Deous Mary Ekyaligonza is a Ugandan with over 10 years of experience in implementing agroecology and natural resource management in Uganda. While working as an Assistant Lecturer at the Mountains of the Moon University, she was nominated for an APPEAR scholarship which helped her to complete her doctoral studies at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna on 3 April 2023. Her PhD focused on organic matter management and cropping systems for soil fertility improvement in smallholder farms in Uganda. The study also looked at the underlying socio-economic conditions that can increase food production. Her PhD was funded by APPEAR through the project Strengthening of Higher Education, Research and Community Outreach in Agroecology in the Rwenzori Region, Western Uganda | AER. The research provides smallholder farmers with knowledge on how to improve their livelihoods based on locally available resources and the sustainability of ecosystem functioning. It bridges the gap between the academia and experts in the field. In the university system, it brings a sense of systems understanding in dealing with vulnerable ecosystems. This to a great extent is highly valued by Mountains of the Moon University (MMU), the community, and Mary herself as a a scholar.
Mary talked about how she worked with farmers to carry out her experiments. She explained that it was within the APPEAR project that she identified groups of farmers from which they selected model farmers. She explained that it was very important to get the farmers on board, to sit down with them, to involve them in discussions and to learn from them. However, she also faced some difficulties when some of the farmers simply decided to use the agricultural land where she was conducting her experiments to grow other crops. She further explained that what saved her was the large sample of farmers she started the experiments with. She encouraged her fellow scholars to always be smart and plan for every eventuality that comes along in the research process.
Mary's stay in Austria gave her the opportunity to learn through a variety of methods, including seminars and field visits. The knowledge gained is now being applied in her work, including teaching at her home institution. By interacting with people from different parts of the world, with different cultures and intellects, Mary obtained exposure that enabled her to stay and work in a multicultural environment. Some of the people she interacted with are now project partners, while others have shown potential for collaboration. In addition, her stay in Austria enabled her to learn how to organise interesting events, a skill that can be applied in her home institution and in her country at large in organising workshops and networking events.
In addition to interacting with peers, Mary was exposed to potential funders of various academic partnership projects. Through this exposure, Mary has been involved in the preparation and submission of projects and plans to apply for further project funding from the Austrian government. Overall, Mary's doctoral studies enabled her to be confirmed as a lecturer in the MMU public dispensation in 2022. She has also been responsible for developing and reviewing the curriculum for the Master of Science in Agroecology in the AER I and AER Phase II projects at MMU from 2018 to date, as well as other curricula within the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources at MMU.
Watch this video to learn more about the PhD research of Deous Mary Ekyaligonza.