Dr Ernest Mwebaze, a lecturer at Makerere University, has won the coveted Massachusetts Institute of Technology-MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MIT-MISTI) faculty SEED grants in Africa.
The holder of a PhD in Computer Science (Machine learning), Mwebaze works with the college of Computing and Information Sciences, in the department of Computer
Science as co-head of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science research group/lab.
The grants were created to enable international researchers and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty to conduct joint research. Mwebaze and the team are to use the proceeds from the fund to work on a project, Using mobile technology for viral crop disease identification and analysis.
The project is called to enable farmers in the remotest parts of Uganda to use a mobile application to determine the state of health of their crops by taking a picture of their crops and having the software on the phone do an automated diagnosis to determine the type of disease affecting the plant.
“Validation and impact of our research will come to fruition when a smallholder farmer in a remote part of Uganda is able to take a picture of crops in her garden and get instantaneous feedback on the health of the crops as well as potential remedial treatments,” Mwebaze explained.
Since there is no fund specifically dedicated to Africa, Mwebaze won through the general pool which has less than a 30 percent acceptance rate.
“We hope to conclude the project by the end of August this year,” said Mwebaze, who hopes to continue carrying out important research projects to alleviate the plight of the smallholder farmer in Uganda.
Total E&P Uganda sponsored the Empower the Teachers (ETT) programme under MISTI that offers support to lecturers from Makerere University to visit MIT for the duration of a semester during which time they interface with the teaching and research faculty at MIT, learn better teaching methodologies and form linkages for collaborative research.
Apart from this, Mwebaze intends to host several other students from MIT later this year who will come and work with his research group at Makerere University to alleviate the plight of the smallholder farmers in Uganda.