Conference theme: Innovations for enhancing productivity and agro-industrialization


Uganda’s Vision 2040, the National Agricultural Extension Policy (NAEP), the National Agricultural Policy (NAP) and the National Agricultural Extension Strategy (NAES) strategically place agriculture as a key driver to achieve socio-economic transformation in the country. The third National Development Plan (NDPIII, 2020/21-2024/25) prioritizes Agro-industrialization as a great opportunity for Uganda to embark on its long-term aspiration of increasing household incomes and improving the quality of life. Despite the fact that the economies of many African countries are still driven by agriculture, the sector remains crippled due to several challenges including climate change; inappropriate seed systems, production practices, and post-harvest management; as well as pests and diseases. The need to feed the world’s increasing population with minimal pressure on the ecosystem brings to the forefront the critical role of innovation across the entire value chain. Increased productivity is insufficient without an efficient value chain to move produce from the farm to the fork. Efficient value chains need to be supported by innovations along the pipeline.

The Chair of the Organizing Committee, Dr Imelda N. Kashaija welcomes participants to the conference

The NARO-Mak Joint Scientific Conference

As key players in the agricultural sector, the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in collaboration with Makerere University in 2018 introduced the NARO-Makerere Joint Scientific Conference to serve as a platform for evidence-based dialogue on measures to transform the sector, with special focus on innovations for agro-industrialization. The conference therefore seeks to engage stakeholders including government, research and innovation systems as well as development partners to find options for accelerated agro-industrialization on the African continent. The Conference also provides opportunity for stakeholders to show-case advances in research and innovation that can contribute to the development and transformation of the agricultural sector. According to Dr Imelda N. Kashaija, Chair of the Organizing Committee of the Third NARO-Mak Joint Scientific Conference, a key gap in the development of the agricultural sector is the aspect of incomplete value chains. “Africa needs to embrace and nurture agricultural value chains that are competitive locally and at the global level. At the same time, the value chains should support the budding agro-industry. The agricultural sector must continuously innovate to compete in the changing ecosystem. Appropriate and evolving seed systems, production practices, post-harvest management and value addition to improve marketability are necessary for continuous innovation.”

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, the Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja officially opened the conference. She pledged more government support towards scientific research

The Third Joint Scientific Conference held at Speke Resort Munyonyo

The NARO-Makerere Third Joint Scientific Conference held on 14th-16th March 2023 at Speke Resort Munyonyo sought to establish appropriate and viable strategies towards accelerated agro-industrialization, with focus on the African continent. It was officially opened by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, the Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja and graced by the Minister of State for Animal Industry, Hon. Bright Rwamirama; the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe; the Chair NARO Council, Dr William Olaho Mukani; the Director General NARO, Dr Ambrose Agona; the Chief of Party, USAID Feed the Future, Mr. Anthony Nyungu; the Principal, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga; and the Director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training, Makerere University, Prof. Edward Bbaale.

Participants follow the proceedings of the conference

Organized under the theme; Innovations for enhancing productivity and agro-industrialization, the conference aimed to bring to the forefront, cutting edge innovations and opportunities supportive to Africa’s agro-industrialization drive, provide a platform for the establishment of viable networks and collaborations that will catalyze agro-industrialization, and to stimulate generation of new knowledge to address emerging challenges. During the three-day conference, participants including researchers from Makerere University and NARO as well as representatives from the public and private sector deliberated on a number of issues in line with challenges and opportunities in Mechanization and Agro-Industrialization; modernization of post-harvest management and food safety systems; intensification of crop productivity and seed systems; acceleration of the development of the Animal Resources-based Industry; management of interactions amongst agriculture, fragile ecosystems and the changing environment; and embracing ICT-based innovations for agricultural transformation. The conference featured keynote presentations by eminent researchers and policymakers. Mr. Ollen Wanda from Uganda Development Cooperation addressed participants on the challenges and opportunities in mechanization and agro-industrialization, whereas Prof. Robinson Mdegela from Sokoine University in Tanzania discussed the impact of COVID-19 on food systems. Other keynote presentations included, the implications of the Russia-Ukraine War on Uganda’s Agriculture by Ms. Florence Nakazzi from the Economic Policy Research Centre; opportunities for modernizing post-harvest management for food and nutritional security by Prof. Archileo N. Kaaya from CAES, Makerere University; accelerating the development of the Livestock-based industry by Dr Sylvia B. Angubua; enhancing ICT-based innovations for agricultural transformation by Mr. Collin Babirukamu, Director E-government Services, NITA-U; intensification of crop productivity in the context of changing food systems by Prof. Patrick Okori from RUFORUM; sustainable management of agricultural production systems in a changing climate by Dr John Wasige from Busitema University; and the progress made in soybean research in Uganda by Prof. Phinehas Tukamuhabwa from CAES.

The conference also featured a panel discussion on the oil palm industry in Uganda. Panelists included Dr Gaberial Damulira, Principal Research Officer and Programme Leader, Horticulture and Oil Palm Programme at NARO; Dr Abubaker Muhammad Moki, Commissioner Policy Development and Capacity Building at Cabinet Secretariat, Office of the President, Government of Uganda; Mr. David Balironda, General Manager, KOPGT; and Mr. Chin Pit Te from AGM Oil Palm Bavuma Ltd. 

The Minister of State for Animal Industry, Hon. Bright Rwamirama addressing participants

Issues arising from the conference and recommendations

  • The country invests only 0.3% of its GDP in research contrary to 1% recommended by the African Union. Many good ideas cannot be implemented due to lack of funding. Governments urged to invest more in research.
  • Shifts in policy focus across political periods hindered agro-industrialization. To unlock the vast opportunities in agro-industry, Mr. Ollen Wanda from Uganda Development Cooperation advised that the functional/institutional based planning and budgeting approach where limited resources are allocated to broad functional areas such as extension, mechanization, irrigation, marketing without specifically targeting a particular commodity must be changed.
  • Agricultural research must be broadened beyond focus on staple food commodities to other commodities of great commercial and export potential.
  • Agricultural research must also be re-aligned to meet the needs of agro-industrialization.
  • There is need to develop agro-industry specific integrated infrastructure and facilities such as agro-industrial parks to facilitate tertiary processing.
  • Promote affordable and competitive financial products for mechanization and agro-industry for example agro-industry infrastructure and investment contingency fund.
  • There is need to scale up investments in high potential commodity value chains such as cotton that have big domestic and global market value.
  • In its pursuit to move the country towards middle income status, government should consider up-scaling agriculture. According to Dr John Wasige from Busitema University, subsistence farming does not create wealth. Government should therefore support farmers to engage in commercial agriculture. In his presentation on sustainable management of agricultural production systems in a changing climate, Dr Wasige noted that 90% of soil in Africa is depleted and cannot support quality agricultural production calling for interventions to improve the quality of soil. “There is need to invest in soil fertility management and irrigation. Rain-fed agriculture is not sustainable”.
  • The National Fertilizer Policy (2016) should be implemented as a measure to improve the quality of soil.
  • In a bid to embrace ICT-based innovations for agricultural transformation, government should consider lowering the cost of smart phones and expanding access to internet.
  • Researchers called for the establishment of an E-Agriculture working group that includes Agricultural Policy and technical resources, Academia, NITA/MoICT, and development partners. They also called for the creation of a cloud-based system for Agriculture.
  • There is need for vibrant seed systems focusing on crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry.
  • Strengthen regional integration with a focus on context specific solutions to minimize the impact of pandemics
  • Build a resilient system to serve during and after emergence of pandemic such as COVID-19.
  • Put in place appropriate financing products and services.
  • In a bid to modernize post-harvest management for food and nutrition security, strengthen cooperatives and credit systems for producers. It is also important to construct regional modern storage structures for grains and perishable commodities.
  • Development of the Oil Palm Industry – Uganda only produces 80,000 metric tonnes of oil palm, way below the required 410,000 tonnes. There is need for research to generate appropriate technologies to support the sector.
  • Government should empower young people to embrace agriculture as a viable means of employment.
  • Researchers called for the elimination of fake agro-chemicals on the market
  • Discussing the implications of the Russia-Ukraine war on Uganda’s Agriculture, Ms. Florence Nakazi from EPRC said Uganda should strive to have self-sufficiency to reduce its import dependency, and leverage on NDP III’s agro-industrialization strategies to develop wheat substitutes.
The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe called for more funding towards research

Remarks by the Prime Minister

In her remarks, the Prime Miniter of the Republic of Uganda, the Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja appreciated NARO and Makerere University for the joint research efforts that have significantly contributed to the development of the agricultural sector, and supported government efforts aimed at moving the country to middle income status. “This conference comes slightly over one year since the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni launched the Parish Development Model in Kibuku District. The Parish Development Model is our blueprint for organizing and delivering public and private sector interventions for wealth creation and employment generation at the parish level as the lowest economic planning unit. It therefore gives me great joy to see that the Conference theme speaks directly to some of the current efforts by Government to transition our farmers from subsistence to commercial agriculture.” Commenting on the poor state of soils, a factor greatly undermining production, the Prime Minister pledged to push for the review and implementation of the National Fertilizer Policy (2016). The Prime Minister pledged more government funding towards research and innovation. “The Government is committed to funding research aligned to the national development priorities.”

The Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga at the conference

Remarks from MAAIF

On behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Hon. Bright Rwamirama, Minister of State for Animal Industry commended Makerere University and NARO for the significant research output. “Government appreciates the role of science in transforming economies and is committed to supporting scientific research and innovations,” he noted. Commenting on the poor state of soils, as one of the challenges undermining agricultural production, Hon. Rwamirama said the use of fertilizers and irrigation was no longer an option and that government was scaling up interventions towards modernization of agriculture. The Minister reiterated the need for homegrown solutions for challenges affecting the sector.


Remarks by the Vice Chancellor

The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe acknowledged the research efforts by CAES and NARO, noting that CAES contributes 30% of research and publications at Makerere. He called for more funding towards research noting that the country spends only 0.3% of its GDP on agricultural production contrary to 1% recommended by the AU. The Vice Chancellor emphasized the importance of collaboration in research. “In modern times, research is about collaboration, the more you collaborate, the better the quality of research and output.” Highlighting the challenges crippling the agricultural sector, the Vice Chancellor explained that achieving the desired transformation calls for innovativeness. “I am happy to note that as Makerere aspires to become a research-led university as per the 2020/2030 Strategic Plan, innovativeness is one of our strategic areas of focus. It is gratifying to note that our agricultural College – CAES has adopted an ‘Innovation Intentional’ agenda enshrined in the College Transformational Pact with the aim of increasing innovativeness amongst staff and students. With this, we expect to see more innovations at the College that will greatly boost Agricultural production and agro-industrialization.” The Vice Chancellor appreciated the Government of Uganda and development partners for the support extended towards research and innovation at Makerere University. 

The Director General, NARO addressing participants

Chair NARO Council

The Chairperson, NARO Council, Dr William Olaho Mukani reiterated the importance of innovation in the development of sustainable agriculture. “Our products do not meet international standards because of aflatoxins. “There is need for interventions to enhance the quality of our products. We appeal to the Government to set up an Agricultural Research and Innovations Fund.” Similarly, the Director General of NARO, Dr Ambrose Agona emphasized the importance of science and innovation in transforming the sector calling for more funding towards scientific research.

Prof. Bernard Bashaasha led the conference organizing committee at Makerere University

Remarks by the Principal CAES

The Principal of CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga briefed participants of the College’s Innovation Intentional Agenda aimed at transforming the mode of operations to increase innovations. “In line with Strategic Goal 1 that seeks to transform Makerere into research-led institution, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) is transforming its mode of operation in order to stimulate innovativeness and entrepreneurship within learners and faculty. In 2022, a “Pact” for Transformation Change at CAES was developed through which we shall be innovative and intentional on transforming into a College, with effective and efficient management systems, adequate supportive infrastructure and highly motivated staff to drive our Innovation Intentional agenda. Through our three schools namely; the School of Agricultural Sciences, School of Food Technology Nutrition and Bio-engineering and the School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences and 14 research institutes, our staff shall productively engage with stakeholders and produce skilled, entrepreneurial, innovative and work-oriented graduates, able to innovatively respond to challenges, needs and aspirations in the Agricultural and Environmental sectors.” She expressed gratitude to the Government of Uganda and all development partners for supporting research at CAES and the University in general. She acknowledged the long-time partnership between CAES and NARO that has yielded several results hence transforming the agricultural sector. She appreciated the University Council and Management for supporting CAES initiatives. She also appreciated the Conference organizing committee led by Dr Imelda N. Kashaija.

The conference was supported by FAO Uganda, the World Bank, aBi Development Ltd, USAID Feed the Future, CABI-Africa, Agriculture Search Activity, Nile Breweries Ltd, and Dr Nicholas Kiggundu from CAES.

The Minister of State for Animal Industry, Hon. Bright Rwamirama with some of the keynote speakers on Day One of the conference


Soybean varieties developed by staff at CAES are some of the products showcased at the Conference

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