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Ensuring Food Safety: How Uganda Has Developed its Capacities to Test and Monitor for Veterinary Drug Residue in Animal Feed and Products

Today, staff in the participating institutions are using the skills and experience they acquired through the project for the routine testing and monitoring of veterinary drug residues. (Photo: IAEA)

In October 2009, Ms. Mary Nakibuuka from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) attended her first IAEA training course, on analytical techniques for veterinary drugs residues in foods, at the FAO/IAEA laboratory in Seibersdorf. It was to be an eye-opening experience for her, who quickly realized that her home institution did not have the capacity it needed to fulfil its mandate to ensure the quality and safety of locally manufactured products.

Agriculture is the backbone of the economy in Uganda, employing over 60% of the population and contributing over 70% of export earnings (World Bank, 2016). The safety and quality of agricultural produce is of the utmost importance if consumers are to be protected, trade facilitated, and national export competitiveness ensured. Ms Nakibuuka was quick to recognize that Uganda needed greater capabilities for the inspection, monitoring and testing of veterinary drug residues in animals, animal products and animal feed.

She suggested that her institution request support from the IAEA in the form of a technical cooperation project that would build national capacities to inspect, monitor and test veterinary drug residues in Uganda, using nuclear and isotopic techniques. Recognizing that senior management support would be essential for the success of the project, Ms. Nakibuuka worked with Uganda’s National Liaison Officer, Ms. Sarah Nafuna, and the IAEA Programme Management Officer to build awareness of the value that nuclear science and technology could add to the country’s analytical capabilities. “Buying into and owning the project turns out to be one of the management’s best decisions,” said Ms. Nakibuuka.

Buying into and owning the project turns out to be one of the management’s best decisions.
Ms. Nakibuuka, Researcher, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS)

Ms. Mary Nakibuuka from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS). (Photo: IAEA) 

In 2014, the new project[1] was set in motion, supported by a steering committee that included stakeholder institutions such as the National Animal Disease Diagnostics and Epidemiology Centre (NADDEC), the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the Government Analytical Laboratory (GAL), the Dairy Development Authority (DDA) and the National Drug Authority (NDA). The project supported data sharing among the stakeholder institutions, and provided their staff with training in analytical method development and validation as well as in using instrumentation to analyse veterinary drug and pesticide residues. Senior staff undertook scientific visits to more advanced institutes, gaining insights into model veterinary drug residue monitoring programmesFinally, the project supported the establishment of a well-equipped, specialized laboratory at UNBS to provide effective support for the monitoring and control of veterinary drug residues.

Today, staff in the participating institutions are using the skills and experience they acquired through the project for the routine testing and monitoring of veterinary drug residues. Numerous end users have benefited, including food processors, small manufacturing enterprises and academic researchers. UNBS offers testing services to customers in the country at a subsidised rate. The income generated by these services and the favourable staff retention policies are contributing to the long term sustainability and self-reliance of the capacities built .

“This TC project is not mine just because I am the counterpart, rather we are hosts and the benefits are for our country Uganda”, said Ms. Nakibuuka. “Factors for project success are the strength of team work, openness and communication because where I am not strong others have readily filled in that gap”, she added.

The 2014 project was followed by another IAEA TC project[2] in 2016, which continues work to enhance Uganda's capability to establish and implement a sound national residue monitoring system. Through this project, implemented by the TC Division for Africa and the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, Uganda has received further support in capacity building and in modernization of analytical instrumentation, including a liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometer and the relevant stable isotopes. As a result, Uganda is now able to conduct confirmatory analyses and no longer needs to outsource these services, which has a direct contribution towards Sustainable Development Goal 2 on zero hunger.

This story includes contributions from Ms. Mary Nakibuuka, Senior Analyst at Uganda National Bureau of Standards and Project Counterpart, and Mr. James Sasanya, Project Technical Officer, NAFA

 

[1] UGA5034, ‘Strengthening National Capacity for Testing and Monitoring of Drug Residues in Animal Feeds and Animal Products’.

[2] UGA5039, ‘Enhancing the Monitoring of Veterinary Drug Residues, Related Chemicals and Natural Food Contaminants’.