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.