By our reporter
“I am happy that there is some [good] work going on at NAGRC&DB…and smiling faces of staff. The impression is good. At least there is some change. You are now in the right direction. Thanks to the Board of directors, the Executive Director and your team.” These were some compliments from Col. Bright Rwamirama, the Minister of State for Animal Industry, during his Saturday 27 November, 2021 visit at the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC&DB) in Entebbe, a government entity charged with livestock breeding and management of state owned stock farms.
Rwamirama went on to castigate Ugandans who have made it a habit to turn her natural resources into a curse.
That whereas no country can beat Uganda as far as natural resources endowment is concerned, unpatriotic ones have failed to utilize the nature gifts on their disposal to create jobs, improve their wellbeing and that of Ugandans and instead spend time on fighting each other on all fronts including offices. The remarks have been interpreted as an approval by the minister that indeed NAGRC which has for the past years been dogged by a cocktail of scandals including job fights, is now back on its right course of delivering on its mandate.
On the wheel is Dr Peter Beine, who was appointed in September this year as the ED in substantive capacity by Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze upon the recommendation from the NAGRC board of directors and the Attorney General.
BACK TO THE EVENT
During his Saturday visit, the minister handed over 33 Artificial Insemination (AI) kits to 33 recently trained technicians on artificial insemination (AI) technology and skilling on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs).
The equipment included an Artificial Insemination 3 litre filled with liquid nitrogen and semen, Universal AI gun, semen straw cutter, Tweezers, throwing flask among others.
At the event where all board members were present, the minister later commissioned farm machinery at the Gene-Bank campus, and inspected the on-going developments at the Bull-stud and the National Livestock Quarantine Centre.
The minister tasked all stakeholders to recognize that livestock farming is now a business which must be taken seriously. Citing an example of the past where the government invested in training AI technicians’ only to end up in Boda boda business, the minister tasked the new trainees not to act as mercenaries but to understand the needs of farmers and solve them.
“We now need to see more of field based staff and strengthen the capacity of AI technicians, the screening and onboarding of the students within districts to have them remain in their districts after they have been trained,” he said, adding that he no longer needs to see most of the NAGRC staff concentrated in Kampala AC filled offices but to be in the field.
He cited breed, pasture or quality of the nutrition package, and unreliable staff as major challenges livestock farmers face and which NAGRC must address. He further tasked all stakeholders to be cognizant of the value chain in the breeding program and be sensitive to the market, something that can be achieved through efficiency in output, sufficient data and proper handling and orientation of starters.
“I have taken note of the major issues raised over monitoring the services of the AI technicians to ensure that the AI kits are used for the intended purpose.”
With the aim of improving milk production in Uganda, the minister also used the occasion to see the newly imported calf jersey heifers for optimal milk production.
Speaker by speaker, AI trainees were tasked to be good NAGRC ambassadors in their areas of service. NAGRC’s board chair, Dr Johnson Nkuuhe tasked them to serve farmers at affordable-subsidized rates, to be efficient (for farmers to appreciate their services) and at the same time to be team players by relating well with old guard in the field. The ED, Dr Beine also highlighted a number of targets they have been able to hit. Dr Beine led management has accomplished many things including evaluation of Artificial Insemination training course, strengthening collaborations with various stakeholder including Makerere’s COVAB; deploying resident AI technicians at each Dairy cooperative; and procurement of 60 Units of Artificial Insemination kits of which 33 were given out on Saturday.
AVCP PROJECT AT GLANCE
Under this project (Agriculture Value Chain Development Program (AVCP), NAGRC’s line ministry MAAIF has since tasked the former to enhance access to improved dairy and beef germplasm. Focus interventions include strengthening the capacity of NAGRC&DB Bull stud and Semen laboratory for production and delivery of artificial insemination outputs; building the capacity of Artificial Insemination technicians to deliver breeding services; profiling and building capacities of beef and dairy breeders and farmers, private breeding input suppliers; and building the capacity of dairy and beef farmers in the management of the breeding functions and other related skills. Others include collaborating with MAAIF to finalise the breeding guidelines and registration of cattle breeders and sensitization, training and preparation of potential dairy and beef cattle breeders for certification and registration. Areas earmarked for dairy and beef enterprises implementation include Nakasongola, Luwero, Mpigi, Gomba, Ssembabule, Mbarara, Kiruhura/Kazo, Ibanda, Buhweju, Mitoma, Isingiro, Sheema, Ntungamo, and Kabale.
Dr Beine and team has since hit the ground running and as a result the procurement has been initiated to stock NAGRC & DB Bull stud with 25 exotic bulls for local semen collection and distribution to farmers. Procurement process on going for 5000 sexed semen (doses) to produce elite herds of dairy and beef breeds; and 150 embryos to produce elite herds of dairy and beef breeds in partnership with private breeders. In collaboration with Excel Hort Consult, 384 farmers and input suppliers have been profiled in the cattle corridor to establish their needs. NAGRC has also held regional demo workshops for the private dairy and beef breeders. A combined curriculum has been developed for both the dairy and beef cattle farmer breeders. In partnership with the Livestock Development Forum, NAGRC&DB conducted training of farmers in South Western Uganda. The process to form four breed societies (Boran, Friesian, Jersey, and Ayrshire) has also started with nominating two champion heads per district. Dr Beine led management has revamped a previously dilapidated semen laboratory to enhance the output of the semen production at the Entebbe Bull stud. Regional bulk semen storage tanks for liquid nitrogen distribution to A.I technicians in the field, 1 pickup to support the semen cold chain have also been procured. The synchronization and Artificial Insemination of female cows is also going on well.
Furthermore, NAGRC&DB has recently enhanced its capacity for the embryo transfer services program with a newly purchased mobile laboratory to work with breeding farms both private and public.
According to the project coordinator Sheila Butungi, the enhanced capacity in the Embryo transfer shall expand the production output of embryos which can now be transferred to surrogate local animals for the production of tropicalized and well adopted pure exotic stock.
“This shall greatly boost the multiplication efforts of pure dairy and beef exotic stock in the country and gradually reduce importation expenses of the same stock and farmers can access them cheaper,” she said, but it goes without mention that “this proposed multiplication program requires resources to train field Embryo transfer experts, mobilization and preparation donors and surrogate dams and purchase of the hormones and reagents for the fertility treatments.” Dr.Beine led management’s focus now designing an artificial breeding and performance evaluation data system and strengthening NAGRC&DB capacity to deliver Artificial Breeding Inputs (semen, embryos, and liquid nitrogen).
Other areas are strengthening breed multiplication and supply systems (work with Dairy and Beef cattle breeders).