Dr. Richard Edema
Welcome to the Makerere University Regional Center for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI), a World Bank designated African Regional Centre for Plant Breeding Training hosted at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). The Center is partially funded through World Bank as a loan/credit to Government of the Republic of Uganda and is guided by a multi-stakeholder, international Advisory Board consisting of world-class scientists, educators, and seed-business executives.
The purpose of the Center is to provide support in the delivery of high-quality training in plant breeding, seed systems, and biotechnology through the PhD in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology (PBB) and the MSc in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems (PBSS). Both programs are in the Department of Agricultural Production of CAES. The core of the plant breeding training is anchored by progressive variety development programs in cowpea and sorghum, both drought-tolerant, climate-resilient crops. MaRCCI also has a seed systems program and provides short-course training in data analysis, seed systems, proposal writing, scientific communication and a range of other relevant subjects.
MaRCCI originated through an initiative by RUFORUM (Regional Universities Forum for Agricultural Capacity Development) in 2008 to establish regional hubs to provide high quality training in plant breeding as a response to the needs identified through wide stakeholder consultation. Establishment of MaRCCI received major support from the Government of Uganda and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). A key element of the training include a diverse array of practical field experience in MaRCCI’s own operations and through student attachments to NARO (Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization), CGIAR centers and other research institutes. Soft-skills are developed through group projects, presentations, and workshops. The two regional graduate programs were made stronger though designation by the World Bank as an African Center of Excellence. Since 2008, MaRCCI has been involved in the training of more than 70 PhD’s and 150 MSc’s, representing 20 Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries who conducted thesis research on more than 20 food-security crops. Of these students, 50% were from outside Uganda while 45% of the total were women.
The Center provides industry-ready plant breeders who can use cutting-edge science to develop and deliver new food crop varieties to the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) nations, and beyond. There is an urgent need for plant breeders throughout the region and continent for development of improved varieties that increase crop productivity, improve food security, nutrition, and rural incomes, reduce poverty, and contribute to economic development. Students and staff related to MaRCCI published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific articles, some in globally first-tier journals. MaRCCI’s trainees have produced a number of new varieties in their own countries, and MaRCCI’s research programs have developed sorghum and cowpea varieties nearing official registration. MaRCCI also is working toward value-added products and is providing specialized services to public and private crop improvement institutes.
The Center achieves its success through support from a wide range of partners (link), which provide resources, technical expertise, access to facilities, student supervision, and linkages throughout the world.
MaRCCI plans to continue to expand into additional activities consistent with its mandate, strongly contributing to Makerere University’s Strategic Plan to become an engine of economic development as a research-led, innovative university, with a major focus on graduate training. MaRCCI’s directions are also fully aligned with Uganda’s National Development Plan, Uganda 2040, Strategy for African Agricultural Development 2016-2025, East African Community EAC 2050, and Africa Agenda 2063, along with the Malabo Declaration and the Africa Union’s CAADP Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation Goals 2025 program. MaRCCI contributes directly to several elements of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr. Richard Edema