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The International Conference on Ecosystem Reselience and Agricultural Productivity (ICERAP) opens at the Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo in Kampala Uganda

ICERAP 2017 Photo Shoot

The International Conference on Ecosystem Resilience and Agricultural Productivity (ICERAP) was on 22nd November 2017 opened at the Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo-Kampala Uganda under the theme, “Livelihood Pathways under Variable and Changing Climate in Sub Saharan Africa”.

The conference was partly premised on the ongoing research under the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED) funded projects at Makerere University and also on the fact that there are many other similar research initiatives at national and regional level.

The two day conference (22nd-23th November, 2017)  was officially opened by the First Lady (who is also Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Kataaha Museveni) represented by the Minister of State for Higher Education Hon. John C.  Muyingo.

The conference attracted participants from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Malawi, Norway, Sweden and Uganda among others.

It was graced by the Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Ezra Suruma, the Vice Chancellor Makerere University represented by Prof. Eria Hisali, Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences represented by his Deputy, Assoc. Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga, the Director General NORAD  Mr. Jon Lomoy and H.E the Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian  Embassy Ms. Suzan Eckey among others.

In her speech read by Hon. John C  Muyingo, Mrs. Janet Museveni reminded participants that the continent is currently grappling with enormous development challenges including climate change, persistent land degradation, wetland conversions and transformations, avoidable disasters, forestry cover reduction, runaway urbanization, perpetual conflicts which raise sustainability questions.

She observed that most of the challenges stem from unsustainable undertakings by people in search of available and sometimes precarious, unproductive and unsustainable livelihood options since  a significant proportion of the African livelihoods are environment, agriculture and natural resource dependent.

“I am happy to note that this international conference we are opening today is focusing on Climate Change and Risk Management, Ecosystem Sustainability and Natural Resource Management as well as increasing food security, conserving the environment and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Africa. As government, we applaud such complementary efforts towards realizing our national development goals”. The Minister said.

Participants during the opening ceremony in the Banquetting Hall

 

Mrs. Museveni noted that the agricultural sector is the major employer and accounts for more than 30 per cent of GDP in low and medium income countries and is among the most sensitive sectors to climate change.

Citing the evidence  from the Meta-analyses presented in the Fifth Assessment Report (5AR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) the Education Minister said climate change without adaptation will have negative effects on the yields of major staple crops across the continent.

“Scientific evidence further shows that tropical regions are likely to experience productivity declines compared to temperate regions. Combined with challenges of population growth, demographic pressures and conservation of ecosystem services, climate change puts future food security and rural prosperity at stake.

More worrying is that a larger percentage of rural communities and marginalized populations wherever these are (including the poor children, women and people with disabilities in developing countries) are particularly vulnerable and unable to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change”. Mrs. Janet Museveni said.

The Minister noted that the rise in temperature was already causing unprecedented impacts on human societies and biodiversity including prolonged droughts, floods, cyclones, and a rise in sea levels. Here in Uganda, the First Lady said the prolonged drought experienced in the recent past has derailed the progress that the country has registered over the last 30 years.

The need to manage climate change challenges according to Mrs. Museveni has never been critical than it is today.

“The Government of Uganda has put in place the Climate Change Policy and other relevant policies to build the resilience of all economic sectors, which we think with good economic policies and political stability will drive the country to middle income status in the near future”.

She enumerated some of the strategies which already recognize that addressing the challenges of climate change is crucial to enhancing sustainable economic and social development.   They include Uganda Vision 2040 and National Development Plan (NDP II) 2015/16 – 2019/2020, the   National Climate Change Policy, the negotiations of REDD+ in Uganda under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the World Bank.

 

At a regional level, the Minister said the East African Climate Change Policy is geared to addressing and redirecting all regional efforts to enhance the resilience of East African peoples to climate change.

“Uganda is a regular and committed partner in all efforts to manage the risks associated with climate and as we speak now, a large national delegation has made strong representation of the country at the COP21 meeting that has just finished in Bonn Germany.

By signing the 2015 Paris Agreement and agreeing on the Sendai Framework Principles, the country is making great strides to ensure that appropriate policies and measures are designed to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts”. She explained.

Hon. Janet Museveni also expressed concern that whereas Agriculture has been identified as one of the key sectors that can generate wealth with high employment potential, it is still on record that majority of the youth are unemployed and most of the food produced by small holder farmers amidst increasing challenges of climate change and high population growth rates.

She expressed optimism that this conference will make known to the public the most recent innovations, technologies, products, farming practices and services that can be used to solve problems and make farming and farming businesses a success.

The Minister was also hopeful  that this conference will create a platform to stimulate the interest in agriculture, ecosystem productivity and sustainable natural resource management as well as  improve shared understanding of what needs to be done to strengthen Africa’s ability for agricultural production and sustainable natural resource utilization that will lead to economic growth. 

Makerere University Chancellor Prof. Ezra Suruma, The Director General NORAD Mr. Jon Lomoy and Minister Muyingo C. John

As government of Uganda, the Minister thanked the Norwegian Government for being one of the recognized development partners and a major player in ensuring successful transformation of the Ugandan society.

She also appreciated the role played by Makerere University and other high institutions of learning especially in the areas of research and training of vital human resources and in the drive to lead the country. She pledged government commitment to supporting the university and partners through various research and other capacity building programmes and initiatives.

The Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Ezra Suruma acknowledged the enormous support  that Makerere University continues to receive through the Norwegian  Program for Capacity Building in Higher Education and Research (NORHED).

The support according to the Chancellor is aimed at improving Education and Training, Health, Natural Resources Management, Climate & Environment, Democratic and Economic governance, Humanities, Culture, Media and Communication as well as capacity development especially in South Sudan.

“The overall annual budget for NORHED is NOK 150million (approx US$ 18.87million) for 46 Projects including funding to the Energy and Petroleum (EnPe)  project for a period of five years.

Additionally, Makerere University in partnership with other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Low and Medium Income countries (LMICs) from the South and the North, won grants from NORAD to support 14 collaborative Projects under NORHED.

The purpose of these grants is to build capacity of HEIs’ in the provision of quality Education and undertaking of Research. The 5-year grants spanning over the period 2013/14 to 2018/19 are worth over NOK 200m (approx. US$ 25.1million).

Of the 14 NORHED Projects, Makerere University takes the lead in 9 Projects while partner institutions take the lead in 5 Projects”. Prof. Suruma explained.

Some of the participants

The Chancellor reported that the main activities covered under the programme include:- training at both Masters and PhD, research by both graduate and postdoctoral students, support to development of research infrastructure, as well as review and development of new academic programmes.

“Through you Director General and Your Excellency the Ambassador of Norway, convey our heartfelt appreciation to the Norwegians for this support. As a university, our pledge is never to disappoint you. The funds have been put to the intended purpose”, Said the Professor.

The Chancellor’s remarks on Climate Change

Turning to Climate Change, the Chancellor told participants that Makerere University was passionate about Climate Change and related research activities. Motivated by her core functions of Teaching, Research and Innovations and Knowledge transfer, the Professor said the University takes part in organizing and actively participating in events such as this, that seek to directly interface with different stakeholders.

He reminded participants that despite the fact that most of Africa’s population depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and development, the region is facing development challenges occasioned by natural resource degradation, decreasing agricultural productivity, changing and variable climates, rapid population growth and high poverty levels.

“In order to address these challenges and to increase productivity and economic welfare of her population, we must work together and capitalize on our strengths to ensure consolidation of mutual benefits. I am indeed pleased to note that Makerere University is not only taking lead in organizing this conference but also a key partner to other numerous climate change projects,” The Chancellor stated.

Prof. Suruma reported that Makerere University has contributed to the growth of knowledge and solutions to avert these development challenges by supplying knowledgeable and multi-skilled graduates, providing evidence-based options and solutions to support formulation of interventions and appropriate policies for accelerating national and regional development.

Others initiatives undertaken at the university according to the Chancellor  include the establishment of the Makerere University Climate Change Centre for Research and Innovations, increasing climate change research capacity, extension outreach and mainstreaming climate sciences in undergraduate programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

 

“This International Conference on Ecosystem Resilience and Agricultural Productivity (ICERAP) is therefore a welcome opportunity to expose our students and other stakeholders in public and private institutions to the latest information on key activities undertaken as well as climate change projects in Uganda.

I therefore urge our participants take keen interest on the keynote addresses and subsequent discussions. I implore all participants to seek for knowledge related to climate change as a critical driver for our development as a nation and a global community”. He said.

A Cross-Section of participants

The Director General NORAD Mr. Jon Lomoy commended Uganda for being a big Donor of Knowledge. He also pledged continued support to Africa to build capacity in higher education.

Mr. Jon Lomoy  described the conference as a platform where researchers  convene to discuss serious challenges facing the continent  and how to address them.

Mr.Lomoy underscored the importance of knowledge for development adding that although money is important, it is easy  to waste a lot of it if one does not know how to use it and doing the right thing.

“ For good policy making, we need experience and research based knowledge. How do we combine the two to eradicate poverty, enhance food security to countries depending on agriculture and cause societal transformation?.

Since poverty is very high and it is a global challenge, it is appropriate that knowledge generated is shared in a collaborative way across Africa.

 Both rich and poor countries need to clearly examine and organize the transportation system to improve the global health,” The Director General said.

The Vice Chancellor Makerere University represented by Prof. Eria Hisali described the conference as another footprint of the continued support  that the university  gets from the Norwegian people.

 Prof. Hisali challenged participants especially the researchers and institutions they represent to work closely with policy makers to measure the impact of the research they conduct on society.

“We have a huge responsibility to our society.  Productivity of small holder agriculture is for example under  serious threat from climate change, declining soil fertility etc.. So how do we ensure that research that we undertake speaks directly to these and other challenges of our time?” He asked.

The Vice Chancellor asked participants in different groups to find time to tease out pertinent policy issues on the basis of which  they can  start to engage policy makers or even directly implement  ideas on a pilot basis.

“We need to go beyond pure academic research and start to assess ourselves against the impact that we create from our studies”. The Vice Chancellor advised.

The VC thanked the Norwegian Government for her generosity and the Government of Uganda for the continued support to Makerere University.

The conference convener at the Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa said the idea of hosting the conference was seen as one way of informing people about the research funded by the NORHED and other initiatives undertaken by the university.

Prof. Kyamanywa said the idea was initiated from the NORHED project titled, “Regional Capacity Building  for Sustainable  Natural Resource Management and Agricultural Productivity under Climate Change (CAPSNAC)” and shared with all NORHED  funded projects and NARO. Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa is the Project Coordinator CAPSNAC.

Four projects according to Kyamanywa accepted to  host the conference. They include CAPSNAC, WIMEA and ICT, Water Society and Climate Change  and  REDD+

“The aim of the conference is creation of a platform for sharing experiences, knowledge and innovations for building resilient agricultural production systems, ecosystems and livelihoods; Collating and synthesizing information and knowledge on ecosystems resilience and agricultural productivity that informs policy and attainment of SDGs;

 The others are to cultivate avenues for improved research and publication focused on the critical regional issues tailored to ecosystems, natural resource management, agricultural productivity and climate risk management and to facilitate collaboration, interaction and networking among scientists, the private sector and government leaders.” Kyamanywa said.

He said the two days conference will have two plenary sessions and 15 parallel sessions.

“We hope to come up with recommendations that will guide policy and decision makers on sustainable agricultural development pathways, climate adaptation and mitigation and natural resource management in the East African region;

 We also want to demonstrate what Makerere University and other universities can contribute to the agricultural sector; strengthen collaboration, partnership and networking among participating scientists and institutions and publish a book of abstracts from the conference proceedings”. Prof. Kyamanywa explained.

He thanked all the Principal Investigators NORHED projects for the support to the conference, key note speakers for accepting to share knowledge with participants and the organizing committee for the job well done.

Report compiled by:

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer, CAES

 


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