244 students from five universities- Makerere, Kyambogo, Gulu, Busitema and Bishop Stuart University have been flagged off to Israel for  a one year paid  internship. . Out of 244, 10 were female.

The students were flagged of by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University represented by his Deputy in charge of Finance and Administration (DVC F&A) Assoc. Prof. Josephine Nabukenya  on 13th October, 2021 at a colorful ceremony held at the Central Teaching facility 2 at Makerere university.

Ag. Vice Chancellor Prof. Josephine Nabukenya flagging of the 244 university students to Israel from Makerere University

The function was also attended by a team from Agrostudies center in Israel led by the CEO Mr. Yaron Tamir, representatives from the participating Universities in Uganda-, Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES),   Alumni and Coordinators of the Agrostudies Apprenticeship Programme from the five universities.

Prior to the flag off,  the Agrostudies CEO Mr. Yaron Tamir  and his deputy paid a courtesy call on the Vice Chancellor where they discussed matters of interest to the university and the Government of Uganda especially a plan to start an  Agrostudies Alumni cooperative in Uganda and the possibility of the program Alumni to support   government in providing  extension services.

The Agro studies cohort  2021/2022 was organized under the theme, “Securing the Future of Uganda through Agriculture Capacity Building”. At Makerere University, the programme was coordinated by Dr. Mildred Ochwo-Ssemakula and Dr. Narisi Mubangaizi from the School of Agricultural Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The students’ participation in the  Agrostudies agriculture capacity building  program is  a response  to the need to transform from subsistence to more commercial agriculture in a bid to secure the future of Uganda.

Ag. Vice Chancellor Prof. Josephine Nabukenya delivering his remarks during the function

Presiding over the function as Chief Guest, Prof. Josephine  Nabukenya welcomed all to Makerere describing the University as a warm  and peaceful community.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor reported that Uganda is grappling with several development challenges including low agricultural production and productivity, negative attitude of youth towards agriculture and high rates of unemployment among the youth.

She noted that the Agrostudies apprenticeship programme which aims at exposing Ugandan University Students to modern agricultural technologies in agriculture has a huge potential to deal with these development challenges.

Some of the selected students for agrostudies program attending the orientation at Makerere

Prof. Nabukenya said most of the students that have participated in the agrostudies apprenticeship programme have set up agricultural enterprises in which they have applied knowledge, skills and financial resources acquired from the programme.

On behalf of Makerere University and all participating universities in Uganda, Prof. Nabukenya appreciated the foresightedness of the Israeli and Ugandan governments for coming up with this wonderful programme

“By setting up the agricultural enterprises, these students have become job creators rather than job seekers. These agricultural enterprises set up by alumni of the agro studies apprenticeship programme are also helping in transferring technologies from Israel to other farmers in Uganda, “She stated.

Nabukenya expressed gratitude to the governments of Uganda and Israel for entrusting  Makerere University with the noble responsibility of being  the national coordinator  for the agro studies program in Uganda and  pledged  total commitment towards the programme’s success and continuity. 

She  said, the university has embarked on the process of institutionalizing the programme where the office of the Vice Chancellor has mandated the  College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) to coordinate the programme on  behalf of Makerere University from 2021 onwards.

Nabukenya also thanked  CAES for accepting this responsibility and for the progress so far made. As proof of the university commitment to the programme, Prof. Nabukenya said, Makerere University has provided free accommodation to all the students selected under the programme  residing within the students’ halls of residence.

Ag. Vice Chancellor Prof. Josephine Nabukenya hands over a gift to Deputy CEO Agrostudies program after a meeting in the VCs office

She appreciated the efforts made by  several units of Makerere University including the Vice Chancellors’ office, Office of the University Secretary, Finance  and Accounts, University Hospital, Dean of Students and staff in the students’ halls of residence to support the programme.. 

Prof. Nabukenya congratulated the selected students upon their successful selection for the program  and going through a competitive process , rigorous medical examinations as well physical fitness training to ensure that they are  are mentally, physically and emotionally ready for the work  ahead of them.

“Please do not waste this golden opportunity. I encourage you to learn as much as you can and observe very good discipline during your stay in Israel.  Above all, I humbly appeal to you to fully observe all the rules and guidelines  of the programme  and to return to Uganda at the end of the programme”, Prof. Nabukenya implored.

The DVC (F&A) thanked the Agro studies team from Israel  for  adjusting the earlier position regarding the participation of female students in the programme to enroll  10 female students on the programme. 

She however appealed to the Agrostudies Israel team to consider increasing the number of female students onto the programme in the subsequent years, saying, Makerere University is a gender sensitive institution and tries as much as possible to promote gender equity and equality by giving equal opportunities to both males and females.

Agrostudies CEO Yaron Tamir orienting the students at Makerere University

Orienting the students, the Chief Executive Officer Agro studies program Mr. Yaron Tamir thanked Makerere University for hosting and selecting the candidates for the year 2021/2021.

Mr. Yaron said Agro studies was established 17 years ago to conduct agricultural capacity building bringing students from different countries doing traditional agriculture to Israel to learn and practice modern agriculture. He  clarified that Agro studies is neither a university nor a replacement of a university but one has to be a university student to qualify for the program.

The CEO said Agro studies enrolls around 1500 students every year from 14 countries including Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnum, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ivory coast, Benin, Liberia among others. Tamir cautioned students against laziness, escaping and   staying in Israel beyond the program period.

“You are not going for summer. It involves very hard and intensive work in the field. If you feel you are not qualified or capable of doing it, this is not a place for you. It is true agrostudies is a life changing program and we have thousands of students with amazing successful stories but you need to understand that agriculture is not done in the office, it does not involve air condition but it is hard physical work in the field”, The CEO emphasized.

Dr. Naris Mubangizi and Bishop Stuart University’s coordinator

Mr. Yaron however told students not be afraid when they reach the airport saying it is their job to take care of them as mothers and fathers for the next 11 months.

“If you are sick, or have a problem back home, we are the ones to take care of you. We will be very communicative with the university in case of problems and we will solve it. We have staff who will be in charge and he will visit  you on farm, check accommodation to see that everything is well  and on arrival at the airport you will be availed emergency numbers”, The CEO pledged.

Yaron told students that on arrival in Israel they will be quarantined for seven days, hosted in a farm apartment and given food and other necessities but before exiting the airport they will be subjected to a PCR test at a cost of USD 20 which will be repeated after seven days at no cost but they will have to pay for a PCR test  on their return to Uganda.

He urged students to carry with them laptops for they will start school during that quarantine period through the Israel system including all coursework’s and tests adding that they have to pass to get that diploma.

The CEO said, once out of quarantine, students will be vaccinated because  every citizen is vaccinated with Pfitzer noting that  Israel is the first country in the world that gives a booster because after 6months of vaccination the anti-bodies disappear or become low.

Two of the Agrostudies alumni Jacob Kwikiriza and Loy Karegeya shared their experiences and advised student

He explained that whether vaccinated or not, it does not matter so long as one is through with the quarantine period. In Israel, he said  there is the green tag issued after  vaccination  to allow one  to go to a restaurant,  mall and other places.

He reported that the Delta COVID variant was rampant but with the vaccination, the number has gone down significantly and going low day by day with a number of PCR tests conducted.

He told students that they will be going to one of the campuses one day in every week to meet teachers, doctors and students from other countries and experience different courses of agriculture including crop, horticulture and dairy farming.

“Our job is to take the knowledge you have acquired here at university and transfer it into actions. Israel is a small and a highly developed agricultural nation country with almost no land, the majority being a desert with a huge shortage of water unlike Uganda with a lot of water. And only 2% of the population grows everything the population needs and we export 150% of it because we have the technologies and this is why we hope you will experience this technology.

Ag. Vice Chancellor Prof. Josephine Nabukenya while meeting the Israel team in office

Success comes with hard work, so you will be five days in the farm doing all farm activities, earn money for it and once you earn, it is important that you save a significant amount to help you come to Uganda and open your own business”, The CEO said

Part of the school requirement according to Yaron is for the students to prepare the agricultural protocol where they will study what the farms have and analyse them eg why use the type of irrigation or seed so to help the understand how to start their own agricultural business. Among other things of agricultural course is the requirement by students to prepare a business proposal, get data about the type of soil and together with Israeli experts will make the proposal so that once they come back, they will have the capital to start a business.

Mr. Yaron observed that unlike Rwanda where the largest cooperative is owned by 101 Agro studies alumni and the second one owned by 39 agrostudies alumni, there is not yet a cooperative owned by Agro studies graduates in Uganda.

Yaron told students that Israel farmers are very strict with time adding that they must understand that agriculture is a very profitable business and depends on how one does it. He said, Israel used to grow mangoes but abandoned them for avocados and cherry tomatoes because they are profitable using irrigation water recycling 80% of the house sewer.

“Israel is a good country but with very hard conditions so we had to do what was possible especially using technology not to starve. You need to know you are not representing yourself but Uganda. … you are young, your future is bright. Come back and be a success story not to end with few dollars in restaurants to wash dishes…”, The CEO warned.

The Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Prof. Bernard Bashaasha described the day’s event as a happy day and thanked the coordinating team from various universities for a job well done.

Prof. Bernard Bashaasha delivering his remarks during the function.

Prof. Bashaasha thanked the Government of Uganda and Government of the state of Israel for the political collaboration and partnerships that enables such activities to take place.

Bashaasha also expressed appreciation to the vice chancellors of the five participating universities for embracing the program.

He thanked Agro studies for the vision and initiative that started in 2013 noting that down the road, the vision has grown and matured.

The Principal congratulated the selected students for successfully reaching the flagging stage and going through a stiff competition, thorough screening process and medical examination

“When you go there be good ambassadors. You are carrying the flag of Uganda and take that very serious because it is not just a ritual but something seriously intended. When you go please come back When you say there you spoil chances of your other colleagues and the implementation of the program”, Bashaasha advised.

Prof. Bashaasha appreciated the government of Uganda for putting up a policy framework that allows such activities to happen.

He said the agrostudies activity being conducted in various universities here is anchored in the government policy on guidelines of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET 2009) in the Ministry of Education and Sports.

Oversight of this, Prof. Bashaasha said, is the TVET Council which provides guidelines with eleven key parameters which stipulates that there has to be a governance structure, some remuneration, a written contract, social security coverage , a legal framework, the program of learning, on – off job training, formal assessment and within the duration of 1-4 years.

Compiled by:
Jane Anyango
Principal Communication Officer, CAES

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