By Gladys Kalibbala
Reports from the ministry of agriculture indicate that more than 75% of Ugandans who live in rural areas earn their living through agriculture, a sector that contributes 21% to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Unfortunately, seed companies in the country can only produce about 20% of the seeds demanded by farmers across the country, according to the Commissioner for Crop Protection, Komayombi Bulegeya.
He says the low local supply “leaves a big gap where those in need of seeds cannot access them and so conmen get away with producing about 15% fake seeds to satisfy the market”.
Government, he urges, should support researchers in their efforts of producing seeds of high value while enforcing tough laws against producers of fake seeds.
“Seed companies also need to devise ways of more multiplication of these seeds in order to satisfy the market,” he adds.
A week before his comments, many veterans were complaining that several tonnes of seed given to them had failed to germinate. These were veterans who were affected during the NRA liberation war in Luwero triangle.
During the fighting several years ago, the community in these areas lost everything where homes and gardens were massively destroyed. So in order to improve the affected veteran’s household incomes, they were connected to a government programme introduced recently by President Yoweri Museveni.
From left, ministry of agriculture's Agriculture Komayombi Buregeya, NARO's Imelda Kashaija and Siraj Nyende, an agricultural inspector displaying rice seeds. PHOTO/Gladys Kalibbala
The programme provided many of them with seeds to enable them engage in agriculture for sustainability.
Unfortunately, over 150 tonnes of beans supplied to them in the last planting season failed to germinate.
It was noted that most of the eight tonnes planted during the rainy season in March around Lwengo District failed to grow.
Meanwhile, in Kyenjojo district the 10 tonnes which were given out also failed to germinate, leaving the veterans very frustrated.
Luwero-Rwenzori Development Programme (LRDP) designed to benefit 40 districts is the programme assisting these veterans to have a better livelihood.
New seed varieties released
Komayombi’s concern over fake seeds came during the 34th variety release meeting where a number of crop varieties were released into the market.
At the event, which took place at the ministry of agriculture headquarters in Entebbe, three types of Snap beans, four types of maize and five types of rice were unveiled.
- Snap beans: NARO SNSB 001/NARO, NARO SNSB J12 and NARO SNSB 004
- Maize: WE-2101, WE-103, WE-2104 and WE-2106
- Rice: WITA 9, NERICA 6, KOMBOKA (IRO5N 221), 1R 136 (AGORO) and TXD 306 (Okile)
Some of the seeds unveiled were rice varieties. PHOTO/PHOTO/Gladys Kalibbala
While releasing the crop varieties, Imelda Kashaija, who is the deputy director-general in charge of technology promotion and innovation support at National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) Namulonge, explained that such seed varieties are developed with the aim of increasing food production of high value and marketability in the global market.
She said Uganda has not yet produced sufficient rice for domestic consumption and urged farmers to use this chance because some of the types of the rice released mature faster.
“It is resistant to rice yellow mottle virus while it grows well both in upland and rain-fed lowlands and best suited for Eastern Uganda,” she told of one of the varieties.
The official urged farmers to embrace the maize which has been released into the market, saying maize is a priority commodity for food security and poverty eradication in Uganda.
“Developing high yielding and drought tolerant maize varieties can help improve the productivity of maize-based farming which could significantly reduce hunger, enhance food security and alleviate poverty through increasing the purchasing power of farmers.”
Siraj Nyende, an agricultural inspector, explained that the rice WITA 9 type has a very late maturity period – 152 days – while NERICA 6 matures faster at 115 days.