My name is Meeme Hadijah, a 32 year old born and raised in Uganda. I am a Food Scientist currently in second year pursuing a Master of Science Degree in Food Science and Technology at Makerere University in Uganda. My research project is about "Effectiveness of The Purdue Improved Crop Storage Bags for Preservation of Common Dry Beans during Storage. Currently, I work with the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) as a Research Officer in the Food division under the Directorate of Production Systems. I have been working for the Institute since April 2010. My responsibilities include: Research and Development of food products; business incubation management; building the capacity of SMEs in food processing technologies; implementation of government initiatives in value addition to agricultural products; establishment of food processing facilities for SMEs; upscaling novel technologies; commercialisation of research outputs; provision of technical assistance to SMEs and prospective entrepreneurs on issues related to food processing operations; provision of SME outreach services and management of pilot plant production activities.
As a Research Officer at UIRI, I have been able to attend a number of international courses which include: Food Processing and Preservation (China);Governance and Food Safety In International Food Chains, Wageningen University (Holland); Establishment of Food Processing Facilities (South Korea); Business Incubation Management (Malaysia) and Tea Food Manufacturing Technology (China).
The Project and its relevance
As a Food Scientist, my main areas of interest are: Research and Development; food safety and quality management; utilisation of bio-waste; development of post-harvest technologies aimed at enhancing food and nutrition security; utilisation of food to prevent and reverse health complications like non-communicable diseases among others. I am very much interested in enhancing my knowledge and skills to enable me become an informed, knowledgeable and innovative scientist with the ability to use science to transform communities and the environment for the betterment of humanity.
The Partnerships to Strengthen University Food and Nutrition Sciences(PASUFONS) project aims at enhancing university capacity to contribute towards improvement of post-harvest management, produce quality and value addition ; and enhanced interaction between training institutions and the food and nutrition sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa. This way, the benefits derived from food production in Africa will be optimised.
The main actions foreseen for the project include: review and update of existing food and nutrition science academic programs in participating Higher Education Institutions(HEIs); sharing of training and research resources; development of course materials; joint research by HEIs and the private sector; organising short term courses for technical and academic staff; exchanging teaching programs between HEIs and dissemination of project outputs through diverse media.
Uganda is endowed with good climatic conditions and fertile soils which are suitable for agricultural production. Therefore, majority of the local communities especially in rural areas are engaged in agricultural production though on a small scale. However, the farmers still get low returns from their produce partly due to the high post-harvest losses experienced during the peak seasons. Also, despite the conducive environment for agriculture, the country is still grappling with food and nutrition insecurity. It is therefore necessary to have a platform with programs that are tailored to produce highly skilled, exposed and innovative food and nutrition science graduates who have the capability to diligently tackle challenges related to the food and nutrition sector within the country and region.
Secondly, Makerere University as one of the participating universities also has a lot to benefit from the project since it will provide an institutional framework to identify and respond to research and training needs of the targeted stakeholders (Food and Nutrition Science Departments, academic and technical staff, and graduate students).Similarly, the project will provide a platform for research and training collaboration between Makerere and other HEIs in Eastern and Southern Africa. This will greatly result in generation and implementation of a diverse range of innovations that will trigger growth of the food and nutrition sector, and at the same time promote food and nutrition security within Uganda, Africa and the global village.
The project is a great milestone for food and nutrition scientists since it will enhance their research capacity, and provide a platform for exchanging ideas, knowledge and experience in the food and nutrition sector. This way, the scientists will be well equipped with diverse skills and solutions to tackle the numerous challenges faced within the food and nutrition sector thus making them highly innovative and employable.
How did you become involved?
I got involved in the project as a graduate student who is a final beneficiary of the project.
The Project and your role
As a graduate student, I have participated in some of the project activities aimed at enhancing and diversifying graduate knowledge, skills and research capacity such as; joint teaching exchange programs involving other HEIs and virtual teaching and learning.
What advantages does working with international partners bring?
At the project level, ACP and EU countries provide financial assistance for facilitating coordination and implementation of the project activities. At the same time, the two partners also play an oversight role to ensure the project meets its objectives and achieves its ultimate goal of having higher graduate employability and a better performing food and nutrition sector. All these contribute to sustainability of the project at the same time ensure accountability from all stakeholders participating in the project.
At my level as a graduate student, ACP and EU countries ensure sustainability of the project activities such as joint teaching and exchange training programs. Through these activities I am able to acquire knowledge, skills, research ideas and exposure from professional and experienced teaching staff from different HEIs in Eastern and Southern Africa. Also, ACP and EU countries monitor and appraise the project management and coordination team to ensure the project meets the identified research and training needs of graduate students as one of the target stakeholders among others.
What are your expectations from the results?
Graduate students should be given a chance to visit other partner universities to expose them to technologies and research facilities that may not be available in their respective institutions. Graduate exchange visits will also enable graduate students to form networks and collaborations for exchanging research ideas that can help them in transforming the food and nutrition sector in different parts of the world.
Have you identified any impact to date?
My involvement in joint teaching programs and virtual learning has given me a deeper understanding of the topics discussed by the different academic staff from other partner universities. The diversified teaching styles and techniques used by the visiting lectures such as the interactive discussions made learning very interesting, and understanding of the research process easy.
As a student and Research Officer at my work place, it is now easier for me to come up with research ideas that can be transformed into scientific studies that can have an impact on the food and nutrition sector as well as the socioeconomic status of both local and regional communities. I also utilise the teaching and presentation techniques (used by visiting lectures from partner universities) when I am training students and entrepreneurs on value addition technologies.
Any Impact at national and or regional level?
Graduate students benefited from the diverse expertise and experience of visiting lectures from the different partner universities thus imparting them with diverse knowledge, skills and innovative ideas. Students have also participated in joint teaching through use of the virtual teaching and learning facilities. All these activities have improved the students’ research capacity and employability.
Generally, the PASUFONS project has greatly contributed to the enhancement of graduate students' knowledge, skills and research capacity through joint teaching exchange programs, and virtual teaching and learning. Discussion of students' research ideas by knowledgeable and experienced academic staff from partner universities enabled students to fine tune their research concepts thus enabling them to come up with publishable scientific work that can be shared with other scientists in other parts of the world. Therefore, I believe the PASUFONS project has tremendously contributed towards enhancement of the research capacity of graduate students and equipped them with diverse skills to transform the food and nutrition sector.