KAMPALA – Makerere University RIF Project on the Empowerment of the Agro-processing Industry to meet the Quantity and Quality for local and Export Market has been launched.
The programme focuses on enhancing the practical skills of students in Makerere University was officially launched by the Commissioner of Processing and Marketing from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Dr. Joshua Mutambi last week at the Conference Hall, School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-engineering.
The function brought together officials from the line ministries and agencies, the private sector mainly agro-processing industry, civil society organizations, and the academia among others
In the Financial Year (2019/20), Makerere University received special funding totaling 30 Billion Uganda shillings (equivalent to US$ 8,100,000) under the Government Research and Innovation Fund (RIF) to complement available research funding to address unfunded priorities critical to accelerating development across different sectors of the economy in Uganda of this, UGX. 15 Billion was disbursed by the Ministry of Finance on the Makerere Account.
Out of over 700 proposals submitted to the RIF Secretariat, 222 were awarded across the different Colleges and other units (MUBS inclusive). Thirty (30) CAES staff proposals were considered for funding from the RIF Round 1, No. 1, Financial Year 2019/2020
This particular project, “Empowerment of the Agro-processing Industry to meet the Quantity and Quality for local and Export Market; a programme focusing on enhancing the practical skills of students in Makerere university”, is led by Dr. Julia Kigozi as Principal Investigator at an estimated cost of UGX 223 million.
While officially opening the project activities and the delivery of training modules for Makerere University students, Commissioner Dr. Joshua Mutambi reported that Uganda’s exports have grown from $ 2.6 bn in FY 2015/16 to 3.5 bn in FY 2018/19.
Underscoring the role of the university in training the youth and agro-processors, Dr. Mutambi said Agriculture remains a key factor in Uganda’s economic growth, wealth creation and food security with 68% of the population involved in subsistence farming.
“As the government Vision 2040, NDPIII provides for value addition, diversification and innovation for sustainable industrialization, it is important that farmers, processors, students, and youth get trained and equipped for production, processing, and marketing to sustain supply of quality products needed by the domestic and international markets”, The Commissioner noted.
Dr. Mutambi reported that while launching the Rwenzori Expo2020 in Fort Portal on 31st January 2020, HE the President commended the value addition activities by local producers and urged the nation to diversify the sources of wealth stressing value addition and innovation through industrialization.
The commissioner noted with concern that the country imports much more processed food products than is exported, yet the government has attracted many multinational supermarkets.
He said the sector has good potential for export generation and growth, job creation and significant value addition if issues such as productivity improvement, reduction of post-harvest losses, access to proven modern technologies and standards are addressed.
Dr. Mutambi thanked the initiators and founders of the project for using the Triple helix partnership model (the interaction between Government, academia and business community) that has helped other countries to grow.
The commissioner observed that most MSMEs have failed to sustain their business due to many factors including lack of innovation, adhering to standards and failure to interact through the Triple Helix model practices.
“The objectives of this project will go a long way in enhancing the agenda for transformation, promotion of the agribusiness sector and implementation of the BUBU policy contributing to the reduction of the importation of value-added food products.
The skills that will be developed in the project period will enable the students, the MSMEs and other stakeholders in managing their production processes as entrepreneurs that will lead to innovation, increased quality production and exports”, Dr. Mutambi stated.
He expressed government commitment to providing an enabling environment for businesses to grow. He highlighted some of the initiatives made by the government including the creation of a Directorate of MSMEs Development in the ministry, and MSMEs policy and implementation strategy, the BUBU policy, Grain Trade Policy, and Strategy and the provision of the infrastructure for industrial parks across the country.
Speaking on behalf of the Executive Director Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), the Director Trade Information Mr. Oketcho Lawrence Michael appreciated Makerere University for the initiative that brings together the public, private and academic sectors to empower the Agro processors and students to produce products that meet the quantity and standards for the local and export market.
He said the initiative was in line with the National; Export Development Strategy 2015-2020 and the NDPII and NDPIII to grow the number of manufacturers and agro-processed products in export sector.
“UEPB is mandated to promote and develop exports, but all this starts with having the right product on our local market first before they are exported. All agro-processors that have enrolled on this project, you have done the right thing and we are committed to supporting you”, Mr. Oketcho stated.
He outlined services offered by UEPB including the Export Readiness Assessment program, Producers’ Capacity Building; Business to Business Forums and ensuring structured and consistent implementation of export agenda across all MDA’s.
The Principal Certification Officer from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) Ronald K Ahimbisibwe described the project as an opportunity that will help UNBS identify students before and after graduation.
“UNBS mandate is to develop and promote standards, meaning you have an opportunity to identify which area you want to be promoted into. This initiative will also promote and help processors and manufacturers to abide by the required standards”, Ahimbisibwe said.
He said the Bureau has come up with an online application system for certification but the applicant must ensure they are legally incorporated, have proper documentation and hygiene, have the proper packaging and labeling among other conditions.
He warned agro-processors against non-compliance with the standards saying, this attracts heavy penalties.
He expressed UNBS’ commitment to work with the university and implored the institution to ensure that its laboratories are certified.
Makerere University RIF Research Support Officer, Ronald Maseruka said the University received funding from the Government of Uganda to support Research and Innovation as a driver of development and transformation.
The objective of the fund according to Maseruka is to increase the local generation of translatable research and scalable innovations that address key gaps required to drive Uganda’s development agenda.
“We received over 700 proposals from the university and slightly over 200 were successful. The College of Agriculture got about 14% of the awards and Dr. Julia Kigozi from the Department of Agricultural and Bio-systems engineering is one of them”, Maseruka reported.
He said the RIF secretariat has been consulting different stakeholders to come up with a strategy that will guide the research agenda at the university. Maseruka also said the second-round call for application for RIF is on this February 2020.
The Dean School of Food Technology, Nutrition, and Bio-engineering represented by Prof. Charles Muyanja highlighted the key project aspects including empowerment, quantity, quality, and standards.
He said the issue of how much one produces and the quality are challenges that agro-processors have to contend with.
“Quality is very difficult to find. This project is important in addressing issues to deal with life. Standards are there for a purpose and that is why we are here. Without standards, producers cannot access markets nationally, regionally and internationally, Prof. Muyanja said.
Prof. Muyanja also said standards are also important for consumer confidence in the product and the safety of their health, and without standards, there cannot be certified.
He expressed the need for academia, agro-processors and government to work together adding that the project was committed to solving challenges in the agro-processing sector.
“This project is within the mandate of the university. It will train students and ensure that products of quality are on the market.
Most of the project goals are not in the curriculum and therefore it is also important in view of the curriculum. We may have to think of career training after the academic program” Prof. Muyanja proposed.
He said a number of Value chain analyses have found out that most standards for foods for instance Avocados are not known and probably there will need to create a new department in Ministry to handle this.
Prof. Muyanja also implored the Uganda Small Scale Industries Association (USSIA) to work with university students equipped with knowledge and skills and as one of the best resources to tap into.
“Our courses offered help to create quality in products. Trust our students and give them hands-on experiences in your factories and laboratories. Empower them and train them in problem-solving skills”, Prof. Muyanja requested.
Makerere University Project Principal Investigator, Dr. Julia Kigozi said Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises(MSMEs) contribute substantially to the provision of basic goods and services and generation of export and tax revenue for national socio-economic development and therefore require focus in the nations development agenda.
The PI said the MSMEs require to enhance their capacity to compete in the domestic, regional and international markets so as to enhance Uganda’s agenda for industrialization.
“Academia-Industry-Government (Tripple Helix Partnership) projects have been seen to catalyze phenomenal economic growth. In this project, the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering in partnership with UNBS and the UEPB will train practitioners in 40 Agro-processing MSMEs in skills that enable them to develop processes leading to quality products that meet standards for certification as well as the ability to meet the capacity required for the local and export markets.” Dr. Julia said
She said the university students comprise part of the project team thus providing hands-on training for the students and equipping them with skills relevant for the workplace.
As partners, Dr. Julia said UNBS brings on board the aspect of adherence to national and international standards while the Uganda Export Promotion Board brings in the aspect of product marketing and preparation for export markets.
On the other hand, the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-engineering will offer the project modules including Process and value chain management; Product optimization; Application of GMP and Hygiene; Processing; Efficient Quality control; Efficient Waste Management and; Infrastructure development to meet quality and production capacity.
The project goals according to Dr. Julia Kigozi include to establish a hub that brings together agro-processing industry, UNBS, SFNB, and UEPB; Train 40 Agro-processing MSME’s; Train processors to certification of 40 Agro-processing MSME’s; Optimize product quality and food process chain for 20 Agro processors and; to develop plans for quality control, waste management, plant design, and product marketing.
Other goals are; train all staff at each of the 20 MSME’s facilities in hygiene; enhance skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, creativity and communication of graduate students at the school and; establish a hub for design fabrication and dissemination of food processing of equipment.
The PI said, by the end, the project is expected to have created an information desk, developed training modules, trained 40 students and 40 MSME personnel and enhanced collaboration between the school and food industry stakeholders.
The other expected project outcomes are protocol for collaboration between the university, government, and industry; Effective UNBS and UEPB service delivery; Development of locally homegrown solutions for agro-processing industry and; students with relevant skills for industry.