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A CHALLENGING DILEMMA OF FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN UGANDA

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A CHALLENGING DILEMMA OF FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN UGANDA

Post by sol_drethedon on Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:26 am

A CHALLENGING DILEMMA TO FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN UGANDA.

Food is a basic human right. As stakeholders look for solutions to the current food crisis, there is need to keep in mind the voices of those who grow and produce food; the farmers. Traditional food crops have always ensured food security at the household level, and contributed to people's livelihoods.

Genetic Engineering of crops being presented as the best and only alternative to resolving the food crisis in Africa and particularly in Uganda, ignoring indigenous and sustainable systems of food production which are best known, affordable and controlled by the local people. Uganda is one of the 5 countries promoting GMO's. Other countries include Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa. It is unfortunate that the government of Uganda seems to be fully embracing the introduction of Genetically Modified Crops in Uganda without adequate sensitization of it's citizens in the existing implications and risks to the Agricultural sector.

Biotechnology has for decades been used in activities such as fermentation and preservation of food, baking and brewing beer. While the country appreciates new technologies being generated by research, farmers today face more challenges than if solved, can help improve on food security in the country. Such problems include the coffee wilt, banana bacterial wilt and cassava brown streak disease. Uganda has a National Bio safety Policy (2008) and is also in the process of formulating a law to introduce GMO's in the country. Surprisingly, the absence of the bio safety law, has not stopped laboratory and field testing for GMO crops such as GM bananas in Kawanda, BT cotton in Serere, GM maize in Kasese (under Water Efficient Maize for Africa-WEMA project), and cassava, rice and sweet potatoes at Namulonge Research Institute.

Government and some scientists argue that GMO's are the way to go to eradicate hunger in Uganda, reasoning that GMO's are drought resistant, have high water retention qualities and are fast growing thus would increase food production for the growing population, reduce agricultural chemical and pesticide use, resulting into increased yields and better nutrition.

Ugandans should note that; introduction of GMO's is likely to quicken the distortion of Uganda's rich biodiversity and cause farmers to be dependent on external inputs for their livelihoods. Traditional farmer's practices of saving and multiplying indigenous seeds will also suffer extinction, forcing farmers to buy fresh supply of seeds for every planting season from the private sector.

Basing on what has happened to small-scale farmers living in countries where GMO's have been adopted, Ugandan small scale farmers will have to sign licensing agreements with stipulations that ban re-use, re-sell, saving, supplying or transfer of seeds to any person because seeds will be patented. In this way, multinational companies will have absolute monopoly over production and distribution of seeds thereby undermining and compromising Uganda's food sovereignty.

The government of Uganda should therefore strongly support farmers to save their indigenous seeds and protect agricultural biodiversity for the future generation. This is very important because farmers need seeds that are suitable for their local Eco-systems, taste and climate.

Through Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, government should increase the budgetary allocation to agriculture to 10% as stipulated in the Maputo Declaration, and exploit the possibility of establishing an Agricultural Bank that will explicitly focus on farmers' credit needs and hedge against risks like crop failures.

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sol_drethedon

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