Makerere University spearheads research to fix ecosystems challenges

Stakeholders in a maize field at Namulonge. The maize has dried as result of prolonged drought.
Researchers at Makerere University are trying to address such challenges. Photo by Lominda Afedraru

The African countries including Uganda are grappling with development challenges like climate change, persistent land degradation, wetland conversions and transformation, avoidable disasters, forestry cover reduction, runways as result of urbanization all stemming from human activities to better their livelihoods.

In response, scientists at Makerere University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences in collaboration with partners from Norway are spearheading educational research activities in addressing challenges communities are faced with in the area of ecosystems destruction.

This is being done not only in Uganda but Sub Saharan Africa in building capacities of students pursuing Maters and PHD courses.

Prof. Samuel Kyamanyua who is heading the regional capacity building for sustainable natural resource management, agriculture productivity and climate change explained the various initiatives during the international meeting about the same which took place in Kampala recently.

He said it is important for countries in Africa to build capacity in addressing challenges of climate change for better management of ecosystems and natural resources for increased food security for the people of Africa.

Other areas of focus include water for community, reduction of carbon dioxide emission under REDD+ Project focusing on communities engaging in afforestation to increase the forest cover and Weather information Management system for climate change.

Prof Kyamanyua explained that under his programme, emphasis has been put on training students in PHD courses and master’s programme in the area of natural resources management and agricultural productivity.
“We are going to develop satellite maps with the students which we shall distribute to communities for prior planning in planting their crops and trees to increase on the forest cover. The students will be able to carry out case studies in smart climate agriculture encouraging farmers to adopt the same for improved productivity,” he noted.

The students are from different countries in Africa and about 17 pursing masters and PHD courses are from South Sudan. Others are from Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia among others.
The Chancellor Makerere University Prof Ezra Suruma giving his remarks explained that the University has been partnering with the Norwegian government since 1940’s.

The Norwegian government through the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) is supporting 46 projects with annual budget of $18.87 million including funding for energy and petroleum all running for a period of 5 years.

He said the University in partnership with other institutions of higher learning in other African countries has won grants to support 14 collaborative projects mainly for quality education and research undertakings. The grants span over 5 year period from 2013 ending 2019 worth 25.1 million US dollars with Makerere University taking lead in 9 projects,” he noted.

Since most African countries depend of agriculture as the back born of their economy to him it is important to focus research initiatives in the area of climate addressing issues of drought, over flooding, pests and diseases.

State Minister for Education, Dr John Chrysestom Muyingo noted that it is important for scientists in different universities in Africa to share facts about challenges affecting our ecosystems in Africa.

These challenges include persistent land degradation, lack of wetland conservation and transformation and reduction in cover forests which need to be checked for sustainable agriculture.
He said since the agriculture sector accounts for 30 per cent in low and medium income countries in Africa and is the sector affected most by climate change.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their 2013 report stated that climate change without adaptation will have negative effects on staple crop yields across the globe.
Scientific evidence further shows that tropical regions are likely to experience productivity decline compared to temperate regions combined with challenges of population growth. Therefore it is important to carry out research to get solution for these challenges,” he said.

He pointed out some of the severe effects of climate change arising from rising temperatures leading to prolonged drought, over flooding, cyclones and rising sea level with Uganda experiencing severe drought over the past years, last year being the peak.

Initiatives such as REDD+ carried out in Uganda under the forest carbon partnership supported by the World Bank is important.

He noted that it is important for farming communities in Africa to adopt upcoming technologies such as adoption of fertilizer use to boost soil fertility, improved hybrid crop varieties, better ways of harvesting and processing including value addition.

This means farmers must take up the initiative for commercial farming rather than for subsistence. It is important to increase capacity in addressing climate change challenges and it is reason students across the continent are trained along this area.
[email protected]