East African Community Science, Technology & Innovation conference. Education Minister calls for support to girls and women to take on Sciences

The Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) has showcased her research products at the 1st East African Community Science, Technology and Innovations Conference  at the Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo Kampala Uganda.

Some of the conference participants tour and test MaRCCI value added products from cowpea and sorghum

The three day conference (23rd-25th October 2019) organized by the East African Council, the East African Development Bank and the Inter University Council for East Africa was officially opened by the First Lady and Minister of Education represented by the State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo under the theme, “ Science, Technology and Innovation as a catalyst towards achievements of the EAC vision 2050”.

Hon. Minister John Chrysostom Muyingo making his opening remarks

The conference attracted participants from East African universities and the World Bank funded Regional   Centers of Excellence among others.

During the opening session,  Minister Muyingo unveiled the plague to signify the launch of the East African Science, Technology and Innovations Forum .

In his speech the minister called upon educational institutions, business communities, researchers and scientists to create an enabling environment to support  girls and women to embrace science disciplines and technology to realize regional development.

Minister Muyingo unveiling the plaque to launch the East African Science, Technology and Innovation Forum

Hon. Muyingo said the current systems do not offer opportunities for women and girls to fully participate in Science, technology, research and innovations.

He said, under the East African Treaty, governments agreed to transform the citizens   livelihoods through science and technology by the year 2050.

“This is the reason why government has earmarked funds to support science, technology and innovation in educational institutions. We are concerned that girls and women have not fully embraced science and mathematics disciplines”, Hon. Minister Muyingo said.

The minister attributed the current unemployment of the youth to taking on courses that do not enable them to create jobs.

“The biggest challenge we have as East African Community is the unemployment of our youth coming out of our education system but we have discovered that in East Africa and  Uganda, we do not have shortage of jobs.

The only problem we have, is lack of the necessary  skills in the world of employment or the education system that has not enabled our children to have the employment skills.

Participants posing for a group photo after the opening ceremony

One of the things we are emphasizing and putting much resources is changing the curriculum of the lower secondary and every sector in the education system to impart skills that employers want.

We are also going to retool teachers to be able to impart the required skills to exploit the resources we have in Africa”. The Minister pledged.

A section of participants during the opening ceremony

He said to interest girls in science education, government has put in place a policy that encourages taking science subjects at least to the end of secondary level compulsory and is going to make them more interesting.

 At A-level, the minister said government is to encourage atleast one science subject for courses chosen.

He reported that there also incentives like scholarships given for sciences and the loan scheme targeting girls going in for science programs to interest the girl child. He further said a program targeting teachers to improve their science skills had also been rolled out.

Different participating universities and institutions exhibited research programs, services and products. Makerere University was represented by the World Bank funded ACEs (MaRCCI and MAPRONANO), Infectious Disease Institute , International office, CEDAT and the School of Public Health.

Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) showcased  value added products  to traditional Cow pea and Sorghum crops with a nine man team composed of students and staff  pitching camp at the Speke Resort Munyonyo.

Some of the MaRCCI exhibitors at the Speke Resort Munyonyo

Sorghum and cowpea are orphan and food security crops that can be grown throughout the year but with little known about them.

MaRCCI has had enormous interest in these two crops. The centre’s research programme has been designed to support cowpea and sorghum as model crops to demonstrate best-breeding practices to both students in the PhD and MSc training programs and scientists in the region. 

MaRCCI program manager Academic affairs Alice Candia welcoming participants at the stall

The goal of the research is to develop superior varieties of traditional climate –resilient crops and production of high quality breeder and foundation seed.

So far, superior varieties of cowpea and sorghum are in final pre- release testing. A wider range of local and exotic germplasm has been collected for use as raw materials in developing high yielding and nutritious cowpea and sorghum varieties.

MaRCCI MSc. student Kutuka John Keima showcasing the sorghum porridge

New tools have been created to speed up development of desired varieties and youth trained to contribute to the provision of better crops for the nation and the region.

The developed cow pea varieties include the cream coloured drought tolerant variety AL2018_201 with  a yield of 2600kg /ha and high poding rate.

MaRCCI phD student Bigirwa Stella explains the production of cowpea flour

The other is  the mottled coloured early maturing seed, yielding 2400kg/ha code-named WC_35C, and the cream coloured high yielding (2500kg/ha) variety called Ayiyi which is also resistant to Scab.

Other cowpea varieties developed are the brown seeded AL2018­_078 which is early maturing and high yielding (2600-2650kg/ha also resistant to bacterial blight and the black seeded AL2018_16 which is high yielding (2400kg/ha) and resistant to Cercospora Disease.

MaRCCI student Stella Bigirwa serving participants cookies from cowpea and sorghum for testing

The centre has also developed five improved varieties of sorghum. They include MaRCCI SORG 1 of 5 tons/ha yield, good for beer and bread and resistant to Sorghum Rust.

MaRCCI Program Assistant Branding and promotion Betty Amakaru speaking on the black seeded new variety of cowpea

The second sorghum variety is MaRCCI SORG 2 that yields 4.5 tons/ha for local brew and bushera also, resistant to bird damage and Sorghum Head Smut.

The third sorghum variety is MaRCCI SORG 3 with a yield of 5tons/ha, good for beer and bread and resistant to Sorghum Downy, mildew and sorghum Rust.

The other one is MaRCCI SORG 5 yielding 3.5 tons/ha, good for beer and bread and is resistant to Sorghum Anthracnose and Sorghum Rust.

The five newly developed varieties of cowpea on display

In addition to breeding, the program is testing potential sorghum hybrids for the commercial beer production and embarked on initiatives to add value to cowpea and sorghum to have better market values.

“The Centre Program Manager Dr. Sarah Akello said the centre is reducing pressure on the preferred cereals like maize, rice etc

“We are also creating opportunities for neglected traditional crops like cowpea and sorghum. At the same time, we are increasing on agricultural productivity to address issues of hunger and increasing income for improved livelihood.

Dr. Akello Sarah (Middle) explains the progress on varietal and quality seed development to a conference participant

The cowpea and sorghum flour can be used for making porridge commonly known as obusheera which is highly nutritious. We are also combining sorghum and cowpea with other crop products and we have made confectionaries such as cowpea and sorghum snacks, cookies cake, bagia and pancakes”. Dr. Sarah Akello explained.

Four of the newly developed MaRCCI sorghum varieties on display

The other benefits accruing from value addition include commercialization of the traditional crops by creating agro industries based on them, substitution for expensive imports of wheat and improved nutritional value.

Report Compiled by:

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer.

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