Crops like green gram (choloko) are not highly demanded by Ugandan consumers and as such are not widely grown in the country.
But on a visit to Nakasero Market, these are on high demand with a kilo going as much as sh5000.
The demand is mainly from the growing foreign community who are engaged into various sectors including expatriates. In Uganda, they are mainly grown in eastern and some parts of Northern Uganda.
However, much as there is demand, seed companies are not selling seeds for such crops leaving farmers only with an option of recycling. This leads to low yields and poor harvest which cannot be sold on the market.
It is against this background the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) and the Integrated Seed System Development (ISSD) decided to train farmers to produce seed of crops that have been ignored by seed companies.
Such crops include green gram (choloko), sorghum, irish potatoes, rice, millet, soya beans, groundnuts, sesame (simsim), peas, some beans among others.
This was revealed by the deputy director of NARO, Dr. Imelda Kashaija, while officiating at the end of the ISSD four year project of promoting Local Seed Business (LSB) in three areas of Uganda, at Hotel Africana.
The three areas include West Nile, South Western, and Northern Uganda and so far 105 farmers have been established.
She explained that such seed is produced with direct supervision of NARO through its Zonal Agricultural Institutions (ZARDI's), its monitored, tested and later cleared for sale as Quality Declared Seed (QDS) and these have a green label from NARO, indicating that they are of quality.
"We are catering for crop varieties that are on demand and can easily be grown by farmers, but have been ignored by seed companies. So these will be easily sold by farmers within their communities and beyond depending on the demand," explained Kasheija.
She added that QDS will reduce the gap that had been created by certified seed companies that are not selling all seeds grown in Uganda but have concentrated on a few crops like maize, which are expensive.
To come up with the quality declared seed, farmers were trained on the best farming practices like clearing the garden, identifying gardens suitable for which crop, crop rotation to maintain the quality of the seed, identifying grain from seed and storage until packaging stage.
"Quality declared seed is at less price compared it those offered by seed companies which factor in all the administrative costs that are transferred to a farmer through the prices" she added.
The deputy chief of party ISSD Uganda, Peter Oyee explained that farmer groups are producing affordable seed with minimal costs compared to those incurred by seed companies.
Seed fields are inspected twice while seed companies are inspected 6 times and more. When it comes to sampling of the seed a few samples are taken for QDS compared to seed companies
"But the few inspections and small amounts of seed for sampling doesn't not affect the quality of seed," Okoye emphasized.
How the groups are selected
The LSBs are composed of farmers interested in farming as a business, these are then taken through training, coaching and linking them to marketing opportunities and further trainings, and also to learn how to mobilize resources among others.
In the group there is a committee that monitors quality parameters to ensure that all members produce the acceptable seed for sale.
How NARO will support LSB
Through NARO 16 research institutions, they will link groups to market opportunities through the market linkages program.
"However more marketing should be done by farmers through constant consultation with research institutions nearby to find out the latest opportunities," added Kashaija.