6th FARA Conference ends in Accra, Ghana

The 6th Africa Agriculture Science week and FARA General meeting ended Saturday 20 July, 2013 at Accra International Conference Centre Ghana. The conference commenced on July 15 and attracted over 1200 delegates including agricultural ministers, specialized agencies, universities, farmer organizations, private sector, civil society, research centers, regional and international organizations and donors among others.


The conference was graced by key personalities including the President of Ghana, H.E John Dramani Mahama and Ghanian Vice President H.E Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah who officially opened the conference on July 18.  Other high profile personalities included President of IFAD and chair of the expert Panel Science Agenda for Africa Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, H.E Dlamini Zuma Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E Rhoda Tumusiime Peace commissioner for  Rural Economy and Agriculture African Union, Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) and ECOWAS president H.E Ambassador Kadre Desire among others.

Makererere University was represented by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (COVAB). Ag Principal CAES Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa and Principal COVAB Prof. David Kabasa attended. Others were Prof. Moses Tenywa Makooma, Prof. Elly Sabiiti. Dr. Donal Kugonza and Dr. Nelson Turyhabwe.  Also present was Majorine Kyomuhendo from the department of Mass Communication.

Dr. Donald Kugonza  gets a prize  at FARA Conference.

Mak don Donald Kugoza from the Department of Agricultural production scooped a prize in the 5th position out of the 20 finalist  in the  young scientist competitions dubbed “Women and young professionals in Agriculture” .The competitions considered women of all ages and men under the age of 40.

Dr. Kugonza Donald with one of his former students  Stella Kabiri (NARO) who also won a prize

Dr. Kugonza and other five finalists were from Uganda’s institutions of Kawanda and NARO and all Makerere trained. Two were from NARO and three from IFRI and they all acknowledged Makerere University as their mentor.

The competitions which started with over 400 participants in March 2012 were spearheaded by seven organizations . Participants were requested to submit papers showing science work that has contributed to the improvement of people’s livelihoods within the past five years.

 Dr. Kugonza Donald ( in the middle) poses with his mentors Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa and Prof. Elly Sabiiti after getting the prize.

Dr. Kugonza said, he did some work on Piggery production under the supervision of NARO in areas of Kampala and Wakiso .  Uganda had nine initial applicants out of 450 but only five made it to the finals in Accra.

“The idea was about science and communicating science. So we did documentaries and aired them on TV and also published books. My experiment focused on breed experiment, Characterisation and development of dietary. I got a prize of 1000 US Dollars, books with different topics on Agriculture worth 300 USD and a digital Camera.” Dr. Kugonza said.

Some of the other winners pose for a photo after the conference.Extreme right is Dr. Kugonza Donald.

 Conference participants hail Makerere for her technologies and innovations

          The Omulondo liquor and Soil testing Kit excite many

 Marketing and Brand manager Makerere University Mr. Aggaba Issa Mugabo  led a team of CAES  and COVAB Communication officers Jane Anyango and  Jovia Musubika Kavulu who were  strategically positioned at the Makerere  exhibition stall  for five  consecutive days and did the talking about the latest technologies and innovations from the university.

Conference goers were impressed by Makerere technologies and innovations describing them as real, tangible and exemplary. The following are some of the comments from the participants.

Dr. Mpemba  from  Lilongwe University of Agriculture  Economics and Natural Resources said, “I am really impressed by the university contribution to research needs and production.  Other Universities need to show how their research impact on people’s lives and development and this is   really a good example of a university with research output that is answering questions needed in the real world. The most interesting thing are the products that are being produced. I start from seeing energy.  Africa has a big energy problem with a lot of cutting down of trees and therefore we need to see  such alternatives to meet energy needs as seen here at Makerere. Secondly are the juices produced and displayed here answering nutritional aspects. We only look at food production but we need to go beyond that to the table. What I see here has been answered by university research and I am really impressed. Most of the universities here are just showing research publications and they are not answering people’s problems”.

Sierraleone Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security Dr. Joseph Sesay several times visited the Makerere stall to plead with exhibitors to take the Soil Testing Kit. He said, “This is an innovation I need to take to my country and tell scientists that experiments on soil can be done outside the laboratory.  I will convince the key stakeholders in Sierraleone to patner with Makerere University in the area of soil health.” On the last day, Dr. Sesay  paid 100 dollars cash to demonstrate his keen interest to take the Mak Soil Testing Kit to show his people.

Dr. Joseph Sasey shaking hands with CAES Communication officer before taking the Soil Testing Kit

Andrian Anjafy Rasoa Nindrainy from Farming and Technology for Africa Madagascar said he had been ordering  for the Soil Testing Kits from  the US  and had never heard of an African University producing the kit , “I am  happy that scientists on the African continent have made it. I want to partner with Makerere University to supply and disseminate the technology to other countries.” He pledged.

Dr. Oluremi .J Akitayo  from the Nigerian  Institute of Agriculture research and Training  commended Makerere for the job well-done,” This is good work. I want to go back and tell my University in Nigeria that there are certain things they are not doing that requires them to partner with Makerere University.” She said.

But the Dean Faculty of Agricultural Sciences Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Nigeria kept on wondering whether Makerere was a factory or a University. “Is this a factory producing different products or a University oooo!!  He exclaimed.

FARA Director in charge of Capacity building Dr. Nelson Ojijo stood at the Makerere stall and summarized . “This is the way to go”.

The AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Tumusiime Rhoda Peace urged the University to produce more and aggressively market her products across the border. “I would like to see these products moved from Makerere to supermarkets and crossing the borders”, she  advised.

H.E Tumusiime Rhoda (AU) (Middle) poses for a snap with COVAB's and CAES Communication Officers at the Mak exhibition Stall.

Ghanaian Deputy Director in charge of Plant protection and Regulatory Services Directorate, Ministry of Food and Agriculture Milly Kyofu Boamah described Makerere as distinct  and worth emulating by other research institutes and Universities.

The Omulondo liquor was a point of attraction for both young and old men. Even women were very inquisitive to know the secret behind this liquor. Whoever had the explanation of the importance of Omulondo went and whispered to a friend. Some participants made advance deposits of the Ghanaian Cedis  and American dollars to retain the only one bottle that had been taken for the show. Unlike the usual bidding where the highest takes it all, the exhibitor determined the winner basing on age and seriousness of the health condition. In the end, Mzee Emmanuel Osai working with the Ghanaian security took the Omolondo for only 60 Cedis (20 USD) he could afford. He pledged to link up with University to supply the omulondo if it works out well for him.

This left many of the show goers disappointed that the university could not carry items for sale. Farmers and researchers kept on begging for a few seeds of the Mak  soy and the New drought tolerant sweet sorghum variety  and other products.

Makerere carried a few samples of the Milk booster, calf accelerator, briquettes, IMO, Soil Testing Kit and the biological fertilizer(Rhizobia), four  Mak soy bean varieties, a few seeds of the drought tolerant sweet sorghum variety, and samples of incubate  products from the  Food Technology and Business Incubation center. Others were belts and shoes from CoVAB.

Uganda's Minister of Agriculture encourages the university to remain relevant

Uganda’s Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Prof. Zerubabel Nyiira visited Makerere stall. Asked the take home lesson for Ugandan, he had these to say:

“The take home lesson from FARA is that there is a dynamic situation in terms of development and therefore because of the dynamic nature in terms of agriculture, research and human resource capacity development, you actually need to take relevance of what you do with changes or transformations in the system. FARA has given an opportunity to all people to participate in this meeting to diagonise themselves and  systems to find out how relevant the present research efforts have to address the needs of the farming community. And the effort s we have  made definitely we have seen is that our research can be relevant to production system and farming systems of the smaller holder farmers whom we should   transform  so that farming is taken as a business and form of employment rather than something simply to produce food”.

Makerere's Marketing and Brand Manager Agaba Issa Mugabo speaking about the Briquettes to Uganda's Agriculture Minister Hon. Zerubabel Nyiira at the Mak stall

 Mak Dons represent Makerere in different Fora

A number of Mak Dons attended the conference. They provided a brief of what they were doing.

Qn. Pro Elly Sabiiti Briefly tell us what business forum you have  attended?

Ans: The forum we have attended this morning is on climate smart agriculture and is actually on climate change like that we have in Makerere. It is looking at adaptation, food security and reducing green house gases. It is a smart concept emphasizing that when you are engaged in agriculture, you should engage technologies or land management practices that minimize green house gases that add to global warming. So any management practice on land should bear that in mind like zero tillage where you plant your crops carefully using simple technologies.

         Prof. Elly Sabiiti attending (Third from left) the climate smart meeting.

Those programs involve training. For example the farmer themselves must use climate smart skills and seed   systems  which make the land sustainable. Since it is still a new theme it is a challenge in Uganda. We have to partner with FARA and other donors to build capacity to address climate change issues like in the afternoon am going to attend climate change side events on how to tap into resources to address the issue.

We need to train different stakeholders to understand what climate smart agriculture entails. In Makerere we have started on the issue of building capacity by developing an  MSc program  in climate sciences but we need resources to develop a PhD course. Also, we have  to train policy makers and top managers in Makerere university , the farmers, parliamentarians and media  to communicate to the people climate messages.

Qn: Prof Samuel Kyamanywa,  you presented a paper, what was it about?

Ans: We have been presenting about the Consortium for Enhancing University agro business development (CURAD). As you know we have started a program that is helping the youth to start business which is helping small and medium enterprises to become big ,which is helping students to earn  as they learn, what we call ‘earn program’ so we have been marketing this to the FARA consortium  what we are doing at Makerere.

Qn. What are the   benefits of attending such Conferences?

Ans: One thing is that decisions are taken in big conferences. The side events which we are attending are producing resolutions that will go into FARA agenda. If we and universities are not here our impact will not be felt and we would be left out of the FARA Agenda. So our presence as Universities is to tell people that we are also part of the agricultural development process. So as they plan for agricultural development on the continent we should be part and parcel of the development plan for Africa.”

Qn: Prof. David Kabasa , Briefly, what you have been presenting on behalf of Makerere?

Ans: On behalf of Makerere I presented the special and innovative curricula and programs developed. In this case we used the AFRISA SPEDA models to explain the reforms required to establish transformative education in Africa. This was the basis for the discussion and to see efforts that Makerere has done using this model to extend to other regions like Somali land and also how this model is being used in a partnership framework and how the model is transforming communities.

The AFRISA SPEDA model is a different model or alternative model to the conventional models that we have. The thrust is to graduate somebody who already is not a job seeker but job creator who has an enterprise, skills and is involved in production. We normally nurture the student to learn the competencies and task her or him to develop a strategic plan   that is personal in nature. By the time the student graduates, one of his outputs is to establish a business. In this way we are solving the problem of job creation as well as using higher education as a tool for supporting production directly. So we are taking the university to the community and anchoring higher education directly in production and business.

Prof. David Kabasa (second from left) attending  a meeting on curricular reforms in higher eduactional institutions

Qn:What other meetings have you attended?

Ans: The other section where Makerere University and other consortium participated was organization of food systems in Africa .We need to develop the African seed systems in  a balanced way taking care of not just availing food but ensuring that the food is balanced and healthy. While we have many people who are lacking what to eat, we also have many people who have food but are eating it in unbalanced manner. The proportion of people who are malnourished because of unbalanced intake has increased the problem of obesity and overweight which is as critical in Africa today as it is in the Western world. Therefore as African Union and its agents are planning to transform the food systems in Africa, it must be a holistic approach that is ensuring that the curricula that is delivered have this aspect embedded. So there is a lot of advocacy required, curriculum and programs needed at orientation, industry level as well as at the research level to inform policy.

We discussed in addition to that   the issues of research and the way research should go to address the animal sector so that food of animal origin is brought back to the agenda. As observed the majority of presenters were talking about crop and very few talked about the animal science .Food of Animal origin is critical. At the same time the animal is key for income and livelihoods of the people where more than half of the continent is relying on animal production.

Qn: What has been your experience and   take home lessons especially for Makerere University?

Ans: We ably presented Makerere and Makerere was brought to higher lime light at regional and international community. It was surprising to learn that people outside expected naturally Makerere to be here. So I found a number of universities outside Sweden, Netherlands and they said they came here and expected to see Makerere.

 It is a big lesson that Makerere should plan to be where it is expected to be. Stakeholders already explained that Makerere should be in Africa Forum because it is setting a pace in higher education and research and therefore budgets have to be planned for many people to be here. Majority of the people from Makerere were supported by FARA but as colleges invested some little money to come and we are glad that we came.

At the same time we have picked a lot of knowledge. It is like a shopping place where you have a lot of information to inform the curriculum development, strategic planning, and research agenda and it is a place where we have been able to get partners already.

So I think in future, Makerere should be vigilant particularly the Communications and Public relations office should be vigilant to keep everybody informed so that all other sections of the University can participate.

For additional reports about what transpired at this conference kindly visit the Makerere University website and click on events.