This year’s World Food Day, like previous ones, was crowned by exhibition from various stakeholders in the food sector that included seed companies, civil society organisations, agricultural training institutions, secondary schools
trueBy Isaac Ongu
This year’s World Food Day, like previous ones, was crowned by exhibition from various stakeholders in the food sector that included seed companies, civil society organisations, agricultural training institutions, secondary schools, and various research institutes under National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) including National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Namulonge, where the event took place, and farmers who came to find solutions to their various problems.
Being World Food Day, there were several stalls that had seeds and those that had final products, which consisted of Uganda’s staple foods like cassava, sweet potato, banana. Food processing equipment, post-harvest and energy saving technologies were all on display.
Among the items showcased was the process of developing a transgenic cassava. Hellen, a young lady scientist from NaCRRI literally brought the laboratory to the stall. Her table had a microscope, sets of petri dishes containing plant cells and tissues, and test tubes that had sprouting cassava shoots.
She kept explaining to every show goer that checked on her the processes that she goes through to transfer what she called gene of interest with its advantage to a desired variety of cassava.
And there was Jude, another young scientist who had big tubers of cassava labeled NASE 19 and other cassava tubers that looked like joined big beads which he said were as a result of cassava Brown streak disease (CBSD). CBSD is a viral disease that affects cassava causing up to 100% root yield loss. Jude said the variety they have at the moment is tolerant not resistant to CBSD.
He told those who asked him for resistant varieties that they need the law so they can test it further before releasing it to farmers. One gentleman who stood close to me asked him for the resistant variety as MPs take their time with the law.
This gentleman was not alone. Most farmers who came to the exhibition were looking for solutions to their various problems. One lady, a teacher from Gayaza High school had a problem with her banana. She planted tissue culture plantlet; the shoot started to turn purplish towards the tip and was struggling to open. She thought perhaps it was a nutrient deficiency as she acknowledges her soil being poor and wanted to know what manure she could apply.
The banana corms she planted in another place were sprouting very fast with several suckers emerging, which again was undesirable. Farmers know who to turn to for solutions, they know solutions to crop failures are with those who work in laboratories not chambers.
It was clear that every farmer who went to the exhibition was looking for solutions to their problems not the law and yet lack of the biosafety law is slowing down research work and increasing on the duration these farmers would take to receive their preferred variety in a form that is resistant to the devastating crop diseases like cassava brown streak disease.
Seasoned Scientists including young ones like Hellen have committed their time to developing a product that will be beneficial to farmers in Uganda and beyond. One lady pleaded with a researcher for a small portion of cassava cutting that barely had six nodes, and asked for a tuber for tasting. That showed trust in the Agricultural scientists and the institutions they work for.
Farmers know these scientists for years have come up with several varieties and responded to threats from crop and animal diseases ensuring Uganda remains a regional food basket.
The writer in an Agriculturist and consultant on Agricultural information dissemination
Farmers looked for solutions at World Food Day Exhibitions