Copyright 2018 - #

MAK holds MaRCCI Inception Meeting to share strategies and operational plans

MaRCCI  PI Dr. Richard Edema, Chair MaRCCI  Advisory Board Dr. Yona Baguma and Principal CAES Prof. Bernard Bashaasha chat during a break session.

Participants from the Government, the World Bank, Inter University Council of East Africa, MaRCCI International Advisory Board as well as representatives from partnering institutions on 26th February, 2018 converged at the Speke Resort Munyonyo for one weeks inception meeting to share strategies and operational plans of the Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI).

Makerere University won a  $ 6 million USD World Bank Grant  to support the  establishment of the Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The meeting was officially opened by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs (DVC AA) Dr. Ernest Okello  Ogwang at Speke Resort Munyonyo. It was characterized by presentations and brainstorming sessions and participants input in developing an operational structure that will facilitate operational efficiency and effectiveness of MaRCCI.

The meeting will be crowned by the ground breaking ceremony for the MaRCCI building at the Makerere University Agricultural Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) on 2nd March 2018.

In his welcome remarks, Dr. Okello  Ogwang  appreciated the significance of this inception meeting saying, it  symbolises the warm nature of the relationship of Makerere University, Government of Uganda, collaborating institutions and the development partners.

Dr. Okello Ogwang (right) speaking

Dr. Ogwang  noted that Makerere University and Uganda in general have enjoyed and continue to benefit from the generosity of the World Bank in the areas of human resources, capacity building, research and infrastructural development.

“For this particular project, I am happy to report   that out of the 108 proposals submitted from ten countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa in 2015, 11proposals were from Makerere University. Two proposals worth $12 million USD (each $ 6m USD) were finally approved for the establishment of two centres at Makerere University.” Dr. Ogwang said.

The centres are  the Centre of Excellence in Materials, Product Development and Nano-Technology (MAPRONANO) and the “Establishment of an East African Center for Crop Improvement at Makerere University (MaRCCI).

The DVC (AA) explained that through MaRCCI, the university will strengthen the PhD program in Plant Breeding in Biotechnology, the MSc. in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems, applied research in various crops, and outreach activities to improve Ugandan agriculture through enhancing the skills of public and private personnel supporting crop breeding and production activities.

Another section of participants

The grant according to Dr. Ogwang also provides for additional scientific and support staff and enhancement of facilities and equipment with the goal of modernizing and expanding the teaching, research, and service activities of MaRCCI in a sustainable manner.

“As Makerere University, we are fully committed to ensuring the success of this project and we look forward to an exciting period of new ideas and innovations”.

Dr. Okello Ogwang  thanked the different groups and people that were involved in the process leading to this moment and  extended special thanks to the World Bank team for the continued support to Uganda.

“We also thank  the Government of Uganda for creating an enabling environment for all these engagements and for sharing the university desire to transform the nation through higher education.

I further thank the Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Prof. Bernard Bashaasha and Principal Investigator MaRCCI, Dr. Richard Edema, researchers and scholars whose efforts have yielded phenomenal accomplishments culminating to this new program. I wish you continued success as you undertake the various activities as programmed”. He added.

He expressed the university commitment and assured all stakeholders that the University will optimally and appropriately utilise the allocated resources and ensure timely implementation of all activities.

Speaking on the same occasion, Chair, MaRCCI Advisory Board who is also Deputy Director National Research Organisation (NARO) Dr. Yona Baguma described MaRCCI as not simply an initiative or project but a vehicle and engine going to catalyze economic development in Uganda and the African continent.

Dr. Yona Baguma presents the Advisory Boards position on MaRCCI

He pointed out that MaRCCI will focus on three principle elements of training, research and outreach.

“MaRCCI will offer a distinguished and unique cohort of PhD and MSc  graduates  as drivers of  crop improvement. They will help the world to double production in the quest to address issues of food security and poverty” Dr. Baguma said.

He added that the program will also help to strengthen the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) by producing quality  plant breeders for the continent  to transform agriculture.

Dr. Baguma pledged the Board’s commitment to support MaRCCI  to deliver on her goals for economic development of Africa.

He advised that in order to achieve its goals, there is  need for MaRCCI to develop a closer working relationship with the relevant University Department, especially on Training and  mobilize  resources to sustain the Centre beyond the funding period

He also expressed the need for the rationalization and streamlining of operations of MaRCCI to synergize and complement efforts by other players and partners, and to avoid duplication among others.

Dr. Baguma added that the Board has identified a few challenges and priority  areas that it will address and refocus to ensure MaRCCI efficiently delivers on its goals.    

The Principal Investigator Dr. Richard Edema said MaRCCI is one of 46 African Centres of Excellence being supported by World Bank to transform graduate education and research and to conduct economically-transformative research.

Dr. Edema Richard and the Principal CAES Prof. Bernard Bashaasha taking notes during the brainstorming session

He said, MaRCCI will contribute to the greater fulfillment of Makerere’s Mission of education, research, outreach in support of national and regional economic development through Enhanced Reputation ( enhanced resource mobilization, student recruitment); Improvement of facilities, equipment (provided by WB-ACE & other sources); Obtaining additional grants through MaRCCI and Increased numbers of students enrolled in MaRCCI  and  generating income through tuition.

He said MaRCCI strategy entail the  provision of  effective training, research, and outreach that produce applied knowledge and produce plant breeders who use the most current approaches to rapidly develop and deploy improved crop varieties that meet stakeholders needs and preferences across the region.

In Crop Breeding Research, Dr Edema explained that  the program will focus on Student research on various crops targeted to strengthen breeding programs of NARI’s and other institutions in the region with  specific program on cowpea and sorghum variety development and delivery,  in cooperation with NaSARRI.

Dr. Edema Richard presenting on MaRCCI

This he said, is intended to enhance the graduate training and Serve as model programs using modern breeding tools such as Genomics and bioinformatics, e-data acquisition including GPS and digital imaging, Advanced data analytics and information systems, Local and global crop databases for information storage and retrieval as well as Breeding pipeline optimization.

The third MaRCCI Strategy according to Dr. Edema is Service to Crop Improvement Programs throughout the region (in-service training, short courses, and technical services). This includes Biotechnology services (DNA extraction, basic molecular marker services, real-time PCR, ELISA), Bioinformatics, E-data acquisition and handling and Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP) and Breeding Management System (BMS)

 The other emphasis under the service strategy include; Breeding strategies and Breeding Program Management; Data Quality Improvement; Statistical Analysis of varietal comparison experiments; Plant disease diagnostics; Seed quality preservation and assessment and; Other stakeholder needs consistent with their  mandate.

“MaRCCI Objectives as stated in the ACE 2 Project is to train 70 graduate students from across Africa,  Provide In-service training courses targeting a variety of clientele who contribute to   crop production needs in the region, Improve curriculum and delivery of MSc and PhD courses and programs, including incorporating material cooperatively developed under the Plant Breeding e-Learning in Africa project (PBEA) and Obtain international accreditation for the PhD and MSc programs”. The PI stated.

Some on the participants attending the meeting

Dr.  Edema explained that MaRCCI is building on previous success of students trained to the tune of 57 PhD’s, 127 MSc’s (6 PhD’s and 31 MSc’s currently enrolled). He said 18 crops and 20+ countries have been involved and many research articles published

Other success stories include a record of Graduates working in development-related institutions within the region, Grants obtained, Cooperative linkages built within and beyond the region and an Excellent world-wide reputation gained.

ACEs are coordinated and administered by the Inter University Council of East Africa ( IUCEA) as the Regional Facilitation Unit (RFU)and guided by the Regional Steering Committee (RSC)

By 2022, MaRCCI is expected to have enrolled 35 PhD students (15 of these females) and  60 MSc students (25 of them females).

The centre is also expected to have an output of 90 publications in internationally recognized research publications in disciplines supported by the ACE program and regional co-authors and  externally generated revenue of $ 3 million.

Report compiled by;

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer, CAES


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