By Henry Nsubuga
The Government, through the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO), has launched a local chicken breeding and production unit in Mukono district.
Mukono Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MUZARDI) head Dr Barbara Zawedde, the head says this is intended to boost the research project, which is aimed at improving the local chicken into better breeds with faster growth and increased egg production rate.
The breeding unit was on Wednesday launched by agriculture state minister Robert Bwino Kyakulaga at MUZARDI in Ntaawo cell in Mukono municipality central division.
Zawedde said the civil works cost shillings 694 million, funded by the Government and European Union under the Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (DINU) including the remodelling and equipment of the local chicken hatchery research and production unit.
“The operationalised unit is intended to support the national local chicken seed systems. The main works involved the remodelling of the units into poultry breeder and seed holding units (biosecurity and reception unit, hatchery unit, research/production units, bio waste incinerator) to produce fertile eggs and day-old chicks to be supplied to selected hatcheries with fertile eggs and farmers with day-old chicks,” she said.
One of the researchers taking the lead in this project, Abas Kigozi, said they collected a variety of local chicken from all over the country including northern Uganda, which is one the leading regions in local chicken rearing and they are currently making the improvement of those local breeds into a better local breed.
Kigozi said unlike the local breeds, which have been taking more than a year to grow and start laying eggs, the one they are coming up with is much better.
“In a period of four months, they are weighing at least two-and-a-half kilogrammes and between five and six months, they start laying the eggs,” he said.
He however said that they are maintaining the local genes because what they are coming up with is not a hybrid. Therefore, he added that the end product from this research will taste the same as the local chicken, not like the hybrid.
Kigozi said this kind of research undergoes five stages and so far, they have completed the first three stages, remaining with only two.
Mukono Deputy Resident District Commissioner Mike Ssegawa said this research is timely because many people in villages are familiar with keeping local chicken which is easy to feed, treat and rear.
“With the current Parish Development Model (PDM), people will be able to invest into this kind of venture which will enable them to rear these local chickens with a lot of ease.
NARO director general Dr Yona Baguma told the minister that through different research institutions around the country, NARO carries out a lot of innovations which, if embraced by the local people, the country will be able to move a lot of miles ahead.
“We are, however, dismayed that the district agriculture and production officers do not bother to find out the latest research in different fields with us so that they can help the people in their respective districts to enrol on the latest developments,” he said.
He asked the minister to make sure that at every beginning of planting seasons, they host those officers in their different regions and take them through the latest innovations which would be on the market that particular season.
Existence under threat
MUZARDI supervisory committee chairperson Rebecca Bukenya Ssaabaganzi was also dismayed by the fact that the facility’s stay in Mukono is being threatened by Uganda Christian University (UCU), which claims the lease for the government has expired and, therefore, wants MUZARDI to vacate.
“This is a very big institution with trillions of money invested in different research projects including the ones which were concluded and others which are on-going. You cannot have this kind of research work and infrastructure shifted,” she said.
Bukenya asked the Government to bring UCU and the Church of Uganda as its mother institution on board so that the UCU as an institution would start working together with MUZARDI through a partnership or for the Government to have the university compensated.
“This facility is benefitting millions of Ugandans. Students ranging from primary schools, secondary and universities use this place as a study field, we cannot think of losing it in any way,” she added.
MUZARDI is currently occupying over 100 acres at Ntaawo, however, with the infrastructure developments going on around the facility, it is threatening the hub of research and innovation which for decades has been benefitting Uganda.
Bwino also appreciated the innovation pioneered by NARO at MUZARDI to have the local chicken improved into a better breed intended to increase their production output.
“At the end of this research, we are to ensure that the improved local chicken breed is distributed to farmers in different parts of the country. We may not distribute actual chicks but also fertilised eggs can work better,” he said.
The Minister also expressed dismay saying that land in almost every NARO’s different centers is faced with encroachers and people who vandalise their property.
He, however, instructed Baguma to work with the Police and its sister agencies to ensure that they provide security to government property under NARO.
PHOTO CAPTION: Some of the local chicken under research and innovation at MUZARDI in Mukono. Photo by Henry Nsubuga