On March 22, 2023, the CGIAR Consortium was launched at NARO’s National Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda. The event was attended by the MAAIF, NARO, National Planning Authority, Development Partners, and the private sector, amongst others.
The Director of Crop Protection, Dr. Stephen Rwantwale, represented the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries. In his remarks, he congratulated the hosts on the CGIAR open day and the inauguration of the Alliance for Biodiversity International and CIAT’s new offices here at NARL-Kawanda. A significant demonstration of the strong and long-lasting collaboration between the CGIAR fraternity and NARO.
He emphasized the importance of agriculture in Uganda and said that it is the backbone of the economy, employing over 70% of our population and contributing over 25% of our GDP. As a result, the sector has been identified as a key priority by the government of Uganda. The National Development Plan III (NDP III), which is the country’s strategic plan for the period 2020–21 to 2024–25, has prioritized agriculture as one of the key sectors for investment and growth.
Dr. Rwantwale further said that for Uganda to achieve the intended transformation, the government of Uganda has identified four priority areas for the agricultural sector. These are: enhancing production and productivity; Improving market access and agribusiness development; enhancing natural resource management and conservation; and strengthening agricultural research and development.
Juan Lucas- DG Alliance and Director Partnerships and Advocacy, spoke about reform in the One CGIAR consortium, where there has been a lot of focus on the what, but his focus will be on the how and how they go about business. How we work together, we need to follow principles and change a culture that was set up 30 years ago for babies and adults to a now more balanced one where we work for and through partners. We need to acknowledge our partners as equals sharing the risks and joint outcomes and celebrate the outcomes as joint and not just as outcomes of CGIAR.
They have been working on a partnership strategy that has been reviewed by a number of leaders on the continent, and the emphasis is that it become a working document and not be institutionalized. “We will be seeing a lot more. CG needs to align better and work better with its partners. It is necessary to follow the principles and draft a stakeholder engagement and advocacy framework to guide the way forward.”
There are resources and energies that need to be leveled in the coming months. A consultative partnership strategy for one CGIAR Encourage CGIAR staff to lead by example so that this partnership is level and committed to better relationships among the partners. He concluded by saying he is fully committed to strengthening and deepening their engagements for greater impact with all stakeholders.
Dr. Yona Baguma, NARO Deputy Director General, Research Coordination, shared the success stories of joint collaborations between CGIAR and NARO over the years. He said that around 1990, Uganda was faced with a serious problem of cassava mosaic, and as a country, Uganda was not prepared to handle such a problem. Victoria Sekitoleko was the then Minister of Agriculture, and she, together with NARO leadership, reached out to USAID for support on how to fight the cassava mosaic, which was becoming a food security threat. The discussions resulted in the development of 30 million UGX facility for research.
These efforts, however, did not solve the problem, forcing NARO to go to IITA for support. This resulted in NARO accessing cassava clones that are still being used to this day. “As far as Kafu and eastern Uganda, you still see these popular cassava varieties,” Dr. Yona said. Then came the banana bacterial wilt challenge, and through partners, NARO together with development partners again found a solution to the problem. “We are able to get sustainability for food security in Uganda by working with partners.” Back in the day when he joined agricultural research, beans were regarded as a crop for women, but through work with CIAT, beans emerged as a commercial crop.
The gathering was informed that when NARO was established, there was only one maize variety, but today NARO has over 35 maize varieties due to collaborations. The work done with CIP on sweet potatoes has permeated across the borders of Uganda as far as Mozambique, Malawi, and neighboring countries. He applauded the CGIARs for the good collaboration and support over the years that ensure that humanity is sustained.
He further told the gathering that over the years, NARO has emerged as a brand to become the second-best research agency in Africa. NARO has been made competitive to work in the CG sector. Back in the day, NARO had only 20 PhDs, but today it has over 139 PhDs and good infrastructure, making it very competitive. “We can only be as strong as we want to be when we are together”.
He further requested that in order to deliver, make a difference, and upscale with the launch of the CGIAR Center, the following should be put in place:
- Effective representation of all stakeholders, especially from the NARs with a seat on the board. NARO requested the first NARS representative on the CG board.
- The need to work together to make a case for humanity
- The involvement of NARS in negotiations and efforts to mobilize resources from development partners
- Priorities set for research should be jointly developed.
Dr. Yona concluded by congratulating the CGIAR Center on its launch and saying, “We should move together, plan together, and celebrate together.”
There was an exhibition by the six initiatives of the One CGIAR in Uganda, along with two NARO institutes, NaLIRRI and NaCRRI.