As a follow-up meeting held with Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament on Monday January 16, 2016, part of the RAN Team including Dr. Dorothy Okello, RAN Director Innovation, Harriet Adong, Communications Manager and Nathan Tumuhamye, Director Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab met with the Committee on Science and Technology to further discussions directed towards partnership in development of innovative solutions to address communities most pressing challenges. This meeting was held on Friday January 20, 2017 at the Parliament of Uganda in Kampala Uganda.
Hon. Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, the Vice Chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology acknowledged receipt of a letter from Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party/Lab Director noting that ‘The RAN Team had earlier met with the Speaker of Parliament-Uganda and she was excited about the work RAN is doing’. He also re-echoed that RAN is seeking to further engage with relevant parliamentary committees including Committee on Science and Technology in support of ‘Solutions through Innovation’. He also shared that the committee was in the process of consulting key stakeholders about the Bio-tech and bio safety bill. ‘It is important that we have RAN’s views too especially after review of the bill’ he added.
Hon. Vincent Woboya, also one of the members of the RAN Innovation Advisory Board who had accompanied the RAN Team to this engagement also shared that the meeting the RAN team held with the Speaker of Parliament, Uganda enabled members to agree on several to do things moving forward to supporting innovation in Uganda and beyond. He posed two questions to the meeting participants including; ‘How can we use innovation to improve our livelihood? And how best can the RAN team sell its innovative products for the benefit of all communities?’
The RAN Innovation Director, Dr. Dorothy Okello who led the RAN team during this engagement noted that RAN promotesmultidisciplinarity, encouraging innovators to work in diverse teams so that each adds to the pool. Some of the innovations which are currently under incubation at RAN she referred to include; the Low Cost Solar Irrigation Pump-a solar powered water pump which small holder farmers can use to pump water from the source to their crops thereby ensuring that they will grow and give good yields even when there is inadequate rain, Solar Dryer- an efficient, express dryer that uses solar technology to facilitate faster drying of a broad range of agricultural produce to reduce post-harvest handling losses while improving yields and using locally available and cheap materials. This dryer enables the farmers to save the aroma in vegetables, fruits among others, Improved Push and Pull Technology-an innovative approach to intercropping that dually suppresses the nuisance weeds and pests and the KUNGULA-Thresh IT-a low cost optimized post-harvest technology for mechanized threshing and winnowing of maize among others.
The RAN team also requested Members of Parliament for partnership within and outside their networks in support of innovation. Key questions among others were ‘How do we continue to support the creative minds of students, faculty and several community members together? After manufacturing, how do we sell these products outside the country?
And how do we further support the Innovators and even communities to bring up and or share their innovations? It was also noted that there is need to work together to establish a centre for excellence for Innovation in Uganda and this centre would serve beyond the Nation and Africa.
Hon. Kyakulaga immediately noted that ‘We do not regret having allowed RAN to present to us and there is no doubt that we shall work closely to further support innovation for development. It is projects like RAN which are meant to benefit from the Government’s Innovation Fund. We shall work together to prepare the motion proposing that we put up a legal framework for the innovation fund so that also funds allocation is systematically done. The Committee on Science and Technology-Parliament of Uganda will also take lead in linking RAN with the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology. The RAN team working closely with the committee Chairperson will plan for a meeting with Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, Uganda’s Minister of Science and Technology early March 2017 to further strategize for Innovation.
Another Honourable Member of Parliament in attendance inquired where the Low Cost Solar Irrigation Pump gets water from noting that believing is seeing, ‘We as Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology want to visit RAN or the appropriate communities to physically witness innovation at work’. Another Member of Parliament and also committee member noted that ‘We are happy about the work the RAN team is doing on behalf of this country, we can work together during the Science and Innovation Week at Parliament of Uganda to exhibit RAN and some of the innovations under incubation at the Innovation Lab. He added that a lot of things are happening in the country but most of them lack economic viability remarking that we need to plan and hold regional demonstration firms to showcase innovation within and outside Uganda. ‘Can the Innovations under incubation at RAN be alternatives to Genetic modification?’ one meeting participant and member of Parliament asked, challenging the RAN team to continue thinking more creatively in order to positively impact the communities.
Other issues raised by the Members of Parliament during this meeting include the following;
- Necessity to keenly look into Patenting for Innovations.
- The need to link RAN to other key stakeholders including line ministries to further support innovation.
- Establish commercially viable enterprises with innovators to generate revenue for the country. Have a commercial arm of the RAN Network.
- Need to edit the innovation budgets to include areas of coverage or for example number of low cost Solar Irrigation pumps that a specific funds would support. Once these are well packaged then it is easy to engage other committees too.
- Put together and widely share policies for better advocacy of RAN’s work.
- Need for the Parliamentarians to visit RAN and see the innovations at work either at the RAN Innovation Lab or in the communities.
- Have RAN engaged with the East African Community at Parliament and the Ministry of East African Affairs?
- Promote RAN as a promoter of job creation and commercial Agriculture in country among others.
- Need for RAN to strategically pitch and exhibit where His Excellency the President of Uganda is while on his current tour throughout the country.
‘Solutions through Innovation’