The first attempt to carry out community engagement started with the setting up of the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies in 1996 which served as an incubator for new programmes, courses and faculties. It brought to life many programmes especially those using the distance education mode. It also conducted short courses for the benefit of many members of society. In order to mainstream community engagement in UMU a special unit was created in the year 1999 to serve as a community social service arm of Equator Valley Farm (EVF), with a purpose of contributing to community development. This was to be achieved by active involvement of beneficiaries – farmers within a short radius of the university.

In 2003, that unit was transformed into an independent non-teaching department of Uganda Martyrs University named the Directorate of Outreach. Its purpose was to manage and coordinate Community Outreach Programs and related research. However, during the restructuring of departments in the University in December 2015, The Directorate was transformed into the Department of Education for Sustainable Development and Community Engagement, taking on the added responsibility of implementing the mainstreaming of Education for Sustainable Development in the university and the coordination of the Regional Centre of Expertise Greater Masaka (RCEGM).

Engagements with communities

From 2003 to 2015, the Directorate and then the Department have managed and implemented a number of community development programs and researches

  • 2003 – 2008: With support from a Belgian organization AP TRIAS, implemented a program which involved promotion of sustainable production and sales of agricultural inputs, development of marketing opportunities, and training of farmers and improvement of the nutritional situation in Nkozi Sub County, Mpigi district. The program saw over 1000 farmers mobilized to form a farmers’ association called Nkozi Agri-Business Training Association (NABTA) which is still existing and running independently of UMU support.
  • 2009 – 2011: with support from the SIEBEN Foundation (USA), implemented a project on promoting cooperative commercial agriculture for better nutrition through training of school children in Nkozi Sub County. It targeted and worked with 16 primary schools in the sub county
  • 2009 – 2015: under a partnership with the University of Notre Dame (USA), implemented the University Partnership for Research and Development program (UPFORD) in Nindye parish, Nkozi Sub County. It focused on improving food security through improved farming practices; improving water, sanitation and health care access; community empowerment through capacity development of community institutions; and, improve students’ community engagement and research
    • 2014 – To date: implementing the Social Enterprise Project (SEP), which is building on the registered successes through the establishment of the Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILCs) under the UPFORD program. The SEP project aims to improve entrepreneurial skill for SILC groups through onsite business skills training, increasing access to finance (in form of loans) and providing longer loan period.

    Currently there are three broad areas being pursued by the department

    1. Implementing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): the government of Uganda developed a national strategy to address the challenges of implementing the United Nations Decade of ESD. The strategy calls for integrating sustainable development in education. The integration of sustainable development involves mainstreaming the key sustainable development concerns into existing curricula with a focus on inter and intradisciplinary skills development, and lifelong learning which encompasses formal, non-formal and informal education at all levels of education and with communities. Therefore, the department is responsible for ensuring ESD mainstreaming in all course, programs, policies, plans and practices of the university. It will advocate for the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the region and promote relevant local action in favour of UNESCO’s Roadmap for implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development from the local context.

    Executed & planned activities (2016/2017):

    • Develop and support implementation of the ESD policy for UMU: drafting of the policy is in progress
    • Conduct trainings on ESD for UMU staff and students: one sensitization meeting has so far been conducted for teaching staff
    • Support the development and operationalizing the students’ internship policy: drafting of the policy is in progress
    • Support placement of students for internship / community engagement: For example, third year Students from the Faculty of Agriculture are assisted to get placed in Nkozi sub-county community for practical lessons and community engagement activities
    • Develop and avail ESD training materials, set up a resource Centre (for supporting transformative process of education and training)
    • Conduct an Audit and baseline survey on ESD mainstreaming (UMU and affiliated campuses)
    • Make inventory of on-going community engagement projects in faculties and departments
    • Organize a participatory diagnosis to identify and agree on thematic areas for participatory research
    • Work with faculties, students and the community on sanitation improvement in and around UMU
    • Monitoring of activities
    1. Coordinating the Regional Centre of Expertise Greater Masaka (RCEGM): UMU was nominated by NEMA and the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO to host the Regional Centre of Expertise (on ESD) in Greater Masaka. The application to establish the RCE was acknowledged by the United Nations University in Japan on 17th December 2015. This region covers 12 districts namely; Bukomansimbi, Butambala, Gomba, Kalangala, Kalungu, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Masaka, Mityana, Mpigi, Rakai and Ssembabule.

    This RCE is a network of institutions and people working together to deal with sustainable development issues through formal, non-formal and informal education. The objectives of the RCE are:

    • To increase public awareness and understanding of Education for Sustainable Development
    • To promote the reorienting of education towards mainstreaming ESD through practical educational approaches in the formal, non formal and informal education
    • Apply action research to identify sustainable solutions to emerging issues under the identified thematic areas
    • To identify and consolidate networks among stakeholders to document, share information and publish ESD best practices and lessons

    Executed & planned activities (2016/2017)
    Identifying and consolidating multi stakeholder’s networks: The most prominent initiatives are the WWF Lake Victoria Catchment Environment Education program and Uganda National Association for Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) work and projects at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) and at Katigondo Major Seminary.
    Activities include:

    • Regional Centre of Expertise Greater Masaka (RCEGM) was officially launched on 21st September 2016 by the Outgoing Secretary General of the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO
    • Designed a Logo and opened a website/page for RCEGM: submitted request to UNU for permission to use the Global RCE logo and permission was granted. Submitted information RCEGM to be put on the global RCE website
    • Developing an MOU to define working terms and relationships with RCE partners, stakeholders and members: Started on drafting the MOU
    • Participating in or attending ESD trainings, workshops and conferences: Our representatives attended the 6th African RCE conference in Nairobi (24-26th August 2016)
    • Fund raising – proposal writing, identify companies interested in providing funding or sponsorships: A research project proposal was submitted to USAID Uganda on building the literacy of early primary grade learners and improve their retention, to be implemented in Butambala and Rakai districts
    • Increasing public awareness through sensitization and to train trainers who are to carry out capacity development in region through formal, informal and non formal approaches.
    • Develop and avail ESD training materials, set up a resource centre( for supporting transformative process of education and training)
    • Conduct baseline survey and research on ESD implementation in Greater Masaka Region
    • Develop a data base for RCE
    • Organizing and conduct trainings and workshops on ESD for RCE members
    • Support setting up an RCE sub regional office to coordinate districts north of the equator
    • Organizing and conducting periodic meetings
    • Document and publish ESD best practices and lessons
    1. Promoting Community Engagement in the Communities around the university