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Copyright 2017 - @ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Makerere University. All Rights Reserved!

International conference on collaborative education exchange for accelerating youth, education and innovation in agri-business for sustainable development opens at Makerere University Uganda

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A section of participants posing for a group photo with the MAK VC Prof. John Ddumba- Ssentamu (5th from Left) after the opening ceremony at the Senate Building

Makerere University is hosting a two- day workshop on  International Collaborative Education Exchange   on Accelerating Youth Education and Innovation in Agribusiness for Sustainable Development.

The conference (16th -17th August 2017) was officially opened by the Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu at Makerere University Senate Building.

It was organized by Makerere University in collaboration with the Agricultural Sciences for Global Development of Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU Global), the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) and the Open Sustainability Institute (OSI).

The workshop is internationally inspired by SLU Global and regionally coordinated by Makerere University in partnership with other local and regional institutions.

In an attempt to spark off North-South linkages, innovations and agri-preneurship networks, the workshop brought together students from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and students from regional universities of Makerere, Gulu University, Uganda Martyrs University, RUCID, ISTVS – Somaliland, and Egerton University, Kenya.

 

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A section of the participants attending the workshop

The workshop also attracted Mentors and Professors from the regional universities and SLU together with the private sector to facilitate the conversations and provide an enabling ecosystem.  Other participants included local youth agri-preneurship initiatives and innovation hubs as well as civil society and development organizations across Africa and Europe.

The aim of the workshop is to initiate public private partnerships for blended learning, which should identify enablers for: Increased attractiveness and interest in agricultural programs by youth worldwide; Provision of a platform for interlinking courses and bidirectional exchange between programs for the North-South universities; Identification of knowledge gaps in the formal educational and informal circuits that are pivotal in agribusiness skill development.

 

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Some of the representatives from SIDA speaking to the participants

The workshop also aimed at Permeation of agricultural and agribusiness programs with a global and sustainability perspective; Facilitation of platforms and harnessing the potential for collaborative innovation and interactive learning; Building new and future agribusiness networks, harness mass collaboration and increase future equitable trade opportunities with emphasis on organic products and Identification of areas for collaborative research and training and community outreach.

Courtesy of this exchange, the students from MAK will work together with other students from Sweden and other Universities to collaborate and improve their innovative solutions to challenges along agri-business value chain under the mentorship of experts from the innovation community, which they will pitch to all the participants and the best idea(s) will win an award.

 

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A section of the participants attending the workshop

The workshop will then be followed by a four- day agro-ecotourism learning journey that will enable the students, private sector and mentors to come face to face with producers of organic coffee, bananas, pineapples and eco-tourism initiatives to understand the bottlenecks that limit their access to the market and how collaboration through innovation and entrepreneurship could accelerate the youth participation that enables market access.

In his opening remarks, the Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. John Ddumba –Ssentamu  welcomed all participants to Makerere University with special recognition to partners from abroad.

The VC told participants that Makerere University has existed for 95 years and remains the leading University in Africa with a vision of being the leading centre of academic excellence in Africa, with a strategic direction of being a research led university by promoting the core functions of teaching and Learning, Research and Innovations as well as knowledge transfer partnerships and networking.

“We continue to lead the transformation at both national and regional levels through our core functions specifically training of entrepreneurial graduates,” said the VC.

 

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MAK Vice Chancellor Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu making his opening remarks

He informed participants   that several innovations promoting entrepreneurial spirit were taking place at the university including production of liquid organic fertilizers, the MV Mulimi multipurpose tractor, the mama – Ope, a cell phone based lung monitoring  device to diagnose pneumonia, SUFACE mobile application for delivering  complementary agricultural extension services among others.

Prof. Ddumba pointed out that the potential for innovation and entrepreneurship within Makerere University and Uganda in general is huge. With the high unemployment rate, the VC noted that Uganda’s youth have learnt to be proactive and creative within their available limits.

“With the help of development partners and Government of Uganda, Makerere University has made investments which have boosted agribusiness, entrepreneurship and innovation. I am proud to mention a few examples including the Food Technology and Business Incubation hub, the plant breeding centre of excellence and the Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development”. He said

The Vice Chancellor challenged all stakeholders in the workshop to explore more innovative and sustainable approaches to support the youth in their efforts to create meaningful employment avenues through exploiting opportunities that exist in various sectors including agriculture.

“I have pointed out agriculture as an example purposely because our agricultural value chains are still poorly developed and yet innovations and enterprises originating from this sector have potential to  uplift a mass of people out of poverty,” Prof. Ddumba said.

 

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A section of participants listening to the Vice Chancellor

In addition, the Professor said, agribusiness is an opportunity of making agriculture attractive to the African youth; hence it is wise to invest both time and resources in support of agribusiness innovation and enterprise development.

The Vice Chancellor lauded the collaborative nature of the workshop saying, it is a workable and active partnership that will survive the test of time based on the excellent performance of the partners in the initiative.

Prof. Ddumba appreciated the development partners including SIDA and Mastercard Foundation for their contribution to the success and transformation of Makerere University as well as the vibrancy of the RUFORUM network.

He pledged Makerere University’s commitment to accelerating youth education and innovation in agribusiness as the only way of providing a clear and meaningful transition of the graduates to the world of work and  to the economic and social development of Uganda and the region.

The Executive Secretary RUFORUM Prof. Adipala Ekwamu said agriculture sector is seen to be fundamental to the development of Africa as stipulated by the AU Agenda 63 emphasizing the need to strive to have improved livelihoods in the continent.

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Excecutive Secretary RUFORUM Prof. Adipala Ekwamu speaking during the conference

Prof. Adipala said in order to move forward a lot of investments must be made in science, technology and innovations.

“The third and most fundamental is that we must invest in people. This will not happen unless you have the tools and prepared minds whether in Asia, Africa or elsewhere.”

Related to the continent Prof. Adipala observed that the other issue is to look at the youth and turn them into a significant economic value.

He observed that as much as people can afford some of their basic needs and wants a significant number of people on the continent are not able to provide or have access to adequate food.

“The situation is getting worse and worse. So in terms of making progress, there must be transformation of the agricultural sector that may lead to economic growth. It is a collection of individuals and also a collection of institutional arrangements that can make it work’”, Said Adipala.

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 A  section of the participants listening as Prof. Adipala speaks

Prof. Adipala also noted that to transform the science into very useful outputs, there must be tools and processes.

“So achieving African agenda will require that you have institutions that catalyze the changes and my believe has been always that among other things education is key. This is where universities have a role”, he stated

He called upon African universities to play much greater role in contributing to the transformation of the African agricultural sector.

“The challenge now, is that the issue relates to the skilling of the population, and the immediate concern on the graduates that are churned out of the universities. So our university programs should include elements of transformation that tackle the technical aspects that will enable graduates who come out to be more employable. How we form the curricula, how we deliver the training and give opportunities to students is fundamental,” He said.

Adipala paid tribute to the team that came up with this workshop saying it links closely to the aspiration of the Vice Chancellors who constituted the RUFORUM in 2004.

RUFORUM focus was that African Universities must produce technologies, human resources that contribute to food and nutritional security through their students and research to cause transformation in communities.

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Some of the participants attending the workshop

Report compiled by:

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer, CAES

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