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UCU Champions Waste Management in Kampala, Uganda

To address Kampala’s pressing waste management challenges, Uganda Christian University (UCU) is pioneering working on and rolling out innovative solutions. Specifically, UCU is working through its research spearheaded by Dr. Ssepuuya Geoffrey from the Department of Food Science and Nutrition in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences,

The initiative focuses on converting food waste into animal feed, offering a sustainable answer to the city’s enduring garbage problem.

Despite authorized garbage collectors managing to collect 28,000 tons of waste every month, this only accounts for 40% of Kampala’s total waste. “In Kampala, we only collect 40% of the waste,” noted Dr. Ssepuuya. This leaves 60% of waste uncollected, worsening the city’s waste management crisis and contributing to environmental degradation and other public health concerns.

15May2023Crickets caption 2 1
Crickets, Acheta domesticus

In response to this challenge, UCU’s innovative Food Waste-to-Cricket Feed research aims to revolutionize waste management practices in the city.

The initiative involves distributing specially designed garbage cans to participating households, enabling efficient organic waste collection where each household receives two cans: one designated for boiled food waste and the other for raw food scrap.

This method not only facilitates effective waste management but also converts waste into valuable cricket feed, providing a sustainable solution for waste disposal while promoting environmental conservation.

The conversion process offers a dual benefit: reducing the volume of waste that ends up in dumpsites and producing a high-protein feed for crickets, which are a sustainable source of protein for animal feed and human consumption.

UCU’s Garbage Can Initiative: A Step Towards a Cleaner, Kampala

Vanecio Masereka, who works for Marie Royal Hotel, has requested additional trash cans, emphasizing the program’s significance.

“The two cans we have are not enough, yet they serve a great purpose,” he explained. “Having more cans would help us manage our waste more effectively and contribute to the sustainability efforts.”

Kisaakye Suzan, a resident of Makindye division, has embraced this practice and highlights its potential benefits for her community and beyond.

“They increase our flexibility since the organic foods that add weight to our garbage are taken free of charge,” she shared. “It not only helps us manage our waste better but also supports the environment.”

Patrick Kamya, a restaurant attendant, appreciates the service as it enables him to sort his garbage efficiently and gain insights into food consumption patterns.

“It enables me to know how much food is being consumed or how much food is being littered,” he noted. “This helps us reduce waste and manage our resources better.”

Peace Suubi, an apartment resident, also values the initiative for its economic and environmental benefits.

“UCU giving us garbage cans reduces the costs charged by the garbage collecting companies and increases cleanliness in the surrounding area,” Suubi said.

Dr. Ssepuuya and his team are committed to expanding the program and refining the waste-to-feed process. They aim to create a scalable model that can be implemented across the city and eventually the entire country.

“By converting organic waste into valuable resources, we can address multiple challenges simultaneously: waste management, food security, and environmental sustainability,” Ssepuuya said.

The UCU research team is also collaborating with local authorities and community leaders to ensure the program’s success and scalability. The initiative is part of a broader effort to promote sustainable practices and raise awareness about the importance of waste management and environmental conservation.

As more residents and businesses participate in the program, the collective impact will contribute to a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable Kampala.

Compiled By: Irene Best Nyapendi

Edited By: Harriet Adong, Communication and PR Consultant at UCU.

UCU

Uganda Christian University Launches a Historic Dental and Health Awareness Camp on Koome Island, Mukono District in Uganda

Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Dentistry, together with the Directorate of Research Partnership and Innovation, UCU Partners, Koome Sub- County Local Government, and the Uganda Wildlife Conservation and Education Centre (UWEC), organized a week-long dental and health awareness camp at Koome Seed Secondary School on Koome Island, Mukono district in Uganda from June 5th-8th, 2024.

This important event addresses the urgent need for dental care in Uganda, where there is only one dentist for every 150,000 people, and many people suffer from oral diseases.

This dental camp, the first ever on the Island, attracted a large number of people from the thirteen Islands of Koome.

Kiyinji Laurence, a local leader, thanked Uganda Christian University for its great work in helping the people of Koome.

“This project shows UCU’s commitment to serving the underprivileged and improving public health in our community,” said Kiyinji.

UCU Dental School offers students a chance to get hands-on experience

The camp offers UCU Dental School students a chance to get hands-on experience as they learn from alumni of Northwestern University’s Dental School in the USA, as well as experienced dentists from Uganda and their own lecturers.

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UCU Dentistry students offering dental services to one of the patients at Koome Island.

Arnold Katamba a fourth year Dentistry student appreciated the social and practical skills that he attained during the medical camp.

“I learnt to do things I have not been doing practically. We have gained diverse and rich skills during these engagements, I have also learnt living in a community with people and more so the unprivileged” Arnold Jessy Katumba shared.

The outreach is part of UCU’s mission to train students to reach their full potential, live productive lives, and serve others with Christian faith.

Dr. Arabat Kasangaki the Head of Department at the School of Dentistry emphasized the importance of such events. “Oral health is often ignored in many communities, but it is very important for overall health. This camp has not only provided needed treatment but also taught people about dental hygiene and dental disease prevention,” Kasangaki said

Many people, including local government officials, healthcare workers, and volunteers, came together to make this camp a success.  All efforts aimed at improving the health and well-being of residents on the Island.

The camp was inspired by the late Logan Doseck, a Northwestern University Dental School alumnus who sadly passed away before finishing his dental studies.

 Written By: Andrew Bugembe,

Edited By: Harriet Adong, Communication and PR Consultant at UCU.

UCU

Nsubuga takes the helm at Save the Mothers

By Pauline Luba
Mushin Nsubuga spent a large part of his childhood with his grandmother, who was a nursing assistant. During the day, the grandmother would vend bananas and then turn to hospital work for the night shift. As such, the hospital environment had a lot of influence on Nsubuga’s future. It’s no wonder that he became a doctor.

At the time, Nsubuga’s mother was operating several businesses to earn a living for the family. His father was in Libya, studying Islam.  

Since Nsubuga’s grandmother professed the Christian faith, it is to the church that she took her grandson every Sunday, for worship at the Sunday school. No one, not even Nsubuga’s grandmother, ever imagined what that innocent act would have on Nsubuga, a Muslim, who eventually started professing the Christian faith.

Upon his father’s return from Libya, he sent his son away from home, protesting his change of faith. 

Dr. Mushin Nsubuga
Dr. Mushin Nsubuga

“I was chased away from home for owning a Bible,” said Nsubuga, who is married, with four biological children, and another in the process of being adopted. “My father could not accept my new religion,” 

Eventually, Nsubuga returned home, but a cold relationship with his father would continue, until he was 18 years. It was at that time that Nsubuga’s dad came to terms with his son’s new faith. To date, Nsubuga is a Christian. He thanks his now-deceased grandmother for taking him to Sunday school and deepening his relationship with Christ.

And it’s not just Christianity that remains engraved in Nsubuga. From what he witnessed at hospital, Nsubuga desired to be a health professional. Currently, he is a gynecologist and was early this year appointed the Executive Director of Save the Mothers East Africa.

Save the Mothers was created when Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, a Canadian obstetrician/ gynecologist, was confronted with mothers in need. As a volunteer with the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the Association of Obstetricians of Uganda, she discovered many of the causes of maternal death went far beyond medical barriers.

stm logo

As a result, Dr. Froese worked with Ugandan colleagues — Dr. Florence Mirembe, Dr. Pius Okong, and Olive Sentumbwe- Mugisa — and founded Save the Mothers (STM). In 2005, STM launched its first program, Master of Public Health Leadership, at Uganda Christian University (UCU).

Nsubuga’s interest in maternal and child health, as well as the decision to specialize in obstetrics, came from his encounter with patients during his internships as a student. He says he witnessed some expectant women failing to buy delivery kits that they were expected to turn up with in hospital as they went into labor. Resources were so scarce at the hospital that women were often asked to buy gloves for the delivery of their babies, an option few could afford.

One day, Nsubuga remembers a woman walking into the health facility with no gloves, and no money. He says he and his colleagues raised funds to ensure a safe delivery for the woman. 

Nsubuga delivered countless mothers of their babies while still in Gulu, and he says it broke his heart how much suffering some women had to go through at that time. This prompted him to specialize in obstetrics, to get a chance to permanently help expectant women as a profession.

He believes God’s grace even favoured him as he highly passed the obstetrics course without much challenge during his studies.

He attended Nakivubo Blue Primary School, Katikamu High School for O’level and Merryland High School for A’level. All the three schools are located in central Uganda. He then proceeded to Gulu University in northern Uganda for his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and then for Master of Medicine in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Makerere University.

After his undergraduate studies, Nsubuga returned to Gulu, to work in Kiwoko Hospital. While there, he says he saw many women facing challenges, with some in financial distress and others dying. One specific one stuck in his mind — a 16-year-old girl who was trying to give birth, but lost her life. 

Nsubuga’s Journey to UCU Save the Mothers

He initially didn’t think of joining Save the Mothers. However, after hearing about the search for a new executive director, he realized that to create a big impact in saving mothers, women and babies in the community, he would not be able to do it alone. One doctor can only save one patient at a time, but together with Save the Mothers, he believed that more could be done.

Nsubuga, who also works at C-Care Medical and International Diagnostic Centre in Kampala, applied for the position of Executive Director at Save the Mothers and got the job in February this year.

His task is to help the organization to stop mothers and children from dying through multidisciplinary training of individuals and to promote the safety of women in hospitals.

Currently, under his leadership, a stronger alumni network is being established, especially following the alumni meeting in May 2024, higher quality facilities are being provided to people in the postgraduate program and several projects are being implemented to help the organization realize its goals. 

When not doing work at Save the Mothers, Nsubuga is working at C Care Medical and International Diagnostic Centre in Kampala.

UCU

UCU computer student leads best pitching team at national hackathon

By Kefa Senoga
Charles Muganga, a final-year student in the Bachelor of Computer Science program at Uganda Christian University (UCU), finds himself deep in agriculture some days. Misunderstanding about what soil nutrients can yield the best crops and how data can clarify that brought him and other peers there.  

When the fertility of the garden soil is poor, farmers get low quality produce. Many working the fields devise means of increasing the productivity of the soil, such as using fertilizers to add more nutrients. To apply the necessary fertilizer, a farmer must know what nutrients are deficient and what their soils need. The smallholder farmers add fertilizers based on experience, what is available on the market or what other farmers recommend. Because of the lack of knowledge of the genetic makeup of the soil, blanket application of fertilizers can lead to wrong nutrients applied to the soil, under fertilization or overfertilization. 

Muganga (left) interacting with one mentor at the hackathon
Muganga (left) interacting with one mentor at the hackathon

Muganga and other Bachelor of Computer Science students came up with ideas that could empower farmers to increase productivity and profitability by understanding the soil data. The idea was presented at an agricultural technology event — the The Agri-Tech hackathon — hosted in Kampala in May at the Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology (UICT).

A hackathon is an event where, mainly computer programmers, come together to solve a problem or identify new opportunities through software programming. The May event brought together hundreds of young innovators from various universities to design digital tools that could help address critical challenges within Uganda’s agricultural sector.

“We came up with a simple testing kit with a data-driven advisory model that can test for the nutrients in the soil and advise the farmers on what kind of crops to plant,” explained Muganga, who teamed up with computer science students from other universities to develop the concept.

Muganga (second-left) and his team being awarded for the best pitch
Muganga (second-left) and his team being awarded for the best pitch

The agricultural technology hackathon was held in collaboration with government stakeholders including the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). 

Muganga elaborated that their solution also caters to monoculture farmers who grow a single crop year after year on the same land. He described how their soil-testing kit, which is AI-integrated, can provide farmers with clear guidance, in lay language, on the most effective methods to use to continue sustaining high productivity.

“The AI is intended to avoid using technical terms such as “magnesium” and instead simplify the information for farmers. It will explain the type of manure and the quantity required in practical terms, such as recommending 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of cow dung or chicken droppings,” Muganga explained.

According to government statistics, in 2022, agriculture accounted for about 24.1% of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product and contributed 33% of the export earnings. About 70% of Uganda’s working population is employed in the agriculture sector. 

According to Uganda’s statistics agency, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), between 2016 and 2020, there was an 8 percent increase in households participating in subsistence agriculture, with many more people switching to the sector during the pandemic as a result of job losses. The country also has an aging farmer profile — 55 percent of the heads of the households that practice farming are over 40 years, while 20 percent over the age of 60 years.

The solution that Muganga, as team leader, and his colleagues pitched earned them a reward of sh2.2 million (about $577).

Joyce Ssebugwawo, the state minister for ICT, addressing students at the event
Joyce Ssebugwawo, the state minister for ICT, addressing students at the event

This hackathon that focused on utilizing technology to address agricultural challenges saw the students from different schools develop digital solutions to tackle challenges in four key agricultural areas — soil health, inputs (seeds and fertilizers), value chain issues (logistics and post-harvest handling) and water management.

The digital solutions incubated at the hackathon are expected to solve key agriculture sector challenges, for instance low uptake of improved agriculture inputs, limited access to suitable financial products and low access to reliable weather information, among others.

Uganda’s Minister of State for ICT, Joyce Ssebugwawo, who attended the hackathon, said innovations, such as those pitched at the event, have the potential to offer long-term solutions for problems in agriculture.

“We must acknowledge the persistent challenges that have hindered our progress like limited access to markets for agricultural products and gaps in technology infrastructure which continue to pose obstacles to our development efforts,” Ssebugwawo said.

The next step for Muganga and other incubators is to actualize their ideas for the benefit of Ugandan farmers.

UCU

UCU main campus launches coffee club

By Irene Best Nyapendi
The allure of the aroma, taste and alertness boost of coffee has beckoned students of Uganda Christian University (UCU) for quite some time. Recently, they have bowed to the pressure, pleasure and habit through a university coffee club. 

Led by Daniel Karibwije, a lecturer at the UCU School of Business and a patron of the Coffee Club, the organization is being launched more broadly in June. The launch of the club follows UCU’s signing of a memorandum of understanding with Uganda’s coffee agency, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). UCDA is mandated to regulate, promote and oversee the coffee industry in Uganda. 

Richard Miiro Mutebi prepares to taste coffee at the UCU Incubation Hub.
Richard Miiro Mutebi prepares to taste coffee at the UCU Incubation Hub.

As a lover of coffee, Karibwije says he was disappointed by the absence of good coffee on the UCU main campus, which sparked the idea for him to start a coffee club. In late April, members of the club received barista training, an espresso machine, a grinder, and other resources from UCDA to help them get started.

The club intends to create a platform for students to engage in coffee brewing, host student barista competitions and promote a coffee-drinking culture among the youths in the country. In Uganda, many of the people who grow coffee seek to export it, and they rarely consume it themselves. 

The UCU Coffee Club is located at the UCU incubation club, where anyone can go to learn how to brew coffee or enjoy the beverage. As the club prepared for its June launch, they planned to promote coffee drinking to faculties and those attending graduation ceremonies, among other outreaches. 

UCU Coffee Club Members taste coffee
UCU Coffee Club Members taste coffee

The club is not just for coffee drinkers; it’s open to anyone who wants to taste or learn about brewing coffee.

During his teenage years, Karibwije said he regularly interacted with a neighbor working for a coffee exporting company and many foreigners. This sparked his curiosity about their love for coffee. He wondered why they were fond of the beverage. As he acquired more knowledge and consumed the drink, he learned the benefits and health risks of coffee. The beverage has been known to improve brain function and protect against diabetes while causing headaches.

For over 25 years now, on a normal day, Karibwije drinks two to three cups of coffee.

“I love my coffee dark, without sugar or milk and I usually brew it myself,” he explained. “I also drink coffee brewed by other baristas.”

As a member of the UCU Coffee Club, Lydia Natasha Muheire, a third-year student pursuing Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance, has discovered a new passion – brewing coffee. 

UCU Coffee Club Members share a light moment with the team from UCDA joined by Daniel Karibwije (center in checked shirt)
UCU Coffee Club Members share a light moment with the team from UCDA joined by Daniel Karibwije (center in checked shirt)

Muheire’s previous exposure to coffee was limited to helping her grandparents collect coffee beans in the plantation. 

“I don’t like milk, but mixing it with coffee transforms it into my favorite drink,” Muheire said. “That’s how I fell in love with cappuccino and latte – they offer a delightful aroma and flavor combination.” 

Muheire added: “I was excited to join the coffee club, having always admired baristas and thought about becoming one.” 

Richard Miiro Mutebi, a member of the UCU Coffee Club, was born to small-scale coffee farmers. To him, coffee is something he turned to whenever he wanted or needed to be up later than usual.

“I haven’t always been a coffee enthusiast,” Mutebi said. “However, I often turned to coffee when I needed to stay up late at night because it’s known to boost alertness.” 

Uganda is among the highest coffee exporters globally, and second in Africa. Despite being one of the largest coffee producers in Africa, Uganda’s coffee industry remains largely untapped by its citizens, with only 5% of its coffee being consumed locally. Globally, the highest exporters of coffee are Brazil, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

UCU

Tragedy propels Save the Mothers alum into advocacy for maternal health

By Pauline Luba
In 1984, as Boaz Mbagaya reported back to school, he was not at peace.  His expecting mother was ill, and Mbagaya worried for the worse. That very week that the 18-year-old reported to school, he was called back home. His mother and the unborn baby had died. 

Mbagaya’s mother lost her life to complications she developed during childbirth. That incident left such an indelible mark in the life of Mbagaya that he made an immediate decision to lead the fight against maternal and child mortality. 

“We should do everything in our power to stop mothers from dying,” said Mbagaya, who grew up in a family of 16 children.

Because there were many children, most of them had to support themselves and their father, George Mbagaya, and raise money for their school fees. Boaz Mbagaya supported his father by farming and brewing local gin, which they later sold for fees.

Mbale People’s Hospital, a non-profit facility in eastern Uganda.
Mbale People’s Hospital, a non-profit facility in eastern Uganda.

After secondary school, Mbagaya joined Makerere University in Uganda, to pursue a course in Mental Health and Community Psychology. He pursued the Master in Public Health Leadership (MPHL) under the Save the Mothers program at Uganda Christian University (UCU) — a course that would later provide him the platform to fulfill his earlier passion for healthier expectant mothers. 

With this program, Mbagaya believed he could do something to change the narrative of the high mortality rate, especially in rural Uganda.

“The course helped me see the many challenges that the community faces,” said Mbagaya, who also studied clinical medicine at Mbale College of Health Sciences.

During the MPHL program, students would move to different geographical areas to learn about maternal needs. 

According to the Save the Mothers website, the program offers the Master of Public Health Leadership to working professionals from a wide range of disciplines, and not only the health discipline. Save the Mothers East Africa hosts the MPHL at UCU.

The program started at UCU in 2005, with the aim of training multi-disciplinary professionals and contributing to improving maternal and child health in developing countries. The students pursuing the course study on a part-time basis over two years, completing the modular program with an intensive community outreach project. 

According to the 2022 Uganda Government statistics, the Maternal Mortality Ratio is at 189 per 100,000 live births while the infant mortality stands at 34 per 1,000 live births. Globally, according to the United Nations, by 2020, there were 223 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Upon completing school, Mbagaya started a non-profit facility, the People’s Life Care Foundation, to help him promote and strengthen the health care system in Uganda. That foundation gave birth to Mbale People’s Hospital, a facility located in eastern Uganda. Mbagaya is currently the Managing Director of the facility.

Among the many outpatient and inpatient services provided at the facility is obstetrics and gynecology. Mbagaya also has broken sweat, trying to combat obstetric fistula. According to the United Nations Population Fund, obstetric fistula is a tragic childbirth injury, where a hole develops between the birth canal and the bladder and/or the rectum. It is caused by prolonged, obstructed labor without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment. 

The hospital began identifying mothers suffering from obstetric fistula for treatment. Some of the patients would even be transported to the hospital. So far, according to Mbagaya, 14 women have undergone reconstructive surgery and gotten rid of the hole. 

“There was a 51-year-old who finally got help after living with the condition for a long time,” Mbagaya said. He noted that many of the women who got medical relief had lost hope while some had lost their husbands to other people.

Barter trade
According to Mbagaya, whenever his mother got pregnant, she would offer goodies to the midwife, in anticipation for “better attention” when she went to the health facility to give birth. Mbagaya narrates that even when the health personnel visited his mother at home after delivery, she would offer them foodstuffs. It is this gesture, Mbagaya says, that, many years later, pushed him into accepting produce as exchange for services rendered at the Mbale People’s Hospital for those who do not have the money to pay the fees. 

He said he noticed how many people in the community were farmers and had produce, all of which had monetary value. Therefore, he set up a system where people, especially in the event of emergencies, could pay with produce, instead of money, which they didn’t have. As long as people put items that quantify the service they would be receiving, all would be well. This arrangement made Mbagaya popular among the people.  

“I once spent a month only eating the foodstuffs that had been offered to me in exchange for healthcare,” Mbagaya, now age 57, said.

He hopes that one day, one of his four children will also develop interest in medicine and follow in his footsteps, to ensure the legacy of the family, as well as the hospital continues.

UCU

UCU welcomes first-year students for the 2024 Trinity Semester

Uganda Christian University (UCU) welcomed first-year students to its main campus in Mukono. The students were officially welcomed at an induction ceremony on Thursday May 30th, 2024.

At the Mukono campus, the Vice Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, warmly welcomed first-year students to the institution.

“Welcome to the coolest campus, a Center of Excellence in the Heart of Africa…no doubt you have chosen the best university in Uganda because we have a good reputation, we are also known to be the most organized and cleanest campus,” said Prof. Mushengyezi.

VCS
UCU Vice Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi addressing the new students during the induction ceremony at Nkoyoyo Hall.

He emphasized that UCU’s reputation precedes it, with a proven track record of producing highly employable graduates.

“UCU graduates are preferred by employers because of values, the work ethics, commitment to tasks they are given, and the values they exhibit at work,” he noted.

During the induction ceremony, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, Mr. David Mugawe, also welcomed first-year students to UCU congratulating them on making the right choice.

He highlighted that UCU is unique in conducting an induction service, aimed at committing students to the Lord and ensuring a rewarding journey.

“In this country, I am not aware of a university that carries out an induction service for its new students. We do this to commit you to the Lord, believing that you shall have a rewarding journey here at UCU,” said Mr. Mugawe.

He cautioned students that, unlike high school, university life offers more freedom, but emphasized the importance of making wise choices.

“You have joined UCU where you can go out any time, choose whether to attend lectures or not…there will be no punishment except being unable to sit for exams because you have not fulfilled the requirements of attending classes,” Mr. Mugawe warned.

He also warned the students of potential temptations, including sex parties, drugs, and alcohol, but encouraged them to apply the university’s core values in their daily lives.

He reminded students of the university’s mission to equip them for productive, holistic lives of Christian faith and service, and encouraged them to access the student charter through the guild office to understand their rights and privileges.

Mr. Mugawe emphasized that UCU aims to provide a complete education and shape students into complete persons, with a focus on professionalism and character.

MUGAWE
Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, Mr. David Mugawe, addressing the first year students.

He urged students to maximize opportunities, develop characters that align with UCU’s values, and strive for excellence in all aspects of life.

“Whatever opportunity you have, maximize it…many have woken up in third year when it’s too late,” he cautioned.

He urged the students to adopt and maintain characters that align with UCU’s values which is; Christ Centeredness, Diligence, Integrity, Servanthood, and Stewardship.

In addition to the induction ceremony, the students also attended a weekly community worship service in the Nkoyoyo Hall. The service was themed “Character that aligns with UCU values”.

First-year students that were welcome were from the various schools and faculties including; BusinessEducation, Law, Agricultural sciences, Journalism, Media and Communication, Public Health, Engineering, Design and Technology among others.

The induction ceremony is one of the two special services for the students at UCU, with the second one being the commissioning ceremony.

The commissioning ceremony is held at the end of the student’s studies and marks their transition into the workforce.

Compiled by Irene Best Nyapendi

Edited By: Harriet Adong, Consultant at UCU’s Communication and Public Relations Department

UCU

Tanzania exchange program exposes UCU students to world of community work

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Seven Uganda Christian University (UCU) students have had a resume-building experience during a five-week internship at a university in Tanzania. The students participated in a Community-Based Monitoring (CBM) course at Mzumbe University’s main campus in Morogoro, Tanzania, from March 30 to May 5, 2024. 

CBM is a co-creation course facilitated and co-ordinated by the Institute of Development Policy (IOB) – University of Antwerp, Belgium and Mzumbe University.

The course, which brought together students from the United States, Uganda, Tanzania, Belgium, Bangladesh, DR Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Peru and Indonesia, was aimed at equipping students with skills and knowledge in community-led development and sustainability. It was delivered through theoretical sessions, skills labs and action labs, where students worked directly with local communities to identify development challenges and use evidence to influence designing of alternative interventions by duty bearers.

The students who participated in the CBM course
The students who participated in the CBM course

The UCU team included Amenyo Sarah, Bigala Cathryn, Baraka Peter, Lubega Daniel, Mubeezi Simon and Vincent Manimani, who are students of Master of Development Monitoring and Evaluation; and Sagal Macrina, who is pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Development Monitoring and Evaluation.

The invitation to the UCU School of Social Sciences was based on the collaboration that IOB-University of Antwerp has had with UCU. 

The facilitators were led by Prof. Nathalie Holvoet from the University of Antwerp. Other facilitators included Dr.  Sara Dewachter (IOB-University of Antwerp), Doreen Kyando (Mzumbe University), Dr. Alellie Sobrevinas (De La Salle University), Solomon Mwije (UCU), and Dr. Christina M. Shitima (Mzumbe University)..

Dr. Waiswa Jeremy, the UCU Head of Postgraduate Studies and Research – School of Social Sciences — noted that the students who participated in the program this year formed the inaugural cohort.

According to Waiswa, the course enhances students’ skills and enables them to implement the theories they learn in class.

“While we teach theoretical concepts in the classroom, this program provides students with the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice,” Waiswa said. “This helps our students concretize their understanding and allows them to test theoretical frameworks in real-world scenarios, discerning what works and what doesn’t.”

Cathryn Bigala, presenting research findings during the CBM program
Cathryn Bigala, presenting research findings during the CBM program

Solomon, a UCU lecturer, said during the program, they undertook three CBM projects on education, water and food security.

He explained that by working on real-world projects, UCU students developed essential skills in presenting their findings and engaging with the communities. 

He said those who participated are expected to become change agents and share knowledge with colleagues. The students learned about how local communities in Tanzania are addressing issues related to development challenges. They acquired skills in data collection, analysis and community engagement.

What beneficiary UCU students said
Cathryn Bigala, a second-year student pursuing Master of Development Monitoring and Evaluation, said her most memorable moment in Tanzania was visiting villages to meet respondents affected by food insecurity and water scarcity. 

The findings revealed that poverty and natural disaster situations like pests, floods, and elephants that destroy crops have devastating effects on locals. 

Sagal Macrina, presenting research findings during the CBM program
Sagal Macrina, presenting research findings during the CBM program

“This has caused fear among the locals, and as a result, people have abandoned farming for quarrying as an alternative to fend for their families,” Bigala said.

Through the program, Bigala says she acquired practical skills in community data collection and analysis, respondent interviewing, and monitoring development projects at the community level. 

Bigala noted that the program prepared her to think critically about community concerns, be an advocate for the underprivileged, and collaborate with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Sagal Macrina, a finalist pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Development Monitoring and Evaluation, says she participated in a CBM water project to test water safety, identify unsafe water sources, and present results to the community. 

“During the water project, we implemented a flag system to indicate safe and unsafe water sources,” Macrina said. “We put green flags to indicate safe water sources and also put up red and orange flags to indicate the unsafe water sources prompting government action, where necessary.”

The program also helped her develop interpersonal and communication skills.

“Through the program, I learned better communication skills as I had to present findings to the community and other stakeholders,” Macrina noted.

Simon Mubeezi, presenting research findings during the CBM program
Simon Mubeezi, presenting research findings during the CBM program

She also appreciated the experience of working with peers from diverse cultural backgrounds, which broadened her worldview and helped her appreciate the nuances of working in a multicultural team.

Simon Mubeezi, a second-year student of Master of Development Monitoring and Evaluation, said he acquired skills in research methodology and data analysis.

By engaging directly with the local community through data collection, he says he gained insights into the farmers’ adaptive and coping strategies to climate change and their agricultural practices.

“This program showed me the importance of integrating local knowledge with academic research to effectively address food security concerns,” Mubeezi noted.

UCU

UCU alum’s innovation reduces post-harvest losses

By Kefa Senoga
In 2017, the father of Jean Paul Nageri planted more than 100 acres of bananas in Busia, eastern Uganda. As is usually the norm, towards harvest time, a middleman promised to buy all the bananas at harvest. The harvest time came, but the middleman never showed up. The result? Most of the bananas either got rotten in the garden or were sold at a give-away price.

The pain of that loss was so unbearable for Nageri that the next year, he was in the laboratory, working out a solution to mitigate the gravity of the depletion his father suffered. He suspected there was a solution, but did not know exactly what it was. And the tests in the laboratory led him to something that was more like putting into practice the course he had studied at Uganda Christian University (UCU), where he received a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship

Nageri explaining his innovation at a conference.
Nageri explaining his innovation at a conference.

Nageri sought to extend the shelf life of many fruits and vegetables by slowing down their rate of spoilage while being kept at room temperature without any form of refrigeration – a move that democratizes food storage and removes barriers to enable everyone to keep food fresh, regardless of whether you have a cold room or not. In Uganda, room temperature is about 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit).

So, how does Nageri’s innovation work?

He explained that using the skins of oranges, mangoes, bananas and other fruits in the lab, he was able to extract compounds, which he later turned into powder. The powder is blended with water, which is then used for coating the fruits and vegetables. The coating, which he has named Ka Fresh and is produced by his firm, Sio Valley Technologies, is edible.

“Most of the knowledge I am applying now is what I obtained in class at the university,” he said. “I am working with other scientists who are also applying the same knowledge in biotechnology.”

Nageri with his jam products during his university days
Nageri with his jam products during his university days

For this innovation, Sio Valley Technologies was early this year awarded the Most Innovative Export company at the third annual Uganda/EU Business Summit. Nageri received the award from Uganda’s Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja. The Head of the European Union Delegation to Uganda, Ambassador Jan Sadek, was also present at the awards gala.  

The World Food Program estimates that as of last year, more than 333 million people in the world were facing acute levels of food insecurity; they did not know where their next meal would come. The situation is compounded by the fact that the cost of delivering food assistance was at an all-time high because of the increase in the prices of food and fuel.

Despite the hunger situation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 30-40% of total food production is lost before it reaches the market. But with the Ka Fresh solution, Nageri aims to overcome this challenge, so that farmers can have more bargaining power over their produce while in the market without fear of it getting rotten while on the shelf.

Some fruits and vegetables that have been coated with Nageri’s solution, he says, are now able to stay fresh for up to three times their natural shelf life. Nageri says tests in the laboratory have indicated that tomatoes that have been coated with Ka Fresh, for example, are able to stay for more than 70 days under room temperature without refrigeration.

UCU’s Nageri Develops Air Freight Solution

Nageri’s innovation should come as good news for exporters who are currently scratching their heads for solutions to the rising cost of air freight. Currently, according to the World Bank, it costs 12 to 16 times more to transport a commodity through air than sea and yet exporters opt for air transport because some commodities cannot last the more than 30 days it takes most of the ships to travel from African ports to Europe.

The journey to the Ka Fresh innovation saw Nageri team up with a friend, Lorna Orubo, to make tomato jam as a student at UCU and then mayonnaise, as his final-year project to meet the requirements for the award of his degree.

 “If you are building the right solution to a challenge, capital will always follow you and the right people will always want to surround themselves with you,” Nageri says, noting that for now, he is more focused on fine-tuning his innovation than looking at what he stands to benefit from it.

UCU

‘I needed the PhD to bolster my capacity’

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Martin Kizito’s mother wanted her son to be a teacher. Kizito dreamed of being a political scientist.

Despite his uncertainty about the career choice clash and some guilt over disappointing his mom, Kizito stuck to his aspiration and applied for a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Makerere University. 

To further cement his political science goal, Kizito joined student leadership at Makerere. As a leader, he had a “baptism by fire” when an accident claimed the life of a student and he was tasked with the duty of informing the student community. He wrote the letter, and because the student was popular, some students cited foul play in the death. When students conducted a demonstration over the demise, Kizito was accused of inciting that action.

That experience caused Kizito to move away from his childhood ambition of politics. It is also at that point that he discovered that it was within his means to resurrect the wish of his mother — becoming a teacher. Kizito turned his attention to performing well, so he could be retained as a teaching assistant at the university.

For that to happen, he needed to get a first-class degree. And he did. Makerere University thus retained Kizito as a teaching assistant. And, Kizito, who was recently a recipient of a Doctor of Philosophy, never looked back. 

In July 2008, he started working at Uganda Christian University (UCU) on a part-time basis, becoming a full-time staff member a year later. 

In 2016, when Kizito was appointed the Head of the Department of Public Administration and Governance at UCU, it dawned on him that the university had begun to entrust him with big assignments, and, therefore, he needed to return to school to pursue a doctorate, to achieve the academic readiness for large tasks.

“Being head of department meant I built the standard for the rest so I felt challenged,” Kizito said. “At some of the committees where I represented UCU as head of department, almost everybody was a professor.”

At the time, Kizito had a Master’s in Public Administration and Management (Makerere University), a Postgraduate Diploma in Monitoring and Evaluation (Uganda Management Institute) and  a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Makerere). 

A few months into his role as head of department, Kizito was also appointed co-ordinator of the Master of Research and Public Policy program at UCU. Additionally, he was asked to represent UCU on the steering committee of Partnership for African Social and Governance Research. 

He also was involved in the establishment of the Master of Governance and International Relations program, as well as the review of the programs of Master of Research and Public Policy and the Master of Public Administration and Management.

At the time, he was teaching two undergraduate programs: Bachelor of Governance and International Relations and Bachelor of Public Administration and Management.

“I would feel that God had granted me opportunities, but I needed the PhD to bolster my capacity,” Kizito said. “I told myself fortune favors a prepared man, so I wanted a PhD to be ready to maximize any opportunities that would come my way.” 

“My parents loved education. So, I knew that a PhD would make my mum proud because many people really want to see their children get the best from school.” 

His hunt for a scholarship yielded fruits in 2020 with admission to the University of Pretoria in South Africa. 

While grateful, his physical studies in South Africa meant sacrificing time away from  his wife, Angella, and five-year-old daughter. Additionally, during his second year, he needed to return to Uganda when Angella, now in recovery, was diagnosed with cancer.

“It was a tough time, moving to different hospitals, taking care of my wife during the day, and having to study at night to catch up with university deadlines,” he said. 

This slowed down his progress, making him graduate after four years instead of three.

UCU’s Martin Kizito’s Groundbreaking Research

Kizito’s research focus was on developing a model for enhancing evaluation influence on policy design. A design that effectively contributes to a better policy environment, evidence-based policy design, and implementation in Africa.

In his research, he looked at the African Peer Review Mechanism, a system that evaluates how well countries are governed, as stipulated by the constitution of the African Union. He noticed there were not many studies about “African ways of evaluating things,” which could help leaders understand how to turn evaluations into actual policies.

The study recommends inclusive participation in evaluation input, activities aligned with government plans, institutionalizing government-wide reporting on National Plan of Action implementation, and establishing a well-domesticated legal framework.

After his April 2024 graduation, Kizito now envisions providing advisory services and contributing to the development of short courses on policy-related matters. 

“I believe there are many individuals that need this knowledge but cannot commit to a PhD program due to time constraints, so developing a short course in policy-related matters is paramount,” he said.

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