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Mutyaba on Cage fish farming

Cage Fish Farming in Uganda: UCU Agricultural Scientist releases insightful discoveries

By Jimmy Siyasa

After an extensive research study within fishing communities in Uganda, Livingstone Mutyaba, Head of the Department of Natural Resource Economics & Agribusiness, at Uganda Christian University alongside Prof. Margaret W. Ngigi and Dr. Oscar Ingasia Ayuya ( both scholars from Egerton University, Nairobi) have published the results of the rigorous investigation among small holder cage fish farmers.

The findings of the study titled Determinants of knowledge, attitude and perception towards cage fish farming technologies among smallholder farmers in Uganda have been published in Issue 1, Volume 10 of the Cogent Food and Agriculture Journal, by Taylor and Francis

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Abstract

Cage fish farming is essential to increasing fish output, alleviating the declining capture fishery resources, and advancing aquaculture development in Uganda. There are limited studies assessing farmers’ knowledge, attitude, and perceptions towards cage fish farming technology.

This study assessed the knowledge, attitude, and perceptions (KAP) of fishery-dependent communities around Lake Victoria towards cage fish farming technology. Using a simple random sample approach, 384 respondents from fourteen districts provided information on demographic traits, knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions towards cage fish farming.

The analysis utilized descriptive statistics and a multinomial logit model. Results revealed that cage fish farmers’ knowledge, attitude, and perceptions were significantly associated with age, level of education, extension visits, social capital, experience, and television access. In conclusion, this study recommends that extension visits be enhanced to develop farmers’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions towards cage fish farming. The study’s implications underscore the importance of developing and implementing farmer-centered policies in the aquaculture sector.

Gender of Respondents in the Cage fish farming research
Pie chart illustration of gender of respondents in the cage fish farming-oriented study.

Public Interest Statement

This study focuses on the aquaculture sector in Uganda, specifically the emerging cage fish farming sub-sector and its contribution to national development under the blue economy.

The study findings presented are from the 384 smallholder cage fish farmers interviewed during a survey conducted between July 2021 and February 2022. The aim was to understand their knowledge, attitudes and perceptions towards cage fish farming technologies. The study found out that Age, years in practicing cage fish farming, extension services, social capital, access to market information, number of stocked cage units owned by an individual and type of cage technology used had an effect on the fish farmers’ knowledge, attitude and perceptions.

The study highlights the need for an increase in extension services, education and training on marketing information related to fish produce, and appropriate policy frameworks that favour smallholder fish farmers for inclusiveness and sustainable development of the fisheries industry in general.

Related article may be found here

UCU Research Study

Plant Reproduction: A Breakthrough Study at UCU

Quick Overview

A team of researchers from Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences who a few months ago embarked on a journey to explore plant reproduction, focusing on African eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) – varieties, including the Shum -Nakati and Gilo -Ntula cultivars; have published findings from their intriguing study.

The findings of the study titled Compatibility Barriers affecting Crossability of Solanum Aethipicum and its relatives published in Euphytica, an international journal that covers the theoretical and applied aspects of plant breeding, under Springer Nature, a prestigious German-British publisher; have ignited a buzz in the academic community.

In this insightful study, by Ms. Winnie NamutosiProf Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito  Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba, Dr. Godfrey Sseremba,  Ms. Mildred Julian Nakanwagi & Ms. Ruth Buteme ( All UCU scholars), the researchers delved into reproductive barriers that hinder the breeding of African egg plants. Their mission? To discover the critical reproductive barriers and pave the way for enhanced germplasm utilization and genetic improvement of this species.

The study utilized advanced methodologies to explore compatibility barriers between African eggplant and its botanical counterparts. Through a randomized complete block design and a full diallel mating method, the researchers evaluated crossability and floral traits of six genotypes across four different species (S. aethiopicum, S. anguivi, S. Macrocarpon and S. incanum) over two seasons.

Their findings revealed fascinating insights into the reproductive behavior of African eggplant. From the timing of flower opening to the receptivity of stigma, from pollen quantity to viability, each aspect was meticulously examined and analyzed. Moreover, the study shed light on the intriguing phenomenon of self-compatibility and interspecific crossbreeding, uncovering the pivotal role of female parent functioning in the success of such endeavors.

One of the standout discoveries was the remarkable performance of the Shum cultivar of Solanum aethiopicum as a female parent in crossbreeding experiments. This finding underscores the significance of understanding the dynamics of plant reproductive biology and its implications for breeding programs aimed at enhancing crop resilience and productivity.

Click here for similar studies.

UCU

PICTORIAL: UCU Officially folds DALILA Project after successful implementation.

Today Uganda Christian University (UCU) officially closed the highly successful DALILA project after three years ever since it was launched. This was during a closing conference held at the UCU Main Campus, Mukono, which was graced by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration Mr.David Mugawe.
DALILA focuses on technological and economic subjects, paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future. This groundbreaking initiative brings universities together to tackle the challenges of energy management for sustainable and green economic growth. Join us in celebrating this significant milestone towards a brighter and eco-friendly tomorrow!

Andrew Bugembe covered the event and brings you the highlights in pictures below:

1Deputy Vice Chancellor 1

Deputy Vice Chancellor David Mugawe addressing at the closure of the DALILA conference as the representative of the Vice Chancellor.

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Kironde Dennis,Jenavive Iucot, middle is Dr. Miria Agunyo, Okot Innocent, Namonyo Blessed, and Ogwang Emmanuel are ucu alumnus who did research, tests and wrote a paper about Assessing the viability of an Integrated Renewable Energy System for Institutions; Case of UCU Mukono.

5 cordinators

Extreme left Dr. Miria Agunyo, left Dorcas Magoba,Centre Sempungu Godfrey, RodgersTayebwa and extreme right is Percy Mulosi the UCU DALILA project coordinators Giving their experiences.

2Ronald Mayanja

Ronald Mayanja Pionior Graduate of the Post graduate Diploma discussing his experience while in Italy during the project implementation.

3seyyid bukhari

Seyyid Bukhari, one of the participants giving remarks during the closure about the research project.

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Pioneer graduates giving their internship experiences in Europe and AFRICA.

6 grouop photo

A Group photo taken inside the UCU principal’s hall after the conference.

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Pioneer Graduates of the Post graduate Diploma posing with Dr. Miriam Agunyu the Dean Faculty of Engineering Design and technology.

UCU

DALILA Project Leaves Lasting Impact on UCU

By Irene Best Nyapendi

In a groundbreaking achievement, Uganda Christian University (UCU) marked the culmination of its transformative project, the Development of Academic Curricula on Sustainable Energies and Green Economy in Africa (DALILA), with a final conference held on December 4, 2023. Under the theme “Sustainability in Investment; The Role of Renewable Energy,”

The event showcased the success of a collaborative effort involving partners from Europe, Zanzibar, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Initiated in 2020 and funded by the Education, Audio-Visual, and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Union, DALILA aimed to address the critical need for sustainable energy solutions in Africa. UCU, along with Uganda Martyrs University (UMU), the University of Dodoma (UDOM), and the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), joined forces with international partners such as Sapienza University of Rome, the University of Cadiz, Sahara Ventures, and INOMA Renovables, among others.

UCU’s Renewable Energy Lab Opens Doors to Innovation

One of the notable outcomes of the DALILA project is the establishment of a renewable energy laboratory at UCU, thanks to a consortium Euro grant. This grant facilitated the creation of six new courses on “Renewable Technologies” and “Green Business Creation and Development” across universities in Tanzania and Uganda. The initiative not only filled a critical skills gap but also fostered collaborative research, creating multidisciplinary links between academia and industry.

Prof. Cipri Katiuscia, the DALILA project coordinator, emphasized the project’s broader goals, aiming to support the modernization and accessibility of higher education in Uganda and Tanzania. The collaboration successfully resulted in the development of the postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business and Renewable Energy Technologies at UCU, graduating its pioneer class in October 2023.

Vincent Kisenyi, the Director of Academic Affairs, highlighted the practical nature of the postgraduate diploma, emphasizing its role in addressing unemployment and providing access to renewable energy opportunities. The programme’s success is evident in the tangible benefits realized by UCU, including enhanced collaboration with renewable energy stakeholders and increased applied research in the field.

Despite Uganda’s heavy reliance on renewable energy at a macro level, the micro-level utilization remains underexploited due to the prohibitive cost of the national hydroelectric power grid. DALILA, through its two-faculty collaboration, aims to bridge this gap by continuing research connected to renewable energy and focusing on innovative solutions for small, medium, and starting businesses.

Engineer Simon Peter Sekitoleko, from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), acknowledged Uganda’s energy challenges and outlined the government’s commitment to a sustainable approach. MEMD has revised Uganda’s energy policy, setting ambitious targets to increase generation capacity and boost the share of renewables to over 95% by 2040.

“As the nation embraces cleaner energy sources, UCU’s role in offering a postgraduate diploma in sustainable business and renewable energy is recognized as a crucial step in building capacity and turning graduates into job creators,” Sekitoleko said.

The DALILA Project, as highlighted by Peter Lugemwa, a lecturer at Uganda Martyrs University, emphasizes the transformative benefits of renewable energy. Lugemwa calls for ongoing research and development to enhance the efficiency of emerging renewable energy technologies, paving the way for a future where reliance on exhaustible resources is minimized.

2Ronald Mayanja 1
Ronald Mayanja UCU Pioneer Graduate of the Post graduate Diploma presenting his paper during the final conference.

Ronald Mayanja, a DALILA Project beneficiary, presented a paper he did on the socio-economic impact of the ban on the illegal charcoal trade in Northern Uganda. His research sheds light on the challenges faced by affected communities, emphasizing the need for evidence-based policy decisions.

“The outcomes of my research indicate that the ban on the charcoal trade has adversely affected local communities in Northern Uganda, resulting in job cuts, diminished income, and heightened poverty levels,” Mayanja said.

Mayanja suggests implementing targeted social assistance initiatives specifically tailored for women engaged in charcoal resale and promoting community involvement to develop collaborative solutions.

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Pioneer graduates sharing their internship experiences in Europe and AFRICA.

Four UCU students, including Mayanja, are part of the 10-member pioneer class that studied a one-year Post Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Business and Renewable Energy. They undertook a one-month internship in Spain and Italy, sponsored by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

Focused on renewable energy, they observed and learned from European practices, gaining practical experience and forming valuable connections for future collaborations in advancing Uganda’s energy transition. The internship included visits to solar and hydropower plants, hands-on experiments, and exposure to sustainable waste management research.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs, the Rev. Assoc. Prof. John M. Kitayimbwa, expressed gratitude to all the partners for the wonderful work.

“We want to thank DALILA and all the partners for their wonderful work. There are certain things we will never forget about this DALILA project, like our postgraduate diploma in sustainable and renewable energy that was developed as a result of this,” Kitayimbwa said.

UCU

Food waste supply and behaviour towards its alternative uses in Kampala city, Uganda

Solid waste management is a major challenge in sub-Saharan Africa in general, and its food waste component is high and increasing with the rapidly increasing population.

Survey data (class p1) collected from households, hotels, restaurants, schools and produce markets were analysed using descriptive and logistic regression analyses for insights into the types and amounts of food waste, and respondents’ attitudes and practices towards its collection, disposal and alternative uses.

Households produce the highest amounts of food waste compared to institutions (hotels, schools and restaurants) and produce markets. In a week, about 96, 72, and 93% of all the respondents in households, institutions and produce markets respectively experienced food waste at least one to three times.

On average, with a solid waste collection coverage of 45%, households, institutions and markets in Kampala can respectively supply 680, 80, and 8 t of food waste daily. Moulding, poor food storage, food leftovers, food expiry and excess food produce were the major reasons for condemning food to waste.

Over 90% of the respondents recognized food waste as a problem, and as a resource especially for use in livestock feed production, and were willing to consume house crickets raised on feed from food waste.

Lower levels of education (none, primary and secondary levels), unemployment, and being divorced at household level were positively associated with recognizing food waste as a resource [X2 (21, N = 209) = 137.77, p =  < 0.0001] and re-use for alternative purposes [X2 (21, N = 209) = 47.44, p = 0.001] by households and institutions [X2 (14, N = 92) = 30.97, p =  < 0.019]. Majority of the respondents were willing to donate food waste, especially married people and institutions that have been in existence for a period of 5–10 years.

To read the full article, visit this link: https://sustainenvironres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42834-023-00195-6

Authors and Affiliations

  1. Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Uganda Christian University, Mukono, 31204, UgandaGeoffrey Ssepuuya
  2. Department of Food Science and Technology, Kyambogo University, Kampala, 10308, UgandaGeoffrey Ssepuuya
  3. Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Uganda Christian University, Mukono, 31204, UgandaElsie Nsiyona
  4. Department of Natural Resource Economics, Busitema University, Namasagali, 20217, UgandaMoses Kakungulu
  5. Department of Linguistics, English Language Services & Communication Skills, Makerere University, Kampala, 20217, UgandaJane Frances Alowo
  6. Department of Agriculture, Uganda Christian University, Mukono, 31204, UgandaPaul Nampala

For more information on research at UCU, visit this link: https://grants.ucu.ac.ug/

UCU

Exploring economic and health interventions to support adolescents’ resilience and coping in mining communities: A scoping review

Economic and social disruptions, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic, heighten the vulnerability of adolescents. These disruptions exacerbate health and economic inequities, which are further compounded in informal labour settings such as the mining sector.

Therefore, strengthening adolescent resilience and coping are crucial for well-being and equitable health outcomes. However, there is a limited, comprehensive literature that synthesizes adolescent resilience interventions, especially in mining communities.

This study presents a scoping review, following Arksey & O’Malley’s (2005) framework, to map existing literature on interventions for adolescent resilience in mining communities. Relevant studies were identified from academic journals and grey literature published between 2012 and 2022. Of the 1286 studies screened, 13 were retained for final analysis.

Literature showed that common economic resilience interventions included policy-level advocacy and activism, and predominant health interventions focused on sexual and reproductive health, including HIV counselling, screening, and testing, targeting both individual and community-level change in mining communities. The findings emphasize the necessity for interventions to adopt multi-level, multi-sectoral, and multi-stakeholder approaches while mainstreaming gender.

Future research should prioritize intersectional, gender-transformative, and community-based interventions to strengthen adolescent resilience in mining communities and advance health equity and rights amongst this last-mile population.

To read the full article, visit this link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214790X23001582

For more information on research at UCU, visit this link: https://grants.ucu.ac.ug/

UCU

Dr. Ayot researches on fighting domestic violence to empower women

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Dr. Gladys Ayot Oyat’s inspiration to pursue a PhD in Education Administration and Management at Uganda Christian University (UCU) is rooted in her passion for addressing real-world challenges. Her commitment to women’s issues served as a driving force in choosing a research topic focused on the domestic violence impact on female teachers in Uganda.

Ayot’s research explores how domestic violence affects the teaching and administrative roles of female teachers working in secondary schools in Kitgum, northern Uganda. 

Dr. Gladys Ayot Oyat, a former member of the governing council of Uganda Christian University, graduated with a PhD in Education Administration and Management on October 13.
Dr. Gladys Ayot Oyat, a former member of the governing council of Uganda Christian University, graduated with a PhD in Education Administration and Management on October 13.

Her study found that domestic violence adversely affects teaching roles, leading to poor service delivery, absenteeism, missed lessons, poor preparation, low self-esteem and mental health issues. This likewise negatively impacts women in administrative roles, resulting in reduced work, interpersonal relationships, learning outputs and mentorship. Female teachers employ various coping mechanisms, both informal and formal, but some strategies prove counterproductive. Support for victims is insufficient, hindering their ability to manage these challenges effectively.

Ayot found that the patriarchal nature of Ugandan society determines relationships between men and women irrespective of educational status.

 “A lot needs to be done to address this challenge,” she said. “It undermines the laws we have in Uganda entrenched in our Constitution. My disappointment is that even women who are enlightened and educated, conceal what they go through in the name of protecting their marriage, adhering to culture and wanting to remain as role models to the students they teach when they are exposed to domestic violence. Worse still, taking the pain in silence and blaming themselves for the dysfunctional families.”

One moving story she encountered in her research involved a husband forcing his wife to have an abortion. 

 “This caused post-traumatic symptoms and depression,” Ayot said. “She would (imagine) the crying baby sitting on her lap and crying for help while she was in class teaching.”

With the dissemination of her findings, Ayot aims to encourage female teachers to be open to talking about the problems they go through and seeks for school administrators to support and create favorable conditions for women suffering from domestic violence.

Ayot, who was a member of the governing council of UCU, did her PhD on a modular course, which allowed her to study during the holidays.

Dr. Ayot’s Heartfelt Gratitude to UCU for Remarkable PhD Achievement

She lauded UCU’s academic environment for its unique and supportive characteristics. The university’s modular approach, small class sizes, and strong faculty-student relationships fostered an atmosphere of shared learning and collaboration.

“I thank God that I chose UCU. My supervisor was very supportive; for example, during the Covid-19 pandemic time, he always called to follow up and give me support,” she said. “At the time when public places such as universities were closed as a way of curbing the spread of disease, I utilized the online university library.”

Ayot acknowledged the hectic and difficult journey to a PhD — long hours, rejection of proposals, and balancing social and work responsibilities. 

“I was a wife and head teacher of Kitgum YY Okot Memorial College (2002-2022),” she said. “I had social responsibilities that I couldn’t ignore. At some point, I wanted to give up; for example, when I was working on chapter three of my research and my supervisor kept on asking me to redo it.”

However, her unwavering determination and support from her family, particularly her husband, who purchased grammar editing software for her, became pillars of strength.

Ayot said that being 61 years old also motivated her, knowing that she didn’t have as much time as the younger students.

 “I told myself that I am not the type who should spend 10 years doing research. I wanted to do it and finish,” she said.

She is married to Dr. Michael Oyat with whom they have four children. She has served in the church as chairperson mothers union and is currently a lay Canon at Kitgum diocese. She studied a Bachelor and Masters in Education at Makerere University. She has served as Vice President, Mothers Union for the Province of Church of Uganda. 

UCU

UCU researchers develop three new nakati varieties

By Jimmy Siyasa
Renowned for its research excellence, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, previously led by Prof. Elizabeth Kizito, proudly presents three extraordinary varieties of Solanum aethiopicum shum, commonly known as nakati – the beloved African eggplant.

Introduced as the UCU-Nakati 1, UCU-Nakati 2, and UCU-Nakati 3, these innovative nakati varieties mark a significant milestone in Uganda and Africa. The varieties offer farmers a reliable and easily accessible source of African nakati seed. Previously, nakati farmers relied on saved seeds from previous seasons or obtained them from neighbors, friends, and relatives, leading to limited availability and inconsistent quality. One will no longer need to rely on uncertain or unreliable sources as UCU’s nakati varieties ensure consistent quality and ample supply for farming needs.

Liz Kizito,  Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovation
Liz Kizito, Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovation

The development of these nakati varieties involved making crosses over multiple generations, meticulous selection, and ensuring distinctiveness, and uniformity for improved yield and desirable plant characteristics. Each variety has been carefully tailored to meet the expectations of farmers and consumers, incorporating valuable feedback from end-users and thorough market surveys. 

These varieties have received certification by the National Variety Release Committee: A Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, ensuring the highest standards of excellence.

Characteristics of the Nakati varieties
Each of the varieties has unique characteristics.

UCU-Nakati 1:

UCU-Nakati 1 is green-stemmed, has green leaves and leaf veins, and the leaf margins (the boundary area of the leaf that is extending along the edge of the leaf) are generally whole. Nakati-1 is not drought tolerant. In sensory evaluations with consumers and market vendors, it was found to be relatively bitter. Its average yield per acre is 982.4 kg/acre.

UCU-Nakati 2:

UCU-Nakati 2 has green, purple stems, green leaves, and green leaf veins. The leaf margins are moderately serrated. Nakati-2 has green-purple stems and green leaf blades. The mean fresh leaf yield at harvest is 936.9 kg/acre. Nakati-2 was identified as a drought-tolerant genotype. In sensory evaluations with consumers and market vendors, products had a generally appealing aroma, appearance, and flavour.

UCU-Nakati 3

UCU-Nakati 3, on the other hand, is purple-stemmed, has green leaves with green-purple leaf veins, and has a deeper serrated leaf margin. The leaf yield at harvest maturity, about 8 weeks after planting, is 976.3 kg/acre. Nakati-3 is moderately drought tolerant and has a generally appealing aroma, appearance and flavour in sensory evaluations with consumers and market vendors. 

Implications and Applications
The potential impact on the field or society
The implications of these groundbreaking developments are far-reaching. Previously, there were limited systematic efforts to improve African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) in Uganda. The new nakati varieties are the first of their kind. UCU has developed nutritionally rich improved varieties of nakati. This intervention will not only offer farmers quality-assured varieties of AIVs but also set standards for subsequent variety evaluation for distinctiveness, uniformity, and stability (DUS) as well as value for cultivation and use. Releasing these varieties brings to the fore, especially for Africans, the availability of quality seed to meet nutritional and income security needs because these can now be potentially accessed in agro-shops or stores, something that was impossible until recently.

Practical applications and real-world scenarios
With over 200 tons of nakati traded weekly in major markets, this crop plays a crucial role in Uganda’s urban and peri-urban areas, surpassing even the country’s main cash crop –  coffee. The popularity of nakati extends beyond Uganda, reaching Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Its nutritional and economic value makes it an indispensable part of traditional dishes and a means of livelihood for poor and unemployed women and youth.

AIVs such as the UCU Nakati varieties, hold immense practical applications and can address real-world challenges in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs). These vegetables have the potential to alleviate hidden hunger (SDG 2 – End hunger) and poverty (SDG 1 – Zero poverty), particularly among vulnerable groups like women and children under five. In Uganda, a country with high levels of undernutrition, where 3 in 10 children under five are stunted and about 3.5% body wasting, the nutritional value of nakati is significant. It is rich in fiber, minerals, carotene, proteins, fats, ash, crude fiber, carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, iron, and phytochemicals with therapeutic properties, making it essential in preventing nutrient deficiency diseases and non-communicable diseases. By improving crop varieties and enhancing productivity and incomes for farmers, poverty reduction and improved food security can be achieved, as farmers who cultivate improved varieties often earn more and enjoy better livelihoods. 

Expert Reviews
Dr. Ssebuliba James, agronomist and former head of the Department of Crop Production at Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences:

  • “This is a great addition to knowledge. Research plays a crucial role in the addition of new knowledge, which ultimately advances our understanding of the world and contributes to various areas of daily life. When new knowledge is curated and put in the right hands, it has the power to bring about high-value change in society.” 

Dr. Godfrey Asea, Director of Research, National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge: 

  • “This is a good opportunity as a starting point to harness the indigenous vegetable resources.”

Dr. Flavia Kabeere, Seed Technologist and Consultant:

  • “These varieties will guarantee quality for consumers.”

Collaborations and Funding
The UCU community, leadership, and researchers (Prof. Elizabeth Kizito, Dr. Sseremba Godfrey, Mildred Nakanwagi, and Pamel Kabod) expressed appreciation to the European Union, PAEPARD (Platform for African-European Partnership in Agricultural Research for  Development) and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) for their valuable support. Funding from the EU through PAEPARD initiated this research, while TWAS contributed to basic research and the selection of drought-tolerant varieties.

Call to Action
Others are invited to delve deeper into this groundbreaking research and its potential applications. Seed companies or other stakeholders interested in the multiplication of seeds are invited to place their orders. For more information, visit the Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovation website (https://grants.ucu.ac.ug) or directly contact grants@ucu.ac.ug

Recap

  • UCU researchers develop three Nakati varieties UCU-Nakati 1; UCU-Nakati 2; UCU-Nakati 3; with immense promise for enhancing food security, reducing poverty, and promoting better health in Uganda and Africa.
  • Nakati is considered an African Indigenous Vegetable.
  • Nakati is one of the most important local vegetable species in terms of providing income and food in urban and peri-urban areas of Uganda.
Child

Raising a child while seeking for knowledge

With support from the SG-NAPI ‘Scientist after Child’ scheme, Ugandan agronomist Rosemary Bulyaba may now both look after her children and conduct research that helps her community.

Ugandan agronomist Rosemary Bulyaba is exploring how to find varieties of cowpea that are more resilient to adverse climatic conditions, can thrive in various soils types and environments, and whose leaves can be utilized as vegetables and are rich in vital nutrients such as iron and folate. Bulyaba is the dean of the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agriculture Sciences. However must also balance her research work with her role as a mother of two children, a 2-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.

However, her second maternity leave has been much easier than the first one, because, while working at the Uganda Christian University (UCU), in Mukono, Uganda, she received a special grant that TWAS established in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Called the Seed Grant for New African Principal Investigators (SG-NAPI), it offers an unprecedented mother-friendly component called ‘Scientist after Child’ scheme. This scheme allows pregnant scientists and new mothers to receive extra funding to hire a lab assistant, thus obtaining reliable maternity leave support.

“Receiving the SG-NAPI was a huge help for my scientific career. I could continue my research with the aid of an assistant while staying at home and breastfeeding,” she explained. “This grant has strengthened my reputation and increased my value at UCU. My career was uplifted: I was head of the department and now I am the Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.”

The SG-NAPI grant meets the needs of early-career scientists from developing countries, and, in particular, from the least developed countries (LDCs). With funding entirely from BMBF, it allows young scientists to purchase the research facilities they need to enhance their productivity. Its ‘Scientists after Child’ scheme seeks to enhance the productivity of female scientists returning to academia after maternity leave. Another component of the programme, the ‘Master of Science training grant’, allows scientists to train master’s students within their research group. Bulyaba benefitted from both these components.

A mother-friendly scheme

Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is an annual herbaceous legume originally used to feed animals, especially by smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa – hence the name cowpea.  However, it is becoming increasingly relevant in human nutrition, as it is rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and fiber, and low in fat content.

Bulyaba’s interest in nutrition-sensitive agriculture and agronomic management practices is not recent. Her early step in science led her to study grain legumes such as cowpeas, common beans, lablab beans, and soybeans. In 2019, she earned a PhD in crop production, physiology, and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University, US, and then moved back to Uganda. Shortly thereafter, she discovered that she was expecting, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was about to begin.

“I was afraid that I would have to halt my scientific career for a while, because my husband and I already had a young daughter, who was only 1 year old at the time, to take care of. However, field and lab work are often quite demanding,” she recalled.

Rosemary Bulyaba
Rosemary Bulyaba inspecting the offshoots in a cowpea field. (Photo provided)

An agronomist’s life is physically intense. The fieldworkbegins with land preparation and the planting of the seeds. Then weekly monitoring activity requires extra work to ensure that the plants have germinated and are growing well—otherwise a new round of sowing is needed. Sometimes insects ruin the crop, and scientists need to use pesticides to keep those at bay.

When Bulyaba was still a new staff member and a mother for the second time, she learned about a programme that would preserve her work. The former Dean of Bulyaba’s faculty mentioned the SG-NAPI grant and the mother-friendly scheme. Bulyaba applied, and her maternity leave improved. With a two-year long grant covering 2022 and 2023, she could hire an assistant who supports in supervising the research activities while she is at home with her kids. This also ensures that her master’s students have the support they need and prevents a gap in her scientific work.

“I have three sites to check on periodically, in Eastern Uganda, Central Uganda, and in greenhouses,” Bulyaba explained. “With my students, we are now testing over 100 different genotypes, across these sites, to see which ones best adapt to these environments, under those specific conditions. It is interesting to see how plants behave under conditions that are apparently similar, but in practice different.” Some of the cowpea genotypes are from Ghana, others from Makerere University, and from UCU where Bulyaba is employed.

A mother’s impact on child wellbeing

The grant’s impact was enormous, not only on her career. In a more relaxed mood at home, Bulyaba offered her newborn, Shaun, quality time, and the difference from the first pregnancy was evident.

“My presence at home brought several benefits to my son, who is more self-confident, assertive, and prompt from a cognitive point of view,” she observed. He was breastfed for 18 months, while his sister stopped after four. In addition, Shaun, not yet 3, can count one-to-ten, recite the alphabet, identify shapes and colours, and has started speaking both his native language, Luganda, and English without having attended kindergarten yet.

The SG-NAPI grant put Bulyaba in the position to make a difference also for young scientists in her community. She hired two master’s students, Naome Aryatwijuka and Norah Akaba, whose role in this cowpea research is crucial.

Rosemary Bulyaba's MSc students
Naome Aryatwijuka (left) and Nora Akaba, Rosemary Bulyaba’s master’s students, checking the sprouts in a greenhouse in Mukono, Uganda. (Photo provided)

Aryatwijuka, who conducts agronomic field work and experimentation, is a master’s student in agriculture research. She handles tasks such as planting the seeds, collecting the leaves, and correlating the quality and yield of the harvested crops with specific genotypes and field locations. Then Akaba steps in.

Thanks to the SG-NAPI grant, Akaba can pursue her master’s degree in human nutrition. She uses Aryatwijuka’s information to select the most potentially nutritious leaves, which are naturally rich in micronutrients that are especially important for reproductive-age women. She is also involved in the preparation and development of a nutritionally dense cowpea soup for the local communities. Additionally, she is working on gathering feedback from community members regarding the quality and acceptability of the meal.

“I feel quite privileged because the SG-NAPI grant gave me the chance to hire two young women and have an impact on their education and career,” Bulyaba said. “Women often face more challenges and have fewer privileges compared to men, and having a child can often so easily lead to the end of their scientific career. I do hope that both Akaba and Aryatwijuka will also pursue a PhD after this master’s experience.”

“Receiving this grant was not only for me but for my students as well,” she concluded.

This article, written by By Cristina Serra was published on The World Academy of Sciences.

Cricket project

UCU proves insect value in nutrition and alleviating food waste

By Irene Best Nyapendi
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences has teamed up with crickets – the insect and not the sport – in a successfully piloted food chain project that alleviates hunger and malnutrition.  The ‘Food Waste-2-Cricket Feed’ enterprise produces cricket feed from food waste and then turns the insects into a nutritious food supplement.

The UCU agriculture research team, led by Geoffrey Ssepuuya, a senior lecturer, established that there is a daily production of 768 metric tons of food waste in Kampala.

Crickets, Acheta domesticus
Crickets, Acheta domesticus

The project aimed at developing a processing protocol for converting food waste to a safe and shelf-stable cricket feed. It was funded by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). Florence Agwang, the grants officer at UNCST, says the undertaking was especially viable because the country has long struggled with waste management. 

“If this project succeeds and is able to get support from the government, we shall be able to greatly reduce the problem of waste in Uganda,” Agwang says.

How cricket food is made

The project involves collecting food waste from the UCU university dining hall in addition to remains from restaurants, hotels and markets.

Collected food waste such as bananas, rice, etc. is heat treated, dried, ground into powder and mixed according to predetermined formulation proportions into feed for the crickets. The crickets are reared in aerated food containers and provided with hide-outs because the crickets are nocturnal (comfortable in dark places).

In a bid to ensure sustainable cricket production in the country, the project is working towards continued production and distribution of this low-cost “protein and micronutrient-rich cricket feed.” The developed cricket feed is nutritious with a performance similar to that of broiler starter mash. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, while with local feeds, crickets take about 12 weeks to mature. 

Benefits of cricket

Crickets can be used to enrich the diet with protein and other nutrients when added to daily meals. It is a common practice in Uganda to eat fried insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. In this project, crickets, which have more protein than fish and beef, are ground to be mixed with staple flours for porridge and food. 

Geoffrey Ssepuuya holding the cricket feed. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, faster than on normal food waste where they will take about 12 weeks.
Geoffrey Ssepuuya holding the cricket feed. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, faster than on normal food waste where they will take about 12 weeks.

“Instead of consuming cassava bread that is only about 2% protein or even less, communities can supplement it with crickets which are 50 – 65 % rich in proteins,” Ssepuuya says. “So, with the feeds now available they can rear the crickets, dry them under the sun, grind them into powder and add the protein-rich powder to their food.” 

The most common sources of proteins such as meat, milk and chicken are not affordable to many Ugandans, yet it can now be redeemed from eating crickets. 

What others say about the cricket project

Dr. John Livingstone Mutyaba, Head of Agriculture (Postgraduate), explained that rearing crickets can be a new source of income for farmers through rearing and selling them. Crickets (Acheta domesticus) lay hundreds of eggs, which makes them multiply in a very short time.

Mutyaba says unlike what some commonly believe, crickets are not demanding in terms of housing and food.

The biggest challenge is feed in addition to proper management of heat and humidity. This is because crickets are more comfortable in dark places, and during cold days, they need heat.

There also is a need for labour and sufficient space to dry the crickets when they reach maturity. This is because they are best when dried before consumption.

Crickets in their breeding tray feeding on food waste. They lay hundreds of eggs which makes them increase in a very short time.
Crickets in their breeding tray feeding on food waste. They lay hundreds of eggs which makes them increase in a very short time.

The project is also supporting research by students like Derrick Kizito Okettayot, a fourth-year student of Food Science and Technology. To Okettayot, crickets are a delicacy.

“When I was young, we used to pick a few crickets hiding under the grass, roast and eat them,” Okettayot recalls. “I used to eat them in small quantities because they were rare, but I am so glad that I have now learned how to rear crickets, and I can now have enough of them.”

He adds that one can even blend crickets with fruits to make a protein shake.

“This is a win-win solution when we use food waste to feed the crickets and later feed on the crickets, so the food waste comes back to us in a different format to benefit us and the insects,” Dr. Rose Mary Bulyaba, the dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Science says.

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