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Wakiso farmers want NARO to fast track the release of disease free cassava seed

By Prossy Nandudu

Added 5th September 2020 12:57 PM

Nakanwagi Aida, another farmer wondered whether NARO cannot use other laws to release the varieties to farmers as they wait for the pending the law.

Wakiso farmers want NARO to fast track the release of disease free cassava seed

Barisisoy Jemimah and Kyeune Richard, Wakiso farmers witness harvesting of GMO cassava under trials in Namulonge. (Photo by Prossy Nandudu)

Nakanwagi Aida, another farmer wondered whether NARO cannot use other laws to release the varieties to farmers as they wait for the pending the law.

AGRICULTURE         AGRIBUSINESS

Five years, ago, Jemima Barisiyoyi cleared her five acres of land to plant cassava. Her aim was to sell cuttings to the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) and also keep some for home use.

Using planting materials from neighbors and friends, she raised enough seeds for the five acres. At the start, cassava stems looked healthy, with no sign of disease.

"I started planning on how I would use the money because of the assured market I had with NAADS team that was procuring seed for distribution," said Barisiyoyi in an interview, at the National Crop Resources Research Institute recently.

After four months, she realised some plants were not growing taller; some had white things like ash, which were spreading faster.  

Disturbed by what she saw, she contacted the Wakiso district extension officer, who connected her to researchers at Namulonge.

Upon inspecting her garden they informed her that the garden had been infested by cassava diseases spread by white flies (that were looking like ash).

Diseases spread by the white fly include brown streak and mosaic diseases that cause 100% yield loss. To prevent such diseases, she had to look out for disease free planting materials. According to her, the option which is NASE 14 can only resist such diseases for three years.

She narrated her experience on Wednesday during the harvest of GMO cassava, organized by SCIFODE with support from VIRCA Plus cassava project and the National Crop Resources Research Institute in Namulonge.

"I have been participating in these harvests which all show that there are cassava seeds that resist diseases, but when the law comes into place," said Barisiyoyi.

She was backed by Nakanwagi Aida, another farmer wondered whether NARO cannot use other laws to release the varieties to farmers as they wait for the pending the law.

The importance of involving farmers in the GMO harvests is part of the recommendations by the Cartagena protocol on Biosafety that encourages participation of stakeholders like farmers who are direct beneficiaries of biotechnology research products.

The importance of involving farmers in the GMO harvests is part of the recommendations by the Cartagena protocol on Biosafety that encourages participation of stakeholders like farmers who are direct beneficiaries of biotechnology research products.

For the two farmers  and others to get resistant varieties, they will have to wait for varieties developed through biotechnology.

With biotechnology, traits for resistance to a particular disease are taken from one crop and introduced into another to increase its ability to resist diseases and pests, explained   Dr Titus Alicai from NaCRRI.

Using biotechnology, researchers have developed cassava crops that are resistant to brown streak and mosaic, and have been tested in research stations across the country, to understand their adaptability to different agro ecologies, with the participation of farmers.

Although farmers are demanding for resistant varieties, those developed through biotechnology can only be released under a clear regulatory framework, he added.

The Genetic Engineering Regulatory Act (GERA) that was meant to provide a unifying regulatory framework is currently in parliament, after it was sent back by the President for the second time, added Isaac Ongu, the executive director of SCIFODE.

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