Mak-RIF Pig AI researchers retool service providers, disseminate research findings & Give out semen bags and info packs

The PI Dr. Kugonza conducting the training of AI service providers during the workshop

Over 30 pig Artificial Insemination (AI) service providers, district animal production and Veterinary officers from the districts of Kamuli, Luwero and Wakiso converged at Makerere University for retooling and research dissemination workshop of the Pig Genetics Project.

The project titled “Integrating assisted reproductive technologies and elite pig genetics to transform the pig value chain in Uganda (IntARTs-Genetics)” is funded by the Government of Uganda under Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (RIF), 2019.

The project was intended to create strategies to increase pig productivity in the targeted districts of Wakiso, Luwero and Kamuli

The workshop was also held via zoom. It was also graced by the Executive Director NAGRC and presided over by the Director Animal Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

The workshop held on 4th March 2021 at the conference Hall, School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering started with a refresher/retooling of AI service providers and proceeded with dissemination Seminar.The trainees were given semen bags and information package.

Dr. Kugonza Donald Speaking during the workshop

The Principal Investigator Assoc. Prof. Donald Rugira Kugonza, said the project received funds to run up June 2020 but was affected by COVID-19 Pandemic.

“We have about 100 pig inseminators in Uganda but picked out the most active 30. We taught them about the new technologies that have come up like mono synchronization of pigs so that they don’t have to run up and down every day so that they can have batches of pigs.

We also told them about biosecurity because there are more diseases which have come up, there are diseases which can be immunized in pigs and about how to improve their practices in the field in the emerging challenges. This meeting was important because we were able to engage one on one to improve their skills”, the PI said.

Prof. Kugonza described the dissemination meeting as great. “We had our Bachelors students who presented their work. The audience was very appreciative. So I am very grateful that this project could train the bachelors students to complete their research projects. They were able to present different aspects of the project”, Dr. Kugonza narrated.

The project key achievements according to the PI include the ability to refurbish the boar stud at MUARIK and restocking it with better pig breeds and facilities.

“The water system was set up and is running. The pens were redesigned and are working and the general fencing with concrete poles replaced the wooden ones. On the Science side, this project has evaluated the different aspects of handling, storing and assessing the semen quality and how to maximize benefits out of handling methods”, Dr Kugonza reported.

The second key project achievement has been the development of a candidate product that is supposed to bring females on heat. This product according to Dr. Kugonza is not anywhere on   the Ugandan market.

 He said, one of the students’ research works has been testing three fluids which have a high level of a hormone for the maleness and so farmers should not worry even if they don’t have a male to induce the female to come on heat.

“Now we are developing this spray or a swab which the inseminator will apply on the female and then we should expect them to come on their first heat if they are gilt or to come on heat if they are sows after breeding”, He said.

The other big outcome of this project is capacity building. The project has been able to train farmers in three districts in a special way where District Veterinary Officers and their assistants were trained first to conduct trainings for the youth.

The other milestone has been capacity building of university students. Normally student don’t have projects on which to do their research. Five students have presented their work and found academically sound and passed.

The project has opened up new directions for Makerere University and for science. It has been able to attract the Heifer project International who brought youth farmers to train as coordinators in different places, the International Livestock Research Institute now running programs  in Pig Genetics in Mukono and Masaka, NAGRIC now committed to work with the university and the Netherlands Embassy partnership on pig value chain who  approached the project team during the  COVID 19 lock down to assess the status of the pig industry.

One of the participants receiving the semen bag and infopack rom Dr. Asimwe Arali during the closing ceremony

Dr. Kugonza thanked the Government of Uganda for funding the entire project activities and the Mak-RIF Secretariate for appreciating this project.

“I want to send my heartfelt appreciation to the Government of Uganda. Indeed, this is the first project in my career that I have participated in and has not been funded by any other agency except government. It is a very big credit and we look forward to continued support”, Said Dr. Kugonza.

Dr. Kugonza also extended appreciation to the project collaborators from IOWA State University –Uganda programme and the School of Women and Gender studies Makerere University and partners from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and the Co-researchers with whom they have spearheaded this technology.

The Mak-RIF Representative Ms. Grace Cherotich commended the project team for the retooling, dissemination workshop and efforts to transform the pig value chain in Uganda noting that this was timely and relevant for the market and the economy since many people enjoy and demand for pork.

She said so far government has funded up to 545 projects at Makerere University and the secretariat was in advanced stages to advertise for another call the following month.

“Makerere has shown the ability to utilize the money. The moment we show products, the more funding we will get”, she said.

Ms. Cherotich thanked the Grants Management Committee for guiding the process, reviewing the proposals and grant distribution.

“As Mak-RIF, we are doing our best to touch-base with project teams to support each other and feedback to government. You have done an excellent job and we will provide information needed by the beneficiaries” She added.

She urged the project team to trickle the presentations down to the targeted beneficiaries in the simplest form to transform their lives.

She also appreciated the PI for involving different entities in the research, imploring the research team to send in more proposals in the next call to continue with their work.

MAAIF’s Dr. Asimwe Araali making his closing remarks

While closing the workshop, the Senior Veterinary Officer in charge of Ruminants in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Dr. Asimwe Arali described the project and university initiative as one that actualizes the ministry’s paperwork.

He implored the university to consult the ministry in case of any gaps that require filling saying, all were shooting at the same goal.

“Recent agriculture survey of 2018 indicated that Uganda has 4.75 million pigs and we have managed to consume all of them. A number of developments such us pig slaughter houses, big farms have been established but still we are able to consume all the pigs”, Dr. Asiimwe said.

Dr. Asimwe said even if pork prices are increased, pig consumption remains high-an implication that the country requires a big number of pigs. He also said, government works on evidence data which will inform the final decision making.

“We need to increase the number of farrowing at 2.5 farrows and have a liter size of 14 piglets. MAAIF is looking at AI as the avenue to achieve the targeted increase. What you have learnt and the skills acquired through this training are the things to change this country. Please learn, improve and implement”, He advised the participants.

He reported that the percentage of farmers lacking boars is still very high and this makes the demand for AI services equally high.

NAGRIC- Dr. Mukasa Christopher speaking to participants

Speaking on behalf of the Executive Director NAGRIC, the Technical Manager Animal Breeding Dr. Mukasa Christopher said NAGRIC was established by an act of parliament and has been gradually commercializing and improve the AI service and the general animal genetics.

He reported that in Sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda produces a lot of pigs and also consumes all of it domestically without selling outside.

“We are tasked to increase pig production by 50% and we are mandated to achieve that through improved genetics and AI is just one of the tools. 52% of Ugandan farmers have a boar and we are seeing how to distribute boars through the community breeding program”, Dr. Mukasa reported.

He urged AI service provides to ensure they keep records   or else risk messing up the entire breeding program.

He told trainees that AI as a tool is different from breeding and as service providers, they are expected to go to farmers houses and uphold ethics and advise farmers depending on animal health. He also advised the AI service providers to create groups to support one another.

Dr. Mukasa expressed commitment to work with the university and asked the project team to send students for research and internship.

“We need to work together because at NAGRIC, we have animals in thousands and we need students to do research. We have data from 1970’s and all records are there including labs. We need students to do all the routines”, Dr. Mukasa said.

Guest of honor Dr. Asiimwe Arali interacting with project coordinators and other guest after the workshop

The District Veterinary Officer Luwero district challenged participants to market the Pig AI technology noting that they have not done enough to promote it. He also decried the inability of pig farmers to detect the heat period and challenges posed to the industry due to problems of poor semen viability.

“The project team and district officers and AI Services providers should team up and have a strategy to market the AI services more importantly in their respective districts for people to know that the product and services are available”, he said

Luwero district sent five AI inseminators for the training. The DVO implored the project team and Makerere University to set up a training center in Luwero district to ease farmer’s access to AI services.

Report compiled by:
Jane Anyango,
Principal Communication Officer CAES.



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