Investment in millet research will boost communities’ livelihoods, says leading academic

The Ugandan government should allocate more funding to millet research as it has the greatest food value and would boost the livelihoods of communities in Teso, eastern Uganda.

By Williams Moi

The Ugandan government should allocate more funding to millet research as it has the greatest food value and would boost the livelihoods of communities in Teso, eastern Uganda.

This call was made by Dr. Yasin Nakuziraba while initiating the Soroti Millet Cluster Initiative during a three day training session millet vendors, businessmen, brewers of (ajono), local beer manufacturers, winemakers, distillers of local waragi and consumers from Teso sub-region.

The training, which took place at the Main Garden Annex in Soroti district, drew more than 100 participants, mainly ajono beer brewers from Pamba in the Soroti suburbs.

Dr. Ziraba urged government to inject more funds into millet research so as to promote millet industries in the country with focus in Teso and Lango sub regions. He said that,  increasing funding into millet research will boost production from existing clusters and groups, and this will enable people to improve their livelihoods now and in the future.

Dr. Ziraba, who leads the Innovations, Systems and Cluster Programme (ISCP) at Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Art, Design and Technology, called for “hard work, unity and partnership”, especially with government organisations such as NARO, NAADS in order for the project to succeed.

He said: “We are greatly concerned with small and medium industries in Uganda so as to add value to our millet products in order to compete, earn more income, and be able to pay taxes which benefits economy.”

He commended the government of Uganda for playing a crucial role in providing an enabling environment for this and for improving social infrastructure and agriculture.

Dr. Ziraba said millet is now in high demand from European countries and the international market due to its food value, and because of this Kenya and Tanzania now grow more millet than Uganda, although Teso leads in beverage making from finger millet. He advised farmers to promote bumper finger millet growth in Teso by  adding value to their products through packaging and branding, in collaboration with businessmen, researchers and government.

Dr. Ziraba said the major objective of the training was to understand the cluster initiative’s concepts and process so as to acquire knowledge and skills based on African experiences and to forge a way forward.

“We are here to do old business in a new way,” he added.

Yvonne Manabí, an investment executive with the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) in Kampala, said the UIA, in partnership with ISCP, will promote domestic and foreign investment from small business people, namely families, traditional processors and traders.

Manabí said that “our small middle, small business is missing in which so many people start businesses and so many die.”

She urged communities to engage in gainful employment partnerships so as to share knowledge with innovations, and called upon government to create more business linkages between the private sector engagement for competitiveness with better products. Manabí further urged the academia, researchers and media to join business innovations.

“Please take this opportunity to save and invest more in business,” Manabí said.

The workshop was funded by SCID, PCF, and UIA partners. Dennis Akumu from Makerere University and Nelson Wanyera, a researcher in finger millet, amongst others facilitated the workshop. Other partners were Osepu from Soroti district local government,Okello from NARO, Jasper from NAADS Nabuinzardi, Geoffrey Were, and councillor Amongin Margret. Entrepreneurship trainers were also present at the training.