A section of the meeting attendees

The Gender-Responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project recently held a resoundingly successful 4th Annual Meeting in Kampala, Uganda. The 2-day meeting was held on 6-7th August 2019 at Kabira Country Club

Implemented jointly by Makerere University (Uganda) and Cornell University (USA), GREAT is a five-year joint certificate program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The project is currently in the fourth year of operation. At Makerere University, the project is led by Associate Professor Margaret Najjingo Mangheni from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).

Each year, the project holds an annual meeting which brings together the External Project Advisory Committee (EPAC) members, donors, partners, trainers and the project management team. The meeting has previously been held in Rome, Italy and New York, USA.

The meeting was graced by Makerere leaders such as Dr. Gorrettie Nabanoga (Deputy Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire (Acting Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences) and Prof. Grace Bantebya (Representative, School of Women and Gender Studies). Prof. Ahikire is formerly a member of the GREAT Trainer team while Prof Bantebya is currently a GREAT Trainer, who facilitates sessions such as ‘The science of Gender’. GREAT’s Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) partner, Aline Impact Ltd was represented by Godfrey Kayobyo.

Left-Right: Makerere Professors: Grace Bantebya, Josephine Ahikire and Gorretie Nabanoga at the GREAT Annual Meeting

The meeting was also attended by Vicki Wilde (Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Dr Jemimah Njuki (Senior Program Specialist, at Canada’s International Development Research Centre) and Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg (Director, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development). All the aforementioned are members of the External Project Advisory Committee (EPAC).

Assoc. Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga (C) chats with Vickie Wilde (R)  as Devon Jenkins (L) looks on

The purpose of the meeting was to reflect on the learnings over the four years, plan how to position the program in the remaining year to concretize the achievements, and map out a  sustainability plan.

Several presentations on progress on each of the GREAT project objectives in the past year were made. The project objectives are:

  1. Makerere becomes a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for gender-responsive research and training in Sub-Saharan Africa
  2. GREAT Fellows demonstrate gender-responsive practices in their research
  3. The GREAT community of practice actively fosters information exchange, dialogue and collaboration on gender-responsive research
  4. Gender-responsive research skills development in selected national agricultural research institutions through spin offs

The presentations were made by Project Co-PIs Margaret Najjingo Mangheni (Makerere University) and Hale Tufan (Cornell University) alongside project management team members Devon Jenkins (Cornell University) and Brenda Boonabaana (Makerere University). Godfrey Kayobyo (ALINe) presented the Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation component which cuts across the objectives.

Dr. Hale Tufan (GREAT Co-PI, Cornell University) presents during the meeting

The first day of the meeting revolved around updates on the planned year five activities which include running the standard GREAT course between July 2020 and January 2021, organizing GREAT custom courses in national agricultural institutions, publishing a special journal issue on gender and breeding, and presentations at breeders’ conferences.

In her presentation, Assoc. Prof. Margaret Najjingo Mangheni thanked the Leadership at Makerere University for supporting GREAT, and indicated that it was on track to becoming a Centre of Excellence for Gender and Agricultural research and Training. “ These achievements by the Makerere team would not have been possible without a supportive leadership. For example, the Vice Chancellor signs the GREAT related documents such as MoUs and course certificates, the CAES and CHUSS Principals serve on the EPAC, the University communications team is supportive and the trainers create time to participate in GREAT activities“ she said.

 “...there is demand for the GREAT course. Institutions are paying Makerere University to delliver the course to their scientists. We will engage with the University Administration and Finance teams to explore modalities for receiving GREAT course fees from individuals“  Prof.Mangheni said.

Left: Prof. Margaret Mangheni (C) flanked by Dr Hale Tufan- GREAT Co-PI, Cornell University (L) and Vicki Wilde-Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (R).

The second day of the meeting involved envisioning the future of GREAT and strategizing for it. This tasking yet exciting process was done through scenario planning, facilitated by Devon Jenkins of Cornell University and Maria Nassuna Musoke of Makerere University.Scenario planning is a strategic planning method used by organizations to make flexible long-term plans.

The GREAT Annual meeting participants during the scenario planning exercise

The scenario planning was guided by the focal question “What does the global market for gender-responsive breeding research look like in the next five years?”. The team came up with many drivers such as building credible evidence that gender matters, fundamental shifts in the global landscape, global economic health and donor priorities around gender. This was the starting point to a lengthy process of generating ideas and scenarios around the likely impact of leaders of agricultural research for development and donors on gender responsive research training.

Prof. Grace Bantebya presenting group exercise during the scenario planning session

This landmark meeting gave a much-needed glimpse into the future of GREAT and has set the ball rolling for the project to establish and concretize its niche in client-based, gender-responsive crop breeding.

Cheers to four fruitful years of operation! Onwards and upwards!

Article complied by:
Tabitha Nafula Kisakye and Elizabeth Asiimwe
Photos: Elizabeth Asiimwe

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