Mak Agricultural Engineering Workshop gets face-lift under the Mak-RIF Project

Front view of the rehabilitated workshop structure

 

The team showing the visitors the fabricated water tanker

Makerere University Agricultural Engineering workshop at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) has been face lifted with funding from the Government of Uganda through Mak-RIF.

The project titled, “Revamping and Commercialization of Agricultural Engineering Workshop at MUARIK”, is being spearheaded by Dr. Balimunsi Husein Kivumbi at a total cost of UGX 50million.

This project was supposed to start in November, 2019 but it kicked off in February 2020 then suffered a setback when the nation and the world was hit by COVID-19. Work resumed after the partial lifting of the lock down and the project has registered some milestones.

Buganda representative Dan Kitazze(Centre) speaking during the guided tour in the workshop

On 3rd February, 2021 representatives of  the Mak-RIF Secretariat, Buganda Kingdom, District Agricultural Engineers and the private sector  set out to the project site at MUARIK for the progress inspection tour in the first year.

The progress inspection tour was also aimed at getting suggestions from the technical persons on what they expected from this workshop to guide the process of budgeting for the second phase.

So far, the project has made structural and machine repairs, bought and fabricated some machines and tools. The project has also repaired and constructed a structure for making liquid organic bioferlizers from agricultural waste and opened up a demonstration field for the fertilizer application and irrigation technologies.

“We made an evaluation of the whole workshop for an overhaul. After the evaluation, we begun by maintaining and repairing machines inside the workshop. We had to make the face lift and repair all the buildings on site.

We have managed to produce some equipment like a water tanker with of 10,000 litres and a compressor.  We are now making a Spray dryer for eggs from the workshop. At least now, we can do some work but there is a lot that is missing.

The visiting team visit the rehabilitated demonstration site for organic fertilizer production

We have a lot of challenges, the structures need more maintenance, and we are lacking storage. We need to make shade for machines, tractor repairs and a shade for post-harvest technology. We have to install the irrigation fields because we have a whole degree on Water and Irrigation Engineering but we don’t have any field for irrigation training” The PI, Dr. Balimunsi explained.

Dr. Balimunsi said the engineering workshop and irrigation fields will be utilized for training students and the farming community.

“We have a facility. We have developed a fertilizer formula and tested it so we need to start production. We have constructed a facility with digesters where we have to begin, the second phase is going to begin production of these fertilizers in three months’ time.

These are going to produce liquid organic fertilizers and we are expecting a lot of work for training students and farmers. The other field is repairing agricultural machinery and agro processing equipment. This one we expect it to be a referral for that technology and service.

It is  not just a Centre of Excellence for Makerere but it is going to be a national referral center for the whole of Uganda where they will be referring their cases for maintenance and repair of agricultural machinery and agro processing equipment”, Dr. Balimunsi stated.

Mak-RIF represeantatives( Lilian Nabirye(R) and colleague taking notes during the guided tour in the workshop

Mak-RIF representative Lillian Nabirye appreciated the project team for utilizing funds well and thanked the Government of Uganda through MaK-RIF for continuous funding.

“We have received the next 15 billion for the next half of the year and we must thank the government once again. There is hope for more funding because the results have been shown. We have continuously been engaging the government through the various ministries and informing them of the research progress at Makerere that is contributing to National development.

 We know that agriculture is our backbone. So we value your input and also appreciate your willingness to do this work, to take it on. It is a lot of work considering that you have to teach but offering this service is one of the things that we need as a university because we are the drivers of economic development,” Ms. Nabirye said.

The team looking at the biodigesters

She noted that Agriculture does not only impact the agricultural sector, it also impact on health, education, tourism and as a result the spillover effect cannot be estimated.

“To Dr.  Balimunsi and team, I must say we appreciate the work that you have done. We shall be providing an update on what we have done to the grants management committee and we hope we shall obtain future funding because this is something we must invest in”, She added

The Buganda Kingdom representative Mr.  Kitazze Dan working with the Buganda Kingdom and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Environment and Community Services said the kingdom had had a low profile contact with Makerere University mainly person to person with colleagues.

He said during this contact they have been exploring on ways on how we can tap into the opportunities that exist between the two institutions that’s Makerere University and Buganda Kingdom.

“So when the idea of revamping the Agricultural workshop came, I realized this was an opportunity to come and deepen our exploration on how the Buganda kingdom can tap into this because the Buganda kingdom has a robust program of revamping agricultural production as a way of improving livelihood of communities in the kingdom and mechanization of mechanized farming is one of the ways to go.

 So  now my coming here is a step that will lead us to another step of establishing a formal working relationship with Makerere university more particularly, the agricultural engineering department to see how the innovations and the research that is being hatched from this workshop could be tapped into the kingdom.

Visiting team looks at ongoing works on Spray dryer for eggs

The kingdom has a strategy of organizing farmers into productive cooperatives. This is going to increase opportunities for pulling resources that are going to create demand for products of this workshop. So basically this is a very good opportunity and we look forward to cement it and also see how we can further the link and collaborate to get a mechanism on how we can mobilize resources together to make this a success”, Mr. Kitazze said.

To see the agricultural engineering workshop move to another level, Mr. Kitazze advised the academicians to look beyond utilizing the workshop for academic training to the dynamics and needs of the community to facilitate and catalyze production and supply.

“I appeal to private sector and partners to look at agriculture as a sector that is playing a very big role in employing our communities. Records and statistics show that over 70% of the population in our country get a livelihood from agriculture. So we needed concerted efforts to see that such innovations are supported for the good of our country”, Mr. Kitazze advised.

A compressor that was purchased using the Mak RIF resources

Representing the Private sector, the Technical Director of Global Solutions and Resources Consultant Ltd and also CAES Alumni of BSc. Agriculture Mr. Percy Kyazze said they have partnered with the university dealing with revamping and rehabilitation of the engineering workshop.

“We have been revamping the structure. We have repaired the cracks in the walls. We cleared the leakages on the roof as well as doing the painting. Some activities are yet to be implemented like doing the flooring, as well as revamping the whole electric system. We are looking forward to the second phase. We shall handle the major parts of flooring with terrazzo as well as improving more on the structural part as need arises ”, Mr. Kyazze said.

Report Compiled by:
Jane Anyango,
Principal Communication Officer CAES.

 



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