Meet Dr. Gorrettie Ssemakula, a Ugandan crop scientist rooting for better nutrition and food security in her country. From her base at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Gorrettie has been researching and developing more nutritious and better performing crops for more than a decade.
Among those crops is the award-winning orange sweet potato (OSP), which is providing more than half a million Ugandan farming households with an essential micronutrient—vitamin A. This super crop has become a strategic weapon in combatting vitamin A deficiency, which claims the lives of some 30,000 Ugandan children every year. Under her leadership at NaCRRI’s Sweet Potato Program (2009 and 2013), Goretti and her team developed two of the six OSP varieties that Ugandan farmers can currently choose from.
Gorrettie has also committed her plant breeding knowledge and skills to improving cassava, another popular staple crop in Uganda. Thanks to her work, 12 virus-resistant cassava varieties are now available to Ugandan farmers, who have previously been hit by a severe outbreak of cassava mosaic disease. She is lending her expertise to other countries in the region through the East African Root Crops Research Network, and represents the region at the International Society for Root and Tuber Crops- Africa Branch.
Through her membership and participation in several professional associations—Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety consortium, African Crop Science Society, and Sweetpotato Seed Systems Community of Practice in Sub-Saharan Africa—Gorrettie remains grounded in her field and passionate about improving life through science.
Let’s raise our hats to Dr. Gorrettie Ssemakula, a science champion and a HarvestPlus global spokeswoman.
*The author is a Nutrition Communication $ Advocacy Specialist with HarvestPlus-Uganda