About Marcci Project

About MaRCCI

Since 2008, Makerere University has hosted a graduate level programme in plant breeding, especially for students from Central and Eastern Africa, but including those from Southern and West African countries.

This program was started by a consortium of regional universities to cooperate in providing quality education at a graduate level in various fields.  Makerere University was awarded the task of training Master’s and Doctoral students in plant breeding, which is using scientific assessment and manipulation to produce better crops – varieties with higher yields, that respond well to climate or disease challenges and improve nutritional content.

127 master’s level and 57 doctoral level students from 20 African countries have passed through this program.  Except for those who are upgrading to PhD level, almost all students from this program have returned to their home area in Africa. Many have been put into positions of research leadership for improving food crops in their own country, for example in Rwanda and South Sudan.

The students’ research projects have dealt with 17 food crops that are important to both Uganda and her neighbors.  For example, sorghum, finger millet (kalo), cowpea and beans have been bred for tolerance to the drier climates of Karamoja and northern Uganda, while potato and rice were assessed for the highland regions of Kabale and Kachwekano, and sorghum, maize and cassava for the cooler climate in Zombo.  The cowpea and sorghum research programmes on the farm at Kabanyolo give the students experience in modern methods of data collection and assessment.  Univ. of Calif. at Riverside and Purdue University cooperate by sending their materials to these efforts.  The up-to-date biotechnology lab provides training for the students in molecular breeding methods.

MaRCCI’s goal of addressing food security issues throughout the region of central, eastern and southern Africa focuses on three elements;

Training

Excellence in educating professional plant breeders who are well equipped to develop crop varieties that have improved resistance to disease and insects and better tolerance for dry periods;

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Services

 Services to strengthen the nation’s agricultural industry, including scientists, technicians, extension personnel, seed producers and farmers.

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Research

 Research to support such training and contribute to improved crop varieties for all regions of Uganda and its neighbors;

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The recent grant from World Bank has enabled Makerere’s regional plant breeding program to be established as a Centre of Excellence for training plant breeders for Eastern and Southern Africa.  In this capacity we have an opportunity to revise the curriculum to better meet the unique needs of these African students, and to significantly strengthen the PhD programme. This includes supplementing the classroom lectures with a web-based e-learning curriculum developed in cooperation with Iowa State University especially for the African context. Our instruction is also strengthened through in-service pedagogical training and visiting lecturers in cooperation with Kwazulu Natal Univ. (S. Africa), Africa University (Zimbabwe), Kwame Nkrumah University and WACCI (both in Ghana), as well as with Iowa State, North Carolina State, and Purdue universities in the USA.

To the historical and continuing emphasis on graduate level training of plant breeders, MaRCCI is adding two on-site research programmes at Kabanyolo in cowpea and sorghum. These are for both student instruction and demonstration of best-practice breeding, and, in cooperation with NARO’s research programme, should lead to release of improved varieties of cowpea and sorghum intended especially for the drought-prone regions of Uganda.

Service and outreach to the scientific and farming communities of Uganda and the region is another focus of MaRCCI’s present efforts.  These include testing seed for quality and purity, diagnosing plant diseases, providing access to the bio-technology lab and bio-informatic services, and organizing short courses for scientists, technicians and extension personnel.

It has been frequently noted in international studies that investment towards increasing the productivity of small farms is one of the most effective ways of promoting national prosperity. The foundation of a nation is the strength of its villages. Makerere University’s Regional Centre for Crop Improvement ultimately addresses the welfare of the small scale farmer, and thus contributes to the development and prosperity of the nation of Uganda and her neighbors.