‘Innovators take a step ahead to hold innovation demonstrations within some of the target communities’

Part of the Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica (RAN) Team constituting of Eng. Ronald Kayiwa-RAN Innovations Officer, Grace Bua-Community Liaison Officer, Rebecca Koburungi-Communications Assistant and Joseph Lubega Mukaawa-MKITS Developer set off to hold innovation demonstration exercises in Uganda’s Albertine region, districts of Nakasongola, Kasese and Hoima. This team was flanked by some of the innovators on the teams of the innovative solutions under incubation at RAN including; Wangi Mario on the Low-Cost Solar Irrigation Pump and Steven Ssekanyo of ‘Kungula’ Maize Thresher with a winnowing fun. This is evidence that community engagement is key in all the work that RAN undertakes. ‘It is not enough to consult these communities for possible solutions to the most pressing challenges they are facing but develop these solutions in consultation with the communities and ensure that you go back to share the solutions with them before they uptake the same’ shared Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party/Lab Director during a discussion with one of the Media House reporters in Uganda. The Communities were very excited that the RAN team had taken innovative solutions to them as one Community member shared that;  ‘I had always heard about Makerere but had never physically interacted with them but now Makerere is here, in front of me with solutions to some of the problems we have been suffering with!’. During the  dissemination exercise, the RAN team also engaged with District officials (both technical and political), Coordinators of Government Agencies including NAADS, NARO, Operation Wealth Creation, Banks, Micro Finance Institutions, NGOs and CBOs, Farmers Network, Heads of active SACCOs, wealthy businessmen and the General Community. Nakasongola engagement registered 120 participants, Hoima 180 and Kasese 106.This preliminary community engagement was then followed by the official community dissemination Launch in Eastern Uganda, Pallisa District

Community Dissemination launch in Pallisa

A team comprising of Makerere University School of Public Health-ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) staff, innovators and members of the Innovation Advisory Board for the Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab on March 14, 2017 were joined by the district officials and the community to officially launch the demonstration of three of the innovations under incubation at RAN. These innovative solutions were conceptualized, designed and developed by innovators at Makerere University.  The RAN staff included Eng. Ronald Kayiwa, Mr. Joseph Mukaawa, Ms. Grace Bua, Ms. Rebecca Koburungi and Dr. Julius Ssentongo. The Innovation Advisory Board was represented by Mrs. Bamwine Rosette, Head Agricultural Credit Facility, Finance Function; Bank of Uganda and Prof. Elly Sabiiti, a Professor of Crop Sciences at  Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

This was also an opportunity to remind the community that RAN and the innovators had visited Pallisa and other districts in several parts of Uganda including the Mt. Elgon region in 2015 consulting about the most pressing community needs but also understanding the existing coping mechanisms for possibilities to strengthen them. During that visit, the innovators gathered information from the community on the nature of challenges that they face and the community also had an opportunity to share key feedback to some of the innovations that the innovators were already working on to inform further development. Among these innovations were the Low Cost Solar powered irrigation pump and a winnowing maize thresher. ‘Thank you United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) for providing the financial support to fund Makerere University under the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN)’ shared Dr. Ssentongo.

The launch kicked off at 10:00 am and in his opening remarks, the Pallisa District Chairperson highlighted that with such innovations, Uganda will eventually do away with poverty and elevate farmers to the middle income status since they would be involved in farming all year round. ‘Thank you Makerere University for working so hard on all these fronts’ he added.

Speaking on behalf of the Innovation Advisory Board members, Mrs. Rosette Bamwine who serves as the Deputy Chairperson on the board, noted that for better yields in agriculture, farmers must look out for solutions that address climate change and its effects. She called upon district officials to sensitize communities on embracing such innovations for the development of their communities and the country at large .She further noted that Bank of Uganda, where she works, has partnered with commercial banks to offer Agricultural Credit Facility to all farmers at a low interest rate of 12% to make it easy and possible to purchase machinery that can be utilized on the farm to improve productivity. She urged all participants interested in partaking the opportunity to visit their respective banks for additional information and guidance to apply for the support.

Dr. Ssentongo introduced the team of innovators to the guests and later ushered the gathering to where the innovations were displayed to witness their functionality. The community members were thrilled by the performance of the innovations and one of the commercial farmers in Pallisa, Mr. Olupot Emmanuel requested to have a demonstration of the solar irrigation pump at his farm. “This is what I have always wanted for my farms and with the solar irrigation pump installed at my farm, my yields and income will double” Mr. Olupot commented.

This launch held at Pallisa district grounds was attended by over 250 people. In attendance were the Pallisa district technical teams led by the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, the District Local Council led by the District Chairperson, the Resident District Commissioner, members of the community and the media among others. The Launch was concluded at 01:30pm EAT giving the community enough time to interact with the innovators and the RAN Team at length. This team then stretched to engage communities in Soroti district attracting approximately 200 participants.

From the community Dissemination official launch, the team progressed and extended the dissemination exercise to the Butaleja and Bududa District communities to further show case the innovations. Harriet Adong, RAN Communications Manager joined Grace Bua, Joseph Mukaawa and Ronald Kayiwa for this community engagement. The community could not hide their excitement about the ongoing work at Makerere University exhibited during the demonstrations and one member said ‘Now, I can go pay my taxes happily and comfortably because other than hearing about Makerere University for students’ and lecturers’ strikes and fights, today I have witnessed that there can be meaningful things that can come out of Makerere University, a Maize Thresher which also winnows and this Solar Irrigation Pump will definitely improve lives  here in the communities’. ‘I wish you could come and regularly share with us too about such inventions in Uganda and Africa at that, it would make life more meaningful because then we are able to address these community problems’ added another Community member. The engagement in Butaleja and Bududa attracted over 300 participants from all walks of life, professionals and community folks seeking to appreciate and physically get into contact with the innovative solutions. As the RAN team engaged with the community members, one female community member in Bududa District lady shared that, ‘My niece is there in Makerere University but I do not even know what she is doing and how far she has gone with her studies, I wish she could also invent something to help address some of the problems we are facing here in the villages, it would be good. I will follow-up with her to ensure that she does this or at least gets in touch with you people to learn’. The community members in all districts expressed dire interest in using the solutions and the RAN team plus innovators took keen note of all these to inform follow-up and scaling of the Innovations. The community was also informed that these innovations can be owned by individuals but groups closely working together could also purchase the innovation and use collectively. One Community Leader also noted that, the Local Council Leaders could purchase the innovations for use in the communities at a subsidized long term payable cost, an idea participants in attendance immediately embraced. The community overall expressed their readiness to work with the RAN team and innovators to further the work involved in getting these solutions to the last end user. The Local Council Chairman, Bududa District said, ‘We pledge our total support to this cause, team from Makerere University and we will work together to ensure that the communities lives are all improved using these innovative solutions’.  They requested the RAN team to take more solutions to the communities so that we can register development and growth among others.

An elderly community member from Butaleja  said ‘I am happy that you people from Makerere University can come to consult us about the different problems we are battling with, write them down,  go back and use this information to innovate and even physically bring us the solutions. Many researchers come, ask us so many questions and they never return to tell us what outcome they have from such exercises. You have done well people from Makerere University.

‘Solutions through Innovation’