Rt. Hon. Robina Nabbanja launches the 3rd edition of the NARO MAK Scientific Conference

The Prime Minister of Uganda, Rt Hon Robina Nabanjja officially launched the 3rd edition of the NARO MAK Scientific Conference that is running from the 14th -16th March 2023 at Speke Resort Hotel, Munyonyo. The conference theme is Enhancing Innovations for Productivity and Agro industrialization.  In her remarks,thanked the organizers for the conference and said it was timely, especially after the launch of the Parish Development Model (PDM) by President Yoweri Museveni last year.  The PDM is a blueprint for organizing and delivering public and working private sector interventions for wealth creation and employment generation at the Parish level.  “This workshop is long overdue, we should have had it like yesterday,” she said.

The Rt Hon. Robina Nabbanja further said that the President is convinced that with scientists, Uganda can move to greater heights and therefore need to be supported to do their work. She urged the participants to take note of the population is growing at a high speed, the land is limited, and soil needs to be fertilized to ensure that they are in sync. She then asked the Director General of NARO to meet with her after the conference to look at the fertilizer policy of 2026 and see how to implement it.  Participants were informed that the fertilizer factory will be on its feet in spite of the few challenges it has faced in the past forcing it to temporally close.

Hon. Bright Rwamirama, Key Note Speakers, NARO Leadership and Makerere University.

The government has been and is going to support Research more and see how to support the multiplication of seeds. A meeting with MAAIF and NARO was held recently to find ways to support the sector in seed multiplication through other MDAs. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (Prisons) will help in the multiplication of seeds to avoid the fake and costly seeds that enter the country. As a result, farmers will get quality seeds at cheaper prices. “We are aware that you are doing a good job and encourage you to continue, “she said. She informed the meeting that she is aware NARO has been producing seed that is being multiplied by the private sector. She shared her experience of purchasing bazooka maize seeds from one of the seed companies and found out they were from NARO.

In regard to awareness raising, she called for more meetings like the NARO MAK Conference will help to popularize and show the work and progress being made in the sector.  NARO was urged to share her innovations more often with the rest of the country as well as to embrace ICT innovations for agricultural interventions.

The government is committed to funding research that is in line with national priorities because it respects your contribution to the social and economic transformation of this nation. “This conference and its focus relate to PDM’s ongoing initiatives to transition us from a peasant economy to a commercial one, she said. Modernization of Post-harvest food management and food safety systems, intensification of productivity and seed systems, and acceleration of development of the animal resource-based industry are some of the areas of focus for the country. She advised the media to Ugandan media to know that they too have a duty to protect the country. They need to be more careful about the information that they out to the world, the business of opening everything is affecting us dearly.

In his remarks, Hon. Bright Rwamirama, the Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, welcomed all the participants on behalf of MAAIF and thanked the initiative for finding solutions to the challenges facing Uganda’s communities as we find solutions to nutrition, food security, and productivity. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, and most of the over 70% of our communities are re-engaged directly or indirectly in agriculture.

The purpose of the conference is to compare notes and share with the private sector and farming communities what has happened in the last two years in the area of agricultural research. He mentioned that the private sector and farming communities should be a part of such initiatives, though they had not shown much interest. As MAAIF, they encourage partnerships. Hon. Bright further said that while listening to scientists as they share their innovations is good, what is better would be the adoption of these technologies so as to fix the problems facing the sector.

NARO, as an agency of research under MAAIF, is encouraged to continue strengthening the partnership with Makerere but also to encourage the involvement of other universities, especially those that have agriculture, so as to widen the scope of the knowledge base. He commended NARO for its contribution to various research efforts, especially in the development and promotion of 103 varieties that have been commercialized, livestock vaccine development work, the aflasafe solution to aflatoxin, and all other efforts that contribute to national development.

Dr. Ambrose Agona (NARO Director General) acknowledged the partnership between Makerere and NARO and thanked Makerere for being a good partner. He said he strongly believes we are moving in the right direction, especially during the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where science and innovations are the key drivers of socio-economic transformation and ecosystem resilience.

He went on to say that we are in the fourth industrial revolution (the internet of things), where robotics, nanotechnology, big data, and artificial intelligence are part of the picture, and he believes that the conference is a perfect platform for sharing information. The big question is, “What has one done to contribute to modern knowledge? He then challenged the participants about the need to communicate about their work. “You can do good research, but if you don’t have the capacity to share it with your community and the world, then you are not doing well’. How does the smallholder farmer benefit from such information?

Agriculture is the backbone of the African economy, where almost 70% of the population depends on it as the primary source of livelihood and accounts for 25% of the GDP. It is observed, however, that African agriculture productivity and yields are among the lowest; yields are less than half of those achieved in Asia. “What is the cause? What is the problem or bottleneck? Has NARO or MAK identified the problem? If we had one dollar for investment, where would we put it? He queried.

Regarding the sustainability of development, he said it can only be meaningful if it is done in a sustainable manner. Uganda is endowed by nature with a good climate and good soils, and despite its small size, it is home to almost half of East Africa’s arable land. Despite the advantages, Uganda still faces various challenges, such as low agricultural productivity, soil degradation, food insecurity, and climate change. The solution to them is through sustainable approaches that involve the use of modern, innovative, environmentally friendly technologies and best practices to create value-added products and services that can compete in both local and international markets.

He concluded that science and innovations are key to the transformation of Uganda’s agricultural sector, and by integrating agriculture, industry, and services, we can create value-added products, increase productivity, reduce poverty, and mitigate the effects of climate change. He urged participants to work towards building a vibrant, resilient, and sustainable agricultural sector that will contribute to Uganda’s economic growth and development.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, said the theme is timely as Makerere University aspires to become a research-led university, and innovativeness is one of their strategic areas of focus. He was happy to note that CAES has adopted an innovation agenda, encouraging innovation among staff and students. CAES accounts for 30% of all research and publications in the university and leads in innovations and patents at the university. They have set up a research and innovation hub and welcomed all who wish to use the facility as we strive to transform our economy.

He acknowledged the Government of Uganda’s and partners’ support, through which the university has received enormous support towards research and innovation. GOU had heavily invested in cutting-edge research and innovations across the university, and the GOU had so far extended support to 750 projects working on 90 billion shillings over the last 4 years.

Acknowledged the efforts of all researchers who dedicate efforts towards building and transforming the economy, and especially thanked NARO for supervising Ph.D. students from Makerere. He also commended the principal of CAES for leading and stirring innovations at the college.

The three-day event will see scientists share and discuss their work and findings from the last three years as they pertain to matters of agriculture and development through keynote addresses, and oral and poster presentations. The conference was attended by NARO Uganda’s top management and the leadership of Makerere University. FAO, ABi Trust, CABI, USAID Feed the Future Research Activity, and USIAD Institutional Systems Strengthening were among the partners in this 3rd edition of the NARO MAK Conference.


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