Written by Prossy Nandudu – New Vision
The growing population in Africa calls for more innovation in research to come up with crop varieties that are high yielding and tolerant to pests and diseases and effects of climate change.
This is the reason why the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in partnership with Makerere University Agriculture Research Institution Kabanyororo (MUARIK) are sponsoring a total of 30 students from all over the region for a Master’s Programme in Plant breeding and Seed systems.
AGRA will be offering the finds while MUARIKI will offer the premises and facilities and is taking on students from Rwanda, Uganda, S.Sudan, Benini, Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana among others.
The sponsorship package worth 2.6 million US dollars will cover tuition fees for the students for the entire programme, internship costs and facilitation of supervisors among others.
According to the programme officer, Education and Training (PASS) at AGRA, Dr.Rufaro M. Madakadze, this is aimed at building capacity among African Scientists to develop improved varieties to cater for the increasing demand for improved seed varieties in Africa.
Madakadze said that one of the challenges that have been failing African scientists from progressing is lack of literature and training material for plant breeders.
“We discovered that some of the teaching aids were too old and irrelevant to the present situation. Some areas didn’t have lab equipment so this is an opportunity for students build their confidence,” said Madakadze.
She adds that the programme will not only train plant breeders but will also make sure that they interact with Agro processing Industries especially those into seed trade for better advice especially to consumers.
The programme was initiated by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Africa (RUFORUM) in response to the critical need for well-trained plant breeders in the East African Region.
“The regional Programme is designed to produce plant breeders effective and efficient at new variety delivery, wide stakeholder input into the curriculum and programme design participation of lectures from outside the university including other countries supported by RUFORUM,” explains Madakadze.
The advantages of training within the East Africa region, rather than in US or European universities include lower costs, allows Sponsorship of more students, there is better retention of graduates in the region, and an instructional focus and context that is more relevant to their own country among other benefits.
The Coordinator of the Programme at MUARIK, Dr.Richard Edema, explained that researchers grow old, some die some retire leaving out a huge gap therefore such programmes will create a new breed of scientists to continue with research to produce food.
Under the programm, AGRA is helping them redesign the curriculum; helping in facilitating lecturers in addition to connecting the entire compass on wireless internet for students to access notes electronically.
The principal of the college of agriculture sciences and environment Prof.Benard Bashasha said that since it is only Makerere University, offering MSc in Plant breeding, they will be hosting students from other universities interested in the programme.
This article has been reproduced from the New Vision, a Ugandan Newspaper publication house.