Makerere holds the 11th Biennial African Crop Science Society Conference
- Conference attracts 339 participants from 27 countries
- MAK Prof. Bernard Bashaasha gets award for excellent presentation
- AU Commissioner H.E Rhoda Tumusiime urges universities and institutions of higher learning to intensify efforts to produce entrepreneurs and not just office bearers.
- Professional associations urged on evidence based advice and policy advocacy
The 11th African Crop Science Society conference has ended in Entebbe. The conference was organised by Makerere University in collaboration with Regional University’s Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and the Presidential Initiative for Banana Industrial Development (PIBID). Other collaborators were the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and Busitema University.
Initially the conference was supposed to be hosted by Cameroon which bid in 2011. Four months to the conference, Cameroon stepped down and Makerere University stepped in to organise the conference.
The conference was held on 14th-17th October, 2013 at Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel, Entebbe Uganda under the theme “Sowing Innovations for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security in Africa ”. The conference attracted a wider Africa and global participation of three hundred, thirty nine (339) participants from twenty seven (27) countries. The countries included the East African states, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia, Egypt, Cameroon, DR Congo Namibia and USA among others.
The objectives of the conference were to emphasize the role of crop science research on providing for new and improved livelihood opportunities for farmers in Africa with a view to enhancing farmer incomes and food security. Further, the conference sought to provide an engaging environment between young and senior innovators in sowing seeds of innovation for sustainable food and nutrition security in Africa.
The conference was officially opened by the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union H.E Rhoda Tumusiime who underscored the role played by Professional Societies and Associations in economic growth and transformation of communities and nations. Hon. Tumusiime acknowlegded the challenges of sustaining professional associations and congratulated the Council of the African Crop Science Society (ACSS) and all its members for reaching this important milestone of hosting the 11th Biennial Conference and sustaining it for the past 20 years.
Hon. Tumusiime observed that agricultural innovation and adoption of technology for achieving food and nutrition security continue to encounter many challenges on the continent including low level of investment in research infrastructure, human capacities and technology markets.
“The adoption of appropriate technologies in Africa has not yet reached the critical level to significantly impact productivity on the continent. Farmers in Africa use less than 13 to 73 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare. In contrast, farmers in East Asia and the Pacific use 190 kilograms.” She decried.
She told participants that the simple application of fertilizers by farmers, improved seed through biotechnology application and access to irrigation will yield great progress that should be sustained by the appropriate policies, investment in rural infrastructure and access to land and local, national regional markets, demand driven development and dissemination of technologies along value chains.
She shared a success story of agricultural innovation and adoption in regard to New Rice for Africa (NERICA) in Benin where agriculture is contributing 32% of the GDP and employs 65% of the active population saying, the adoption of the technology was successful and did not follow the conventional process of assistance program and government actions but a result of the private sector through self-motivated entrepreneurs who a pushed government to adopt new policies that would be conducive to NERICA.
The Commissioner said Africa has the potential to achieve food and nutrition security through agricultural transformation. She described mega-trends including the exponentially rising population, the dynamic women and youth, the rapidly urbanizing countries as imperatives researchers should turn into opportunities by exploiting the tremendous potential that Africa is endowed with, particularly land.
“Agricultural technology and innovations have the potential to transform African agriculture. But only if we have strong structures and systems to support create and disseminate critical best practices and technological breakthroughs. She said.
Hon. Tumusiime said the African Union, through its flagship program, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) accords a central place to agricultural research and technology generation and dissemination. “Achieving the Africa 2063 vision, the Strategic Plan of the African Union Commission for the period 2014-2017 adopted in May this year by the AU Heads of State and Government places on top human capacity development focusing on health, education, science, research, technology and innovation.” She pledged.
Looking at the adoption of agricultural technologies and innovations along value chains Tumusiime said the private sector has a key role because the demand of the private sector including agro industries, farmers, and finance and will appropriately target the input market regarding the efficient use of fertilizers, the management of the factors of production, the output market regarding post-harvest management, agro processing.
“Africa agriculture must no longer be seen as an informal investment but as a catalyst to create high income for the farmers to deliver particularly for women and youth. Agriculture must be seen as a formal business that contribute to food and nutrition security and create wealth attracting higher private sector investments”. She stressed
Hon. Tumusiime emphasized the role of human capital as one of the decisive factors of production in improving the welfare of poor people besides space, energy and cropland. She stated that the decisive factors are the improvement in population quality and advances in knowledge adding that Human capital is a crucial strategic factor for agricultural transformation as new technologies emerge, markets demand higher quality and safer products, and as consumers’ requirements for quality and delivery time.
“We are also keen to see our Universities and other institutions of higher learning intensifying their efforts to produce entrepreneurs including agri-business oriented graduates and not just office bearers. The skilled population will be able to respond more on private sector demand for competent staff that can be competitive at national, regional and global levels.”
She also said the development of ICT should be seen as an opportunity to create quick spillover in the adoption of agricultural technology, exchange of knowledge, and input and output market information.
The opening ceremony was also graced by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry Hon. Tress Buchanayandi who challenged the young and senior innovators to innovate for a successful agricultural sector that addresses the needs of today and tomorrow.
The Vice Chancellor Makerere University, Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu, acknowledged the pivotal role of Makerere University for the birth of the African Crop Science Society in 1993 and the university’s continued role of supporting processes of steering it progress.
“The Society has served as a platform for mentoring many young scholars in the field of Agriculture including professionals in Crop and Animal Sciences, Environment and Soils, Food Science and Technology and Nutrition Sciences. On behalf of Makerere University, I would like to sincerely thank my colleagues for their efforts and time and for cherishing professionalism while at the same time building a platform to mentor young people”, The Professor appreciated.
Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu, appreciated the need for continued knowledge exchange among innovators from using various mechanisms including participation in conferences such as the 11th ACSS conference.
He observed that science led economic growth driven by innovations is the critical engine that has the potential to end hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa adding that Conferences such as this one are the medium through which scientists and innovators present tested possibilities for the desired better Africa.
The Vice Chancellor said the conference was in line with one of Makerere University’s core function, which is Research and Innovations. He told participants that the university aims at consolidating and enhancing its research profile and aspires to enhance transformation and utilization of knowledge, research and innovations.
“I recognize the need for an education system focused on improving agriculture as one of the special pillars that can deliver a better Africa. I am happy to note that the Ugandan Government is aware that the youth make up a great percentage of our population and has endeavoured to create special programmes for them focusing on agriculture and entrepreneurship.” He said
Key note presentations
In his key note address, the Deputy Director FARA Dr. Ramadjila Tabo highlighted stability, policy, science and technology as a pyramid for building the agriculture of the future as Africa remains below the bottom of the development pyramid.
Dr. Ramadjila Tabo said the challenge was more complex than merely increasing productivity to encompass increasing resilience, reducing waste and improving nutrition, “Innovation holds the key to finding the solution to this complex challenge. The exploitation of Science & Technology further holds key to accelerating agricultural transformation in Africa”. The key note speaker stated.
He also advised that producing game changing agricultural innovations requires that innovators exploit the global collaborations and public investment opportunities. He observed that to strengthen these innovations, it was imperative for Research & Development (R&D) funding to embrace long-term research engagements for better performance of the agricultural sector in Africa.
In a presentation on “Addressing emerging challenges in African agriculture through a Commodity Innovation Systems Approach” Dr. Mathew Abang highlighted the challenges that Africa faces in meeting her sustainable agricultural development bargain. He pointed out that a threefold challenge entails developing downstream agribusiness opportunities, commercialising agriculture, and promoting SMEs within a value chain context.
Another aspect presented was “Opportunities for increasing crop productivity through agro-ecological intensification”. This was discussed on three fronts: namely economic, biophysical and the varied ecologies in the region. The economic front stresses the essence of diversified economies as the more resilient option to withstand shocks by way of expanding regional and intra-regional trade for both pre-transitional and transitional economies.
The biophysical opportunities (expanding cultivation into new lands) require R&D and non-agriculture sectoral growth. Varied ecologies present a diversity of environments which can be harnessed for their potential in contributing to diversified economies. The basis of innovation entails interventions such as better management for improved yields, technology advancement to harnessing total factor productivity gains and linking growth to ecosystem services. Agro-ecological intensification was also emphasised as an investment for increasing crop productivity upon the cornerstones of intensification that include biophysical production potential, human population density and access to markets.
The key note address on “The Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa” presented by Dr. Tabo was further elucidated by Dr. Rita Laker-Ojok, Executive Director. She emphasized the need to change from the “jab” in the arm funding to a more sustainable funding for successful interventions. She pointed out that there was need to break the barriers of innovation by addressing the key elements of the change process to include agitating for dissatisfaction of the status quo, visioning of how things should be different and championing the change.
Among other windows for realising change was the capacity building process for young innovators and re-tooling of the senior innovators to cope with challenges of unsustainable food and Nutrition Security in the region. In her key note presentation Ms. Nodumo Dhlamini pointed out numerous potential benefits of ICTs in firming agricultural tertiary level training. She urged for institutions to undertake actions towards maintaining and improving the relevance of agricultural training in the changing times.
In retrospect, Dr. Clesensio Tizikara discussed the aspect of Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E). Dr. Tizikara said the value of M&E in technology uptake and pathways is to explain complexity, assign contribution, clarify causality and attribution, relationships required to release power of entire ecosystem and enhance accountability and performance.
Participants awarded at the closing ceremony
Five participatants were awarded certificates and prizes for best presented posters and another five for the best oral presentations during the closing ceremony. F. Olubayo from University of Nairobi emerged the best overall presenter in orals on the paper titled “Enhancing food and nutrition security through adoption and up-scaling of sustainable technologies in the dry lands of Kenya”.
Prof. Bernard Bashaasha Principal Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences came second. He presented a paper on “Adoption and impacts of conservation agriculture: Quasi experimental evidence from East Africa”. The paper was co-authored by R L Ojok from Appropriate Technology Uganda, J Norton from the Department of Renewable Resources, University of Wyoming USA and D Peck and M Owori from the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics University of Wyoming USA. Prof. Bashaasha presented the underlying principles of conservation agriculture, the research process and results of the study that was conducted in Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya.
Others were two winners from two universities of Mozambique who presented on “Grain yield stability of cowpea genotypes in contrasting environmental conditions in Southern Mozambique”. The fifth best oral presenter was from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute on,“Use of selected fungicides for the management of common wheat rusts in Kenya.”
A total of one hundred eighty (180) parallel session presentations were made by conference participants. The thematic areas covered in the presentations included agronomy, crop physiology and cropping systems, agricultural economics, post-harvest handling and food sciences, agricultural extension, education and capacity building. Other themes were on pest and weed management, strengthening partnerships for higher education in agriculture, crop improvement and genetics, soil and water management, environment, climate and agriculture, integrated agriculture and innovations, crop protection, integrated crops and livestock systems, standards and policy.
The presentations addressed emerging issues of the contemporary research and innovation development including issues of mitigating environmental impacts of oil spillage, use of remote sensing and GIS tools for disease surveillance, exploring hydroponics for climate change adaptation, innovative approaches to disease, weed (e.g. Striga control, weed identification software) and pest management, and the use of molecular techniques to confer resistance. In addition, there were efforts to explore the medicinal value of non-cultivated plants previously regarded as weeds.
Health breaks were also dedicated to poster and exhibition interactions. Exhibitions were mounted by different universities and agricultural research institutions to showcase the latest technologies and innovations. Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental sciences exhibited different crop, animal and agro- processing technologies.
The next conference will be held in 2015 in Lagos Nigeria.
Story compiled by
Communication Officer - CAES