Amidst of Uganda’s MPs swearing in, we wait patiently for the parliament to release the budget for the financial year. While we play the waiting game, let’s talk agriculture in Uganda for a second. Statistics show that the agriculture sector on its own sustains up to three quarters of Uganda’s population, this same sector makes up almost 26 percent of our country’s GDP. When it comes to exports this sector accounts for 54 percent. It is safe to say this sector is one of the ribs of Uganda’s growing economy.
However, agriculture in Uganda faces a lot of challenges with little to no resources for investment in the agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilisers, farming technology and research. To top this off there is a new challenge, a new genetic improvement programme whose negotiations are speculated to have been going on under wraps for almost eight years. I do not have any proof to back this up so I will not say much. However, let’s talk GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) in this case seeds. This is where crop/seed DNA is manipulated to help with quicker results when it comes to the yield. This is not a natural process hence the emphasis on Genetic Engineering/ Modification. There is genetic swapping of DNA between organisms involved and that basically fast-forward’s the harvesting process; pretty much agriculture on steroids.
Genetic Modification is said to have started centuries ago and the USA have been using it in agriculture to increase productivity, to increase food security and prevent crop diseases. Companies like Monsanto have gone as far as patenting seeds like alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, sugarbeets and wheat. It is argued that in the USA, almost 90 percent of the seeds mentioned are genetically modified hereby are subject to patent; giving Monsanto the right to control access of the seed. My question here is, should any company have patent to any crop/seeds? Should any corporation have the right of control over food supply?
Monsanto has created an economy in which farmers have to rely on them for seeds. This corporation also includes genetically modified technologies that prevent this same seed from propagating resulting in plant termination rather than perpetuating. This means farmers have to go back to the corporation to acquires more seeds to plant more crop. Now imagine such a system in a country like Uganda. Where the common man in the village relies on his crop, his legumes, his seeds to make a living for his/her family. This cannot work in a third world economy like Uganda but there are dirty corrupted leaders and politicians who clearly are not thinking ahead of whatever is being offered to them. The policy makers in Uganda have to think of the people paying taxes. If any of these speculations are true, I bid National Agricultural Advisory Services to please play their part and protect the agriculture sector. To find other solutions for the different challenges faced in agriculture, to involve ALL the stakeholders when making such drastic decisions. To Protect Uganda’s agriculture given it is one of the country’s lucrative sector. With all this speculations and whispers, it is urgent for farmers and citizens to fight for this sector before it is too late.