By Prossy Nandudu
The government has earmarked sh60b towards research and development of an anti-tick vaccine.
The agriculture minister, Frank Tumwebaze, revealed that the funds are catered for in the next financial year’s budget.
The additional sh60b will push National Agriculture Research Organisation’s (NARO) total budget to sh161b in the next fiscal year.
This follows NARO’s request presented to the President through the ministry during a meeting with scientists.
Speaking during the award and recognition of NARO’s seed breeders at Kabira country Club on Wednesday, Tumwebaze asked researchers to prepare for the President’s visit to research stations next month as a follow-up on the progress in research.
Last year, President Yoweri Museveni tasked NARO with inventing a vaccine that will eventually eradicate the foot and mouth Disease (FMD) endemic that has ravaged livestock in Uganda.
The minister said the President wants NARO to make research relevant to the farmer and solve their problems, including the need of a vaccine for FMD that has become prevalent in several parts of the country and largely affected the beef industry.
Dr Sadiq Kasim, the director of technology promotion at NARO, said the money will go towards vaccine development, in particular, the vaccine against ticks.
He explained that currently, the candidate anti-tick vaccine is undergoing testing in confined field trials in different parts of the country.
Confined field trials are in five locations — Mbarara Zonal Agriculture Research and Development Institute, Kiburara Government Prison Farm for western Uganda, Nabuine Zonal Agriculture Research and Development Institute for eastern Uganda, Maruzi National Agriculture Livestock Resources Research Institute (NALIRRI) for northern Uganda and Isimba Prisons in Masindi district.
According to the principal investigator, Dr Fredrick Kabi, the trials that take one year are being conducted to ensure that the vaccine is safe, that it kills ticks and that it keeps away diseases associated with ticks, among others.
“In the trials, we are looking at safety, efficacy and effectiveness of the vaccines. When ready, we shall save the country sh3.8trillion that is lost due to tick-borne diseases. This will be taken to other programmes to help move the country to middle-income status,” Kabi said.
Anti-tick vaccine development was triggered by resistance of ticks to existing acaricides, of which some were fake, hence not effective in the management of ticks.
Tumwebaze asked researchers to work with the National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) in the development of online tracking systems to eliminate crop counterfeits and track stolen cows.
Dr Ambrose Agona, the director general of NARO, explained that the awarding ceremony was aimed at recognising researchers for a job well done and enable them earn for the first time from their work, through royalties.
The royalties are in form of money that breeders got from the commercialisation of their varieties of seed that were taken up by seed companies for sale.
“Each company declared how much they have sold in terms of seed to make it easy to calculate how much comes in from every kilogramme of seed sold. And that is the money that is being given out to breeders,” Agona explained.
He, however, added that the money will be subjected to a 6% withholding tax, which means that for a breeder who earned sh30m in royalties, this will be subjected to a 6% withholding tax.
Agricultural technologies generated by NARO have reached end-users without formal access procedures. This not only led to misappropriation, but also limited recognition and benefits-sharing to sustain research.
“Through this initiative, we shall be complementing funding for agricultural R&D by the Government and partners; enhancing and accelerating public access to and utilisation of NARO technologies and services; but also stimulating Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) and Self-reliance and improving the welfare of NARO staff,” Agona said.
Benefit to researchers
The initiative will ensure that farmers get quality seed.
“We are removing masqueraders who have been getting grains coloured and parading them as genuine seed. This is eliminating such people to make sure that farmers get quality seed from seed companies working with these breeders,” Dr Sylvester Baguma, the director of Bulindi Zonal Agriculture Research and Development institute said.
Nelson Masereka, the chairperson of Uganda Seed Traders Association, welcomed the initiative.
“It is what I have been pushing for. I would like to see an organised seed system so that people have what to put on the market instead of marketing what they do not have,” Masereka said.
Dr Stanley Nkalubo, head of the bean-breeding programme, was awarded for his outstanding work in the development of beans rich in zinc and iron to address iron deficiencies among children.