INVEST IN AGRICULTURE EDUCATION- SASAKAWA ALUMNI URGE GOVERNMENT
By Grace Musimami
Agriculture Extension Practitioners have urged the Ugandan government to invest in agriculture education if the country is to help boost the economy. The old students of Makerere University, College of Agriculture and Environmental Science and Department of Agricultural Extension & Innovation Studies and beneficiaries of Supervised Enterprise Project under funding from Sasakawa Africa Association said the funding for agriculture education in the country has greatly declined over the years despite the increased dependency of the country on agriculture. The Alumni chairperson Mr Christopher Waali said many young people who have certificates and diplomas need support to scale up and build a stronger career towards better service delivery.
“We want government to revive financing for agriculture education , the population is growing farmers have increased, yet there are very few agricultural extension officers, this limits informed and aligned production across the country.” Said Christopher Waali.
Waali, a retired Extension coordinator for Mukono district was speaking during the second SAFE Alumni Conference held at Fairway Hotel Kampala, further urged Sasakwa global 2000 a member association of Sasakawa Africa Association to rejuvenate the SAFE Programme to support the government as they wait for the government to support the process.
Dr Roselyine Nyamutale the Sasakawa Global 2000 Uganda office country director, thanked the Alumni for consistently meeting to share experiences and develop a common voice for better extension service provision and development in Uganda.
“It has been ages since the SAFE was very wide to take on many people, am glad to see friends meet and people share experiences of post-COVID resilience. It is my prayer that this Alumni Association is turned into a hub of extension practitioners to enable fully scaled information Centre where great minds converge” said Dr Roselyine Nyamutale.
Over the Years the SAFE Programme under Sasakawa Africa association worked closely with tertiary institutions especially Makerere to build careers of various extension practitioners in Uganda. The Programme offered full scholarships to diploma holders and certificate holders to join Makerere University to grow their careers and build capacity for students to become better practical extension workers
Dr Nyamutale also acknowledged and appreciated Dr. Mercy Akeredolu Director SAFE at Sasakawa Africa Association in Ethiopia for efforts to ensure the Alumni stay together and also scale extension education in Africa.
Dr Mercy Akeredolu participating virtually from Sasakawa Africa association head office in Ethiopia, urged the Alumni to grow stronger and ensure their association is more sustainable. She said the alumni should appreciate the continued demand for extension and the focus on the opportunity created by COVID 19 and pledged her support.
Commissioner Namaloba Oliver from the ministry of agriculture in Uganda who represented the Minister of Agriculture, but who is also an Alumni expressed her excitement to participate in the Alumni conference, further advising the Alumni executive to develop a good communication and visibility strategy to enable membership outreach and consistent tracking of all members and documentation.
“With proper communication, there is a very good opportunity for the Alumni to position itself to influence policy. This can be matched with documentation of active and available success stories, no donor will support continuity of SAFE if we don’t have our stories out there.” Urged Namaloba.
During the meeting, Bahizi Peninah, the district agriculture officer of Kabarole district who is also an alumnus appreciated SAFE for supporting her to enable her further her study to acquire a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Extension. Education at Makerere University. Peninah Progressed from Agriculture Officer, senior to Principal.
“I appreciate SAFE for the opportunity, not forgetting Dr Jeff Mutimba who was my supervisor then. Without this Programme, I would have phased myself out of service at the lowest level. I got the opportunity to serve my country better” testifies Peninah.
Ronald Kitayimbwa the Nakaseke Agricultural officer also testifies that he had attained his certificate and diploma from Bukalasa agricultural college, however, due to SAFE he was able to grow his career to enable him to attain his bachelors of science in Agriculture, Ronald further revealed that this qualification enabled him professionally position himself to be a leading agriculturalist and also serve better the people.
The SAFE Alumni Conference key outputs included the need to have a face to face annual review meeting and this was to be implemented by the interim steering committee that was established and further agreed on a membership registration drive across the country. The Members further agreed to share their experiences in as my story program for an annual Newsletter.
SAFE is already sponsoring a master’s of science in agriculture at Makerere University student at Makerere University. The meeting was attended by retired extension Alumni and practicing agriculture extension alumni from across the country.