Wednesday July 16 2014

Few scientists hurting agriculture

By Julius Odeke

Despite its outstanding achievements in researching on cereal and legumes, the National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute does not have enough scientists.

According to the institute’s director, Dr Beatrice Omonuk Akello, the research institute has only 21 scientists of the required 50. She says, with 21 scientists, 19 technicians and 24 support staff on National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro)’s payroll, the staff ceiling is very much wanting.

Dr Akello says some staff were co-opted by the initiative of international partners while others are employed under the projects such as the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (Asareca) and European Union funded projects.

“Right now we are working on 10 commodities which are arranged into four groups,” she said.
These include dry land cereals ; finger millet, sorghum, pearl millet-emawele which is grown most especially in dry areas such as Karamoja and north Teso dry land. In the legumes category are; cowpeas, pigeon peas, green grammes. Others are oil crop programmes with groundnuts, simsim, cotton and sunflower.
“Given 10 commodities that we have in Serere Research Institute, we try to balance our work by dividing amongst the commodities, but even then we still need 50 staff for effective work to be realised,” says Dr Akello.

Structures drive new staff away
“Our staff houses are all in a sorry state, we are not even using them,” says Dr Akello, adding that some staff have been forced to commute from Soroti town, a distance of at least 28km on daily basis something that wears them down.

She says when an institution does not have any housing for its staff, then it is quite difficult for such organisation to be able to retain and tap new scientists. Another deplorable thing is the technology in which laboratories operate.

“Our laboratories are not suited for carrying cutting edge science, in some other organisations, scientists use molecular technology but for us we are still using microscopic technology” said the academic adding that, “We need modern laboratories to enhance modern science.”

Dr Akello asked government to purchase new machinery.“Due to erratic weather our work has on several occasions been affected by drought, in that government should come in to support the activities in this institute,” Dr Akello.