Sasakawa Africa Association President Dr. Makoto Kitanaka visits  Makerere for collaborative initiatives

SAA President Dr. Makoto Kitanaka speaking as Dr. Roelline Nyamutale and Dr. Oluoch listen

Sasakawa Africa Association President (SAA) Dr. Makoto Kitanaka and several of his entourage from Tokyo Japan  on 4th June 2021  visited Makerere University’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES)  for a partnership meeting with the Department of Extension and Innovation studies(DEIS)  to discuss modalities of enhancing the universities capacity  to engage with the community and also help  women and  youth to productively engage in Agriculture as a business.

The team also shared what SAA has for Makerere in Japan and their strategic direction. They emphasized the need to promote sustainable, resilient and regenerative agriculture looking at integrated soil fertility management, Nutrition sensitive agriculture promoting nutrient dense crops and skilling university and rural youth to do market oriented agriculture and agribusiness.

The meeting held in the Conference room School of Agricultural Sciences was also graced by  Regional Director SAA-Regional Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dr. Mel Oluoch,  SAA Country Director Uganda Dr. Roselline Nyamutale and her team.

Also present was the representative of the Principal, Bukalasa Agricultural College. The university had a program with Bukalasa to reach out to farmers and agribusiness personnel where they can be certified. The Mak CAES has an outreach program with Bukalasa that gives them credentials recognizing what they are doing as farmers in business area and good practices.

The  team was received by the Principal-CAES Prof. Bernard Bashaasha and Dean, School of Agricultural Sciences Prof. Johnny Mugisha and the Head DEIS Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe. Also present was Head Department of Agricultural Prodiuction (DAP), represented by Dr. Mildred Ochwo and Departmental staff led by Drs. Richard Miiro, Sarah Akello, Losira Nasirumbi, Boniface Orum, Prossy Isubikalu and Assoc. Prof. Paul Kibwika.   

Dr. Makoto Kitanaka peaking during the meeting

SAA President Dr. Makoto Kitanaka commended Makerere university for training the workforce for Uganda and beyond, conducting research and publishing various research outputs and theses on a wide range of themes on African issues.

Dr. Makoto Kitanaka emphasized that in the third role of the university that is, the contribution to local and international community, Makerere through the support of Sasakawa African Association had made tremendous contribution through extension.

The president applauded Makerere University for its fame in teaching, research and outreach and asked it to share its experiences with other universities and institutions within the country and export it to the neighboring countries.

He implored the university especially CAES to see itself as a university which can build capacity by supporting other universities and colleges within Uganda and beyond African and even contribute globally to other universities as well.

“Through the SAFE program, we have reached a conclusion that we keep the current program for the coming students. Last Friday I met with the Minister of Agriculture who decided that we increase the number of extension agents to 4000. Our responsibility is still high to train new coming extension agents. With COVID 19, the speed of change is very rapid and we also need to change basing on the surrounding circumstances.

I request the university to open up and train young people who are not necessarily professionals and who are not after getting degrees and certificates but people out there like women who earn money from agriculture to send their children to school, youth who need the skills that are tested and certified,” Dr.  Makoto Kitanaka  said.

Part of the team from SAA attending the meeting

This, he said, is the modern direction whereby universities can provide credentials and good practices for instance Ugandans and other people who never stepped in the university so that they can have a certificate from Makerere University.

It also means moving  beyond teaching, research and   engaging with  the community by building capacity of stakeholders engaged  in the agricultural value chain that have not had a chance to undergo
professional training in Agriculture especially the young people. 

Dr. Makoto Kitanaka expressed the association commitment to support the university in offering extension services noting that this is important in defining the university’s relevance to the rural and less privileged members of society.

“I came here to share what we have done with the university and both Sasakawa team and Makerere understood our contribution in training the extension agents. Today we hope the university does not only do extension but also help other actors in the agricultural sector.

Everything nowadays has changed and we ourselves and our collaboration with the university also needs to be changed by taking into account the needs of the community. Our desire is to have another type of SAFE program for new students to help those women who don’t know about how to produce nutritional vegetables,” President Makoto Kitanaka said.

The Regional Director SAA-Regional Office in Addis Ababa Dr. Mel Oluoch said, they were retooling their strategic direction and have developed three new pillars to allow them to work within thematic areas connected to the current agricultural trends in Africa.

SAA President Dr. Makoto Kitanaka (5th) poses for a group photo with CAES team

“And the first is the Sustainable and regenerative Agriculture basically to help build up the soil health of farmers, help improve it so as to increase productivity by focusing on the soil health as a primary area to focus our efforts”, Dr. Oluoch said. He said most of the farmers have problems with wellbeing and  good health.

“And we are putting now more focus  on nutrition sensitive agriculture as a central area where we can build farmers health by introducing  bio fortified crops as well as nutrient dense indigenous vegetables into these farming communities so that they can get healthy and when you are eating healthy, you have better health and you have better mental health that can allow you do a lot of things and engage in better farming and reduce the costs of hospital  arising from many illness due to poor nutrition”, Dr. Ouach also explained the third area of focus.

“The third area we are focusing on is market oriented agriculture. To ensure that we put more emphasis on linking farmers to markets, to change the concept and mindset of farmers so that they carry out farming as a business enterprise and not only for food security but ensure that any surplus is sold in the market, get a good price for it so they can get into farming as a business opportunity instead of a small holder who are doing traditional farming for food” Dr. Oluoch explained.

Former Head DEIS Assoc. Prof. Paul Kibwika contributing during the meeting

He said, to be able to get these three things done, one area they are trying to bring out and focus is the power of the youth innovation in Agriculture to be able to get things done.

He said, a lot of focus is on youths at the rural country side level to be able help them create jobs by improving their skills in entrepreneurship and working with them to be able to adapt digital approaches so that they can become private service providers for inputs and markets at the rural level.

Dr. Oluoch was optimistic that the youth can provide services to farmers at a fee. create a situation where farmers have services at a community level being offered by youths who prefer to make quick money.

He said the goal is to build up the power of the youth as entrepreneurs at the rural level to ensure that they get jobs, develop income opportunities which can keep them there instead of them moving to the cities to look for jobs that are dwindling day by day.

Dr. Oluoch explained that the partnership with Makerere University is very important in a way that, apart from improving the skills of agricultural extension workers through capacity building, enhancing skills by training through bachelors degrees, the association also wants the university to go a little bit lower to be able to offer in-service courses in specific areas which can make a difference at rural level

In this partnership Dr. Oluoch said, the university has to adopt new approaches, new trends to help strengthen in-service training not only the youths, also progressive farmers, extension workers who are already on ground and who have gone through the SAFE program before to improve the skills in certain areas to allow them make a difference in the farmers lives.

Dr. Roselline Nyamutale speaking during the meeting

SAA Country Director Uganda Dr. Roselline Nyamutale, appreciated the President for travelling during this COVID time to come to Uganda to see what Sasakawa is doing in the country and the impact it has created but also to see how they can continue with the different partners.

She reported that the first team arrived three weeks back and most of the field visits have been conducted including the visit to Karamoja, Adjumani, Oyam and the other one stop agribusiness oriented commercial agriculture for the market centre, all along the value chain involving the women, and the youth.

Dr. Nyamutale thanked the president for supporting the program in Uganda and offering a foundation for supporting the development of programs at Makerere University’s Department of Extension and Innovation studies for so many years.

She recognized Makerere’s offer in August 2018 when the university awarded the Late Roic Sasakawa an Honorary Doctorate   in appreciation to that great support to the university and impacts created within the community.

“But most important the capacity building within extension workers. The support that Sasakawa has given to developing the human resource that goes back to the field. Our partnership also gives hands on to the interns that also goes to the field and the participation in reviewing the curriculum to also integrate the best practices and approaches of Sasakawa Africa Association,” Dr. Nyamutale said.

The Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Prof. Bernard Bashaasha welcomed the sasakawa family to Makerere university introducing the CAES as one of the ten colleges of Makerere university and the most diverse and the only college collaborating with Sasakawa foundation.

Prof. Bernard Bashaasha giving his welcome remarks during the meeting

Prof. Bashaasha appreciated the Sasakawa family for considering the university in the busy schedule and travelling to Uganda amidst COVID-19 saying, this was a demonstration that they love Makerere.

The Principal underscored Sasakawa as a reliable partner adding that sustaining the relationship since 1995 cannot be taken for granted.

He said the CAES token of appreciation for the support accorded by Sasakawa was convincing the university to award an Honorary Doctorate to the association founder, the Late Roic Sasakawa in 2018.

“The footprint of Sasakawa Africa Association is around and visible including the vehicle and most importantly in the field. In military terms, Sasakawa has been one they call, “A force multiplier” and your force and support has been that way. The university and the college thrives on partnerships and does value Sasakawa partnership which occupies a special position in the CAES.” Prof. Bashaasha said.

He said the meeting was timely hence the need to rethink and repackage the partnership amidst the global challenges and to teach, research and do extension in a different way.

Prof. Bashaasha said the partnership offers opportunities for the university to organize itself and move itself beyond degrees, a position shared with the University Council.

“The Chairperson of Council Mrs. Lorna Magara has requested that we provide an inventory of what the college is doing to reach out in communities and this resonates very well with our partnership meeting and discussions here”

Prof. Bashaasha said this a very big opportunity where school and departments can work together and can fulfil.

Prof. Johnny Mugisha (R) addressing the participants

The Dean School of Agricultural Sciences, Prof. Johnny Mugisha described the meeting as a good opportunity to interact with Sasakawa on its historical contribution made to the college and specifically to the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies.

Prof. Mugisha noted that the collaboration was as old as 20years back recalling that the pick up that was donated by Sasakwa was and is the vehicle that the department has ever held.

“The school and Makerere university cherish collaboration and internationalization in different aspects whether in terms of research, staff and student exchanges and capacity building as one of our major focus in in implementing the mandates of the college and the university.

We have had a number of students and staff exchanges and got a lot of support from the government of Japan and other Asian countries. And we don’t take that for granted because this is what takes our mission forward. We have had collaborative research projects, short and long term and all contribute to the development of the university and aligned to national priorities,”. Prof. Mugisha said.

The Dean said the history with Sasakwa is long in capacity building, with visiting professors whose contribution is still felt among students that graduated and now contributing to the National agenda.

Prof. Mugisha also said Sasakawa has been handy in supporting the Department of Extension and innovation studies in her outreach services including the recently received IT equipment highly cherished.

He prayed that the partnership continues noting that much can be done together in research, and consultancies more professionally and ethically.

Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe speaking during the meeting

The Head Department of Extension and Innovation Studies Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe expressed. gratitude for the president’s visit to Makarere and Sasakawa continued support to the department.

He said Sasakwa has been supporting the department since 2001 when it was still running the Bachelor of Agriculture and extension program later transformed to Bachelor of Agricultural and Rural Innovations which started in 2012 and now has an external Bachelors program supported by Sasakawa.

“There are many areas where we have been receiving support especially in internship, in Supervised Experiential Learning Projects (SELPS), hosting our students in their program within the field and developing instructional materials for the degree program.

They have also previously given us some modal transport, involved in capacity building especially supporting BARI external students, development of teaching materials, engaging in different workshops and linking up with alumni of the BARI external program,” Prof. Turyahabwe said.

Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe and Prof. Johnny Mugisha during the meeting

Prof. Turyahabwe reported that of recent, Sasakawa introduced a model of extension called to shape small holder agricultural empowerment and promotion and engaged department staff on working on that program on how it can be implemented in the field.

At the advent of COVID-19, Prof. Turyahabwe said Sasakawa, in addition to supporting the department with ICT equipment, has given staff some seed funds to start developing online teaching models and other materials that can be put online for students and farmers use in the field.

He reported that in this COVID era visiting students in the field has been more challenging than before. He asked Sasakawa for facilitation with more resources (funds and vehicle) to support staff linkage with students in the field.

Prof. Turyahabwe also submitted that staff needed retooling to cope up with online teaching as well as equipment to deliver the services while graduate students at Master and PhD level were in need of support to enhance their capacity to be in the field more.

He pledged that as a Department, they will put their thoughts together and tap into this opportunity and submit the concept note that responds to the strategic direction and activities highlighted in the meeting to the association.

About Sasakawa Africa Association

Part of the team from SAA attending the meeting

Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) is  a Japanese multinational NGO operating in Ethiopia, Mali and Uganda, that has extended support to Makerere University  since 1995. Through Sasakawa Africa Fund for Education (SAFE)  SAA has done a lot for  Makarere. It is the one funding Sasakawa Global 2000 that has been supporting the Department of Extension and Innovation studies way back since 1995 in scholarships, curriculum development. One of the original Bachelor of Agriculture and Extension program was supported by Sasakawa Global 2000 including the current Bachelor of Rural Innovation (BARI) external, was supported to develop its curriculum and now they want to come back to work with the university to move the partnership further.

Report compiled by;
Jane Anyango;
Principal Communication Officer, CAES



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