The National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) has been a founding partner of the NextGen Cassava project since its inception. We interviewed Robert Kawuki, cassava breeder at the National Agricultural Research Organization of Uganda and NextGen Cassava country lead, to learn more about the institution’s collaborations.
Header Image: NextGen researchers stand at a NextGen Cassava uniform field trial in Serere District, Uganda. Left to right: Alfred Ozimati, Marnin Wolfe, Robert Kawuki, Williams Esuma, and Chiedozie Egesi. Photo provided by Robert Kawuki.
What is NaCRRI’s role in NextGen Cassava? What are the main activities/objectives being accomplished here?
The National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) is a public agricultural research institute in Uganda, under the policy guidance of the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO). NaCRRI is mandated to lead research and development endeavours to enhance the productivity and utilization of crop resources through generation and dissemination of information and appropriate technologies. Accordingly, NaCRRI has been, and continues to be a key stakeholder in the NextGen Cassava Breeding Project. During the first phase, NaCRRI participated in the implementation of six project objectives. Under Phase 2, NaCRRI is equally heavily involved in implementation of activities within the Research, Breeding and Survey Divisions.
Are there any Masters/PhD students funded by NextGen at NaCRRI? What is their work focused on?
In Phase 1, 5 students from Uganda were supported under the NextGen Cassava project: Esther Amuge (M.Sc candidate Makerere University; yet to graduate); AnnRita Nanyonjo (M.Sc candidate Makerere University; yet to graduate); Alfred Ozimati (PhD, Cornell University); Ismail Siraji Kayondo (PhD, West African Centre for Crop Improvement, Ghana); and Paula Iragaba (PhD Candidate Cornell University, yet to graduate). Their work focuses on various aspects of disease resistance (specifically cassava brown streak disease) and identification of preferred traits.
Under Phase 2, NaCRRI will have two PhD candidates. The first PhD candidate will be registered at Cornell University; his/her thesis research will focus on cassava brown streak disease with research objectives tailored towards virus titre assessment, yield penalties and marker validation. The second candidate will be registered at West African Centre for Crop Improvement. His/her thesis research will focus on high throughput phenotyping of cassava root quality traits, with research objectives tailored towards use of near infra-red spectrometry (NIRS) methods for assessment.
Has the partnership/involvement with NextGen benefited NaCRRI? In what ways?
Yes, the partnership under NextGen has significantly boosted NaCRRI’s and NARO’s research capacity and competencies. NextGen uniquely brings together international, regional and national research institutes and universities to develop a work plan for a single commodity: cassava. Certainly, the scope and extent of the unification platform provided by NextGen presents exciting challenges and opportunities, all for the benefit of NaCRRI in its endeavor to attain its vision.
How does NextGen fit into NaCRRI’s overall mission and goals?
NaCRRI conducts research, training and information exchange activities in partnership with regional bodies and universities, NGOs, and the private sector. NaCRRI’s research focuses on smallholder cropping systems on major crops including: maize, rice, cassava, sweet potato, beans, soybean, and horticultural crops. The institute has released 21 cassava varieties during the last 30 years, and now hosts the Cassava Centre of Excellence. NaCRRI cherishes this partnership and is currently exploring avenues of sustaining it.