“I want to implement this, so where are the seeds”
Women under the Uganda Women Network have asked the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) for improved seeds after undergoing training in maize growing at Namulonge, Wakiso district.
The women from multiple women organisations were trained at NARO’s National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) on Tuesday.
The training that involved explaining the different breeding techniques including conventional breeding like hybridisation and genetic engineering and their advantages convinced many about the benefits of genetic engineering (GM) technology. Some asked for the improved seeds after it ended.
Maureen Wagubi, a monitoring and evaluation officer at the Institute for Social Transformation and a small scale farmer in Mukono, said the training had converted her from a science sceptic to a campaigner. She hence asked for the hybrid and GM seeds.
“I want to implement this, so where are the seeds,” she asked.
Wagubi whose organisation is involved in women’s economic empowerment said she wants to practice what she learnt and transfer the knowledge to the women they worked with.
Sarah Agwang, the programme coordinator women economic empowerment at UWONET said it was not easy for women farmers to access such improved maize seed that is resistant to drought and pests.
She asked NARO officials if they would see some of the drought developed varieties and convey the information to the women’s organisations they work with.
Edith Nakumba, a vendor at Kalerwe Market in Kawempe division said the training was a learning experience about the different maize varieties.
“All in my life I thought there were only two maize varieties,” she said. “It is my first time to learn about the drought-tolerant varieties. I will teach my son and friends about the benefits of these technologies. That is why I am carrying this flyer,” she said.
Patricia Nanteza, a communications officer with the Banana National Program at Kawanda says farmers like Wagubi asking for seeds after learning about biotechnology is her everyday experience while working with a research institute using biotechnology to fight banana bacteria wilt.
“When they come here, they touch and see that it is a real banana, for the sceptics, they change instantly that they want to take the seed,” she explained.
Dr Barbara Zawedde, the coordinator Uganda Biosciences Information Centre who presented on the application of biotechnology in Uganda explained the evolution of maize from the wild grass maize in South America to the current well-seeded plant.
She also highlighted the benefits of hybrid technology in maize breeding including the selection of preferred parent lines with special traits to develop a specific variety.
NARO through NaCRRI has developed multiple drought and pest resistant varieties using both conventional breeding and genetic engineering.
While the conventional developed varieties have been released to the farmers, those developed through genetic engineering at yet to be released as they can only be released with a biosafety law in place, as required under the Cartagena Protocol.
The Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill that satisfied Cartagena requirements was passed by Parliament last year and is only waiting for President Yoweri Museveni’s assent to become law.
Breeders say GM technology helps them develop new varieties faster as they only pick those traits of their interest.