- August 16, 2022
- Posted by: Mariam Kasemiire
- Category: Uncategorized
The programme titled, “Enhancing the Capacity of Young Scientists to Engage in Agricultural and Food Security Policy Processes in East Africa” seeks to improve connection between science, policy and practice
Funder: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Agriculture is a key economic sector in the East African Region and it is an important source of livelihood for households and communities, especially in rural areas. Efforts to achieve food security and desirable nutrition outcomes, as well as spur economic growth largely revolve around the agricultural and environmental sectors. The role of these two sectors in achieving the first and second Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that focus on ending poverty and hunger respectively has been recognised in many continental, regional and national agricultural initiatives. Yet identifying and implementing enabling policies and evaluating their impact remains a challenge to the development and protection of the two sectors in most African countries. Africa’s continental framework for promotion of agricultural transformation, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), recognizes and emphasizes the need to strengthen capabilities and the policy and institutional environment required to trigger agricultural transformation while protecting the environment. The process includes interventions to strengthen the capacity for evidence-based planning, implementation and review, and to increase the capacity to generate, analyse and use relevant information and innovations.
About the project
Through a project titled “Enhancing the Capacity of Young Scientists to Engage in Agricultural and Food Security Policy Processes in East Africa”, the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics, College of Agricultural and environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University together with Kyambogo University, Busitema University, and the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nairobi have mentored 13 PhD graduates – 8 in Uganda and 5 in Kenya. Supported by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences under the leadership of Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, the project aims to increase the capacity of scientists to synthesize, analyse and communicate science with different stakeholders; increase use of science-based knowledge in policies & practice; and improve connection between science, policy and practice. The mentees include; Dr Florence Lwiza from the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics, CAES; Dr Betty Christine Nagawa from the Department of Forestry, Bio-Diversity and Tourism, CAES; Dr Kanifa Kamatara from the Department of Agricultural Production, CAES; and Dr Kellen Aganyira from the College of Education and External Studies, Makerere University. Others are Dr Catherine Ndagire; Dr Margaret Namugwanya Misinde; and Dr Judith Nagasha from Kyambogo University. The mentors include; Prof. Bernard Bashaasha from Makerere University; Dr Peter Opio from Busitema University and Dr Faith Muyonga from Kyambogo University.
Policy workshop held at Makerere University
On 2nd August 2022, the project partners held a workshop at Makerere University to discuss and receive feedback from policy analysts on 7 policy briefs developed by the mentees. In the policy briefs, the mentees made a number of recommendations in relation to building resilience to extreme weather changes through index-agricultural insurance, the use of eucalyptus essential oils as an alternative to the commonly used synthetic pesticides in preservation of stored grains, quality-based classification scheme for beef carcasses as an incentive for beef cattle producers, conservation farming as a strategic solution to climate change challenges, the use of farmyard manure as a potential booster of macro and micronutrients in crops, building women’s capacity in value addition in a bid to increase their incomes, and the need to support school children and adolescents in Kampala to meet sedentary behaviour and physical activity guidelines.
Policy recommendations by the Mentees
- Building resilience to extreme weather changes through index-based agricultural insurance
In her research, Dr Florence Lwiza from the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics, CAES notes that despite efforts by the Government of Uganda to promote Index-based Insurance which has potential to mitigate weather-induced effects, uptake of agricultural insurance among smallholder farmers remains low. To increase uptake, the researcher recommends, i) increase in financial literacy to enable farmers to better understand the value of agricultural insurance, ii) expansion of investments in high-quality agro-meteorological data- data crucial for informing investment decisions, iii) gender considerations- encouragement of women and youth participation in agricultural insurance markets, iv) increased access to information on changes in farmer behaviour, v) flexible design of contracts- promoters should consider the heterogeneity in farmer characteristics, risk exposure and risk preferences and therefore design contracts to suit their specific resources, needs and characteristics.
The use of eucalyptus essential oils as an alternative to the commonly used synthetic pesticides in preservation of stored grains
According to Dr Betty Christine Nagawa from the Department of Forestry, Bio-Diversity and Tourism, CAES post-harvest handling and storage remains a challenge in Uganda. Shortage of standard and modern storage facilities reduces the shelf life of agricultural produce hence posing threats of food insecurity. Many farmers resort to pesticides to preserve their produce. However, the use of pesticides poses risks of chronic illnesses such as cancer. In a bid to minimise the use of pesticides, Dr Nagawa recommends the use of eucalyptus essential oils as a strategy to reduce on pest infestation in stored grain. This, she notes, requires conservation of eucalyptus trees species capable of obtaining oil at individual, community and district levels, and the establishment of cottage industries to support distillation of eucalyptus oil.
- Quality-based classification scheme for beef carcasses as an incentive for beef cattle producers
In its current form, the grading scheme offers no incentive to producers since carcasses are priced based on weights rather than on distinctively
differentiated quality classes. Dr Kanifa Kamatara from the Department of Agricultural Production, CAES calls for mandatory grading of carcasses at all slaughter houses just like inspection. She also recommends revision in the current classification scheme – attributes such as primal cut yield prediction and tenderness should be included to the classification criteria. She calls for adoption of objective classification technologies to improve accuracy.
- Empower Farmers to Gain from Conservation Farming
As farmers grapple with land shortage and climate change challenges, conservation farming offers the opportunity to increase food production and food security. In her policy brief, Dr Kellen Aganyira recommends empowerment of farmers through extension services, affordable farm inputs, vermin control and access to competitive market. According to her research, farmers do not practice conservation farming due to the high cost of inputs, lack of market for their produce, and uncontrolled vermin that destroy crops. She also calls on the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) in collaboration with the private sector to support farmers with subsidized farm inputs. She implores the government through the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives to link farmers to competitive markets, and to strengthen vermin control systems.
- Pig Manure, a Promising Option for Improving the Nutritional Value of Beans
Nutrient deficiency remains a serious public health threat as many households in low developing countries may not be in position to regularly afford foods rich in protein and micronutrients. Three-quarters of children 6-59 months old and 50% of women of reproductive age have severe micronutrient deficiency, resulting into impaired mental development and deaths. Due to high nutritional content (proteins, vitamins and micronutrients – zinc and iron), beans can play a big role in food and nutrition security for the poor. According to Dr Margaret Namugwanya Misinde from Kyambogo University, the nutrient content in bean seeds can be improved by combining farm yard pig manure with manufactured phosphorus fertilizers such as triple supper phosphate. The use of pig manure in combination with super phosphate for bean production is a sustainable strategy to improve protein and micronutrient intake for poor households, which cannot afford diversified diets. Farmers should therefore be sensitized and supported to adopt the practice.
- Sedentary behaviour and physical activity guidelines
According to research conducted by Dr Catherine Ndagire from Kyambogo University, a small proportion of school children and adolescents meet sedentary behaviour and physical activity guidelines.
46% of school children and adolescents spent excessive time in sedentary behaviours. To reverse this, Dr Ndagire points to the need for schools to give students access to a wide range of activities. Schools need to design and renovate play grounds so that they can inspire play, movement and sports. The Ministry of Education and Sports should support a community-wide comprehensive physical activity campaign that provides education and opportunities directly to children and adolescents in schools.
- Building women’s capacity on value addition for increased income
According to research conducted by Dr Judith Nagasha from Kyambogo University, women play a significant role in activities related to animal husbandry and dairy production. However, a lot of milk is wasted due to poor knowledge on safe production methods and appropriate storage facilities. Building their capacity on how to add value by refining the milk into products such as yogurt, butter, ghee, cheese and cosmetics that can be sold at a higher price can enhance their income.
Feedback from Policy analysts
The event was graced by a number of policy analysts who provided enriching feedback on the briefs. These included officers from the Office of the President; Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development; Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries; USAID; Water Resources Institute, and the Economic Policy Research Centre. The analysts cautioned policy developers to always avoid technical terms and to keep them precise, with recommendations that directly address community challenges. They also noted the importance of directly addressing the briefs to relevant bodies.
In her remarks, the Principal, CAES, Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga applauded all partnering institutions for the timely initiative. “For Uganda, this initiative cements Makerere University’s role to support and mentor the new universities in the country.” Prof. Nabanoga acknowledged the efforts and commitment of the mentors to build a new cadre of policy influence ambassadors. She thanked the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences for the funding and continued collaboration with Makerere University, and specifically CAES.