CAES Innovation Scholars Programme Boosts Critical Thinking, Innovativeness amongst Staff & Students

Inadequate curricula to stimulate innovativeness and entrepreneurship within learners and faculty and limited partnerships and collaborations are some of the major bottlenecks to innovativeness at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University. The current programme design, sequencing and delivery inhibits critical thinking and innovation as it focuses more on theory than practice. Reviewing curricula to make it more learner-centered and entrepreneurial, reducing theory and creating more time for practical sessions can enhance the innovation culture at CAES.

Through the Innovation Scholars Programme, CAES and Michigan State University’s Borlaug Higher Education for Agriculture Research and Development (BHEARD) Program with the support of the MSU’s Global Centre for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) are working together to advance the College toward its strategic vision – “to be a leading institution of academic excellence and innovations in Africa.” The CAES Innovation Scholars Programme (CAESISP) offers an eighteen-month opportunity during which CAES academic staff work as interdisciplinary teams to solve problems in the food systems in Africa, while at the same time offering support to the entire CAES academic fraternity in the areas of design thinking, teaching and learning, community outreach, and communicating science. The CAESISP serves as a catalyst to support food system innovations that improve food security, and develop the current and next generation of entrepreneurial scientists at Makerere University and in the region. The programme is modelled after a successful, field-tested faculty development programme implemented at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) —yet tailored for innovation and contextual challenges at Makerere University. The core values of the CAESISP include: participatory, asset-based, learner-centered, contextualized, and evaluative.

The Principal of CAES also head of the CAES-ISP programme, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga addressing participants at the workshop

Under the programme, a number of academic staff at CAES have been coached to enhance their innovativeness to provide practical solutions to challenges affecting the agricultural sector. The researchers have also been equipped with various skills to deliver curricula that is practical-oriented and fosters critical thinking as well as entrepreneurship. At Makerere University, the Programme is headed by the Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie N. Nabanoga, and coordinated by Prof. Jackie Bonabana – Wabbi from the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, CAES. The Michigan State University Coordinator is Dr John Bonnell, BHEARD Director.

In the second week of August 2022, the College held a two-day workshop under the theme – “University Responsiveness to Innovation” to showcase some of the innovations that have resulted from the programme. The event held at Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility from 10th-11th August 2022 was graced by the Deputy USAID Mission Director in Uganda, Daniele Nyirandutiye and the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University represented by the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe. Innovations showcased included the Kebera Organic App intended to detect contaminants in crops before they are put on market. The researchers also developed a tailor-made pasteurizer and fruit pulper for the Medium, Small & Micro Enterprises in the Food Processing Industry; and a Guide for Learner-Centered Processes at the Department of Environmental Management –CAES. They also developed two different audio-visual instruction materials for instructors and students to enhance e-learning at Makerere University; engaged various stakeholders to address challenges of poor seed quality in the horticulture industry; benchmarked approaches for improved delivery of Hands-on Practical Experiences for Business Management Courses at CAES, Makerere University; deployed a problem solving-centered teaching and learning approach using the Teach-Think-Pair-Share model for increased skilling among Agricultural students; and programmed a software platform with a matching algorithm to cross-reference student abilities with company profiles.

The DVC-FA, Makerere University, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe represented the Vice Chancellor at the workshop

 

Research projects and innovations showcased

  1. Breaking barriers to global organic market access through research and innovations at Makerere University

Organic Agriculture (OA) is a rapidly growing sector due to health concerns by consumers. Globally, Uganda is only second to India in terms of the number of organic producers (210,000 VS 1,366,000). Uganda was the first African country to develop a National Organic Agriculture policy-supporting environment in 2019. Despite an annual global organic market worth $100 billion USD, annual organic exports from Uganda only account for $50 million USD of the totaI. Limited knowledge and high transaction costs in OA are some of the major bottlenecks to market access. Agricultural products from Uganda are usually rejected in international markets due to standard challenges. 45% of organic products in Uganda are reportedly contaminated and this poses a danger to health. To minimize the challenge, researchers led by Prof. Fred Kabi from the Department of Agricultural Production, CAES developed an App that detects pesticides and aflatoxins in organic foods. The Kebera Organic App was designed by a group of researchers from CAES, the College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS) and the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) namely; by Mr. Ramadhan Nkuutu, Mr. Ambrose Kamya, Ms. Fatuma Nabatanzi, Dr. Daniel Basalirwa, Mr. Ronald Walumbusi and Mr. Brian Ogenrwoth. The App has been validated against globally recognised tools and proved suitable for field use and complies with the Food Safety Standards set by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Some of the participants following the proceeding
  1. Developing Innovative Technology for the Medium, Small & Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Food Processing Industry

A team of researchers led by Dr Julia Kigozi and coached by Dr Amy Jamison investigated the challenges faced by MSMEs Agro Processors in accessing pulping and pasteurizing equipment and discovered that many processors had limited access to the equipment due to the costs involved. To minimize the challenge, and increase access to the equipment, the team developed a tailor-made Pasteurizer and Fruit Pulper adapted according to end-user operational capacity, financial resources and available energy source, and composed manuals on the use and maintenance of the equipment. They also developed capacity among the agro-processors to design, simulate, fabricate and test the equipment. Other members on the project included; Mr. Moses Kalyango, Mr. Emmanuel Baidhe, and Mr. Isaac Oluk.

Participants showcasing some of their innovations at the workshop
  1. Learner-Centered Training in Environmental Science & Management

Strategic Goal No.2 for the Makerere University Strategic Plan 2020-2030 commits to Innovations in Teaching and Learning. The system has mainly been teacher-centred as opposed to learner-centred undermining practical training, critical thinking and innovativeness. Under the project, Prof. Justine Namaalwa and other team members namely: Prof. Anthony Egeru, Dr. Patrick Byakagaba, Dr. Kenneth Balikoowa, Dr. Ellen Kayendeke, Dr. Fred Yikii and Mr. Antonny Tugaineyo developed a Guide for Learner-Centered Processes at the Department of Environmental Management to support practical training and enhance innovativeness. The team worked in collaboration with Dr. Betty Ezati from the College of Education and External Studies, Makerere University; Dr. Jerome Lugumira from NEMA; Dr. Simon Nampindo from WCS; and Ms. Emily Namanya from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

CAES-ISP Coordinator, Prof. Jackie Bonabana – Wabbi (L) and Michigan State University Coordinator Dr John Bonnell, BHEARD Director at the workshop
  1. Capacity Enhancement for E-learning at Makerere University

Much as Makerere University E-Learning Environment (MUELE), is a common platform used for E-learning at Makerere University, both students and instructors lack the necessary skills to use the platform for learning and teaching because they have not been adequately trained. To enhance capacity for e-learning at the University, researchers led by Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe and coached by Dr. T.R. Silberg developed prototypes of audio-visual instructional materials to train instructors and students on how to access and navigate the MUELE platform for interactive teaching and learning. Other members on the team included Dr. G. Karubanga, Dr. H. Nabushawo, Ms. R. Mukebezi, Mr. I. Mugabiirwe.

Prof. Fred Kabi’s team explaining how the Kebera Organic App detects contaminants in food

 

  1. Engaging Stakeholders and Policy to Address Challenges in Seed Quality in the Horticulture Industry of Uganda: A Case of Tomato and Pepper

The Horticulture sector relies heavily on seed from the informal sector that is often of low quality and spreads disease. 40% of seed on market is counterfeit. The National Seed Policy (2018) that would contribute to addressing the challenge is not fully operational. There is also inadequate human capacity to conduct snowball efforts for improving seed quality in the horticulture industry. In a bid to increase access to quality seed in the Horticulture Industry in Uganda, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University through the Innovation Scholars Program (ISP) has engaged different stakeholders in the country to address the challenges in seed quality. Through a project titled, “Engaging Stakeholders and Policy to Address Challenges in Seed Quality in the Horticulture Industry of Uganda: A Case of Tomato and Pepper”, researchers led by Dr. Jeninah Karungi-Tumutegyereize, an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Production at CAES, Makerere University seek to enhance the quantity and quality of horticultural crops produce, and to strategically position CAES in agricultural development in the country. Other members on the project are; Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa, and Dr. Mildred Ochwo Ssemakula from the Department of Agricultural Production, Makerere University; Dr. Gabriel Ddamulira (Head, Horticulture Programme, National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI); Mr. Moses Erongu from the Department of Crop Inspection and Certification at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries; and Mr. Daniel Kituzi, a farmer and entrepreneur. Team coach was Prof. Andrew Safalaoh. Ideas put forward by stakeholders were compiled and synthesized. A policy brief has been developed as a key output.

Prof. Fred Kabi et al developed the Kebera Organic App to detect contaminants in food crops before being put on to the market
  1. Benchmarking Approaches for Improved Delivery of Hands-on Practical Experiences for Business Management Courses at CAES, Makerere University

A team of researchers led by Dr. Alice Turinawe and coached by Dr. Sera Gondwe conducted investigations on topics that can be focused on to improve the delivery of more practical-oriented teaching. The team interviewed students, graduates and their employees to determine key topics that require more hands-on training. The team identified insufficient hands-on and practical exposure for entrepreneurship and marketing students, as well as limited experience and interaction with the world outside the study environment as some of the challenges undermining the performance of graduates. The team also established that potential employers and business partners expect soft skills from students. In a bid to produce better-equipped graduates, ready for life after school, the team strongly advocates for practical, hands-on skilling, as well as stronger connections between the university, private and public sectors. Other members of the team included Dr. Stephen Lwasa, Dr. Paul Aseete, Dr. Peter Walekhwa & Ms. Ahikiriza Elizabet.

Prof. Jeninah Karungi-Tumutegyereize is leading a team of reseachers working to address challenges of poor seed quality in the horticulture industry
  1. Deployment of a problem solving-centered teaching and learning approach using the Teach-Think-Pair-Share model for increased skilling among Agricultural students
Prof. Justine Namalwa showcasing their innovation during the workshop

Student lack full exposure to field problems for innovative learning and entrepreneurship. There is lack of a robust teaching and learning model that responds to the changing global needs in terms of innovativeness for entrepreneurship among students. Change in the style of delivery of lectures with inclusion of the Teach, Think, Pair, Share Model in new course descriptions is a possible solution for enhancing skills amongst students. The students are keen to learn with the model but they emphasize field practicals with progressive agribusiness entrepreneurship. Researchers including Dr Patrick Musinguzi (Team Leader), Dr Twaha A. Basamba, and Dr Emmanuel Opolot call for the novel Teach-Think-Pair-Share model of teaching and learning to be incorporated in the curriculum review process for agricultural based programmes. Funding to test the model with field-based practical support for students is critical to understand the novel teaching and learning approach.

 

  1. Strengthening The Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Industrial Training to Improve Students’ Innovativeness and Entrepreneurial Ability

Industries where students intern complain that they gain no tangible benefits from industrial training programmes. The students also complain that they are not motivated to be creative since they are forced to train in industries that do not match their strengths and/or interests. A solution that curates data on students’ strengths, abilities, interests and preferences and then proposing matching organizations ideal for their internship training comes in handy. Proper matching of students to industries increases their innovativeness. To match students’ desires with industry needs, researchers led by Dr Allan John Komakech and coached by Dr N. Peter Reeves developed a software platform programmed with a matching algorithm to cross-reference student abilities with company profiles. The platform will be tested with students and industries relevant to DABE and scaled to CAES.

 

Dr Julia Kigozi and team developed a tailor-made Pasteurizer and Fruit Pulper adapted according to end-user operational capacity, financial resources and available energy source to support agro-processors

Remarks by the representative USAID

In her remarks, the Deputy Director USAID Mission in Uganda, Daniele Nyirandutiye commended the incredible innovations resulting from the CAESISP noting that they will play an essential role in addressing current and future food security challenges, and serve as a catalyst to spur more critical research and innovations at the University. “The CAESISP has greatly supported staff and students define better career paths and has strengthened the innovation culture at CAES,” she noted. Appreciating Michigan State University’s Borlaug Higher Education for Agriculture Research and Development (BHEARD) for supporting quality research, collaboration, outreach and capacity building in Uganda, she said the skills acquired by the scholars would greatly enhance the University’s capacity to influence policy. “Uganda’s ability to deal with food insecurity rests in our ability to drive innovations and adopt new technologies. Academic institutions play an essential role in the global agriculture market space. Collectively we can use our mind power to solve challenges of global food insecurity,” she said, calling upon all stakeholders to expand, sustain and nurture the programme beyond its life.

Dr. Alice Turinawe et al benchmarked approaches for improved delivery of hands-on practical experiences for Business Management courses at CAES

Remarks by the DVC/FA

On behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Makerere University, the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Finance and Administration, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe appreciated USAID for tirelessly supporting Makerere University’s efforts towards becoming a research-led University. Over the years, USAID has partnered with and supported various programmes at Makerere. Specific to CAES, USAID through BHEARD supported 5 PhDs and 2 MA students between 2012-2016 to study in Universities in the US. The students participated in top level programmes focusing on Agriculture and nutrition. Between 2015-2019, USAID supported the development of a regional PhD in Agriculture and Applied Economics at the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics, CAES. They also supported training of three PhD students in Agricultural Research and Policy Analysis. Emphasizing the central role of CAES in transforming the agricultural sector in the country and highlighting challenges posed by the growing population, Prof. Alinaitwe implored academics at the College to continue venturing into innovations that can address problems of food insecurity.

Dr Patrick Musinguzi called for the novel Teach-Think-Pair-Share model of teaching and learning to be incorporated in the curriculum review process for agricultural based programmes

Remarks by the Principal, CAES

Addressing participants, the Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga said the College was moving towards more experiential learning & practical orientation of students. “In a bid to produce marketable graduates, we need to re-orient the mind-sets of our students to become critical thinkers & innovative,” she noted, appreciating the support rendered by USAID through the Innovation Scholars Programme that has enabled the College to make great strides in the Innovations journey. The Principal informed participants that as part of its strategic goals, the College was targeting to establish an innovations hub specific for agricultural and environmental innovations. She expressed gratitude to the Government of Uganda for the unwavering support towards research and innovations at the University, appealing for funding specifically ring-fenced for agricultural and environmental innovations at CAES. “We committee to remain innovation intentional as we leverage the 100 years of excellence at Makerere University”.

 

Experts in a panel discussion on how to nurture innovative mindsets

Panel discussion on nurturing innovative mind-sets

Sharing ideas on how to nurture innovative mind-sets, a panel of experts including Mr Apollo Segawa, Executive Director, CURAD Uganda; Mr. Benjamin Gyan-Kesse, Executive Director, Kosmos Innovation Centre – Ghana; Ms Freda Yawson, Entrepreneur and Senior Manager for Infrastructure and Innovation at the Africa Centre for Innovation in Ghana emphasized the need to be intentional about nurturing business mind-sets amongst students. “Every course should have an entrepreneurship unit. There is need to give more time to special projects,” they advised. They also emphasized the need to be intentional about developing a strong media policy on innovations, and to create models of intellectual property in context with the African Continent, as a way of promoting local content.

The event was moderated by Dr Patrick Byakagaba, a Lecturer at CAES.

The team led by Prof. Nelson Turyahabwe developed prototypes of audio-visual instructional materials to train instructors and students on how to navigate the MUELE platform for interactive teaching and learning


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