Protect Indigenous seeds –Activists

Food rights demand for regulations to implement seed Act

Food rights activists have warned the continued absence of the regulations to operationalize the 2006 Seed and Plant Act will have serious economic and social implications on the small scale farmers.

The activists say that although the National Development Plan provides that Agriculture has the potential to transform the country, this is not consistence with the legal framework to support the ordinary farmer. So the government technocrats might not achieve what they seem to envisage for the country in the long run.

The advocacy officer at the Participatory Ecological land Use management (PELUM) Richard Mugisha says that with a current boom in seed transactions, farmers have reported a number of problems with the seeds on the market which cannot be addressed. This is attributed to the absence of the regulations that are meant to implement the relevant laws.

The seed sector is not being regulated that is why there are fake seeds and counterfeits on the market. Mugisha says that famers are painfully buying the seeds every season but when they plant them, these seeds do not generate and there is no law to help such a farmer be compensated.

“you cannot arrest the seed dealer under such circumstances because there is no law, so it would be very good that  MPs expeditiously bring the regulations to operationalise the law”-Mugisha noted.

Mugisha says that having the regulations in place would be a way forward to have a sector that is regulated, inspected and managed in order to cause a transformation in the seed system.

He warned that without implementation of the seed act, farmers are likely to continue in this dilemma of losing out everything and of course it will throw the entire society more in a ditch of poverty and the ditch of famine.

This comes at a time when agriculture has been identified as a potential sector that provides greater opportunities for the people and subsequently results into national growth but the reality is different because of the inconsistencies in the policy framework.

“The National Development Plan is speaking another language, the Seed policy is speaking another language, and the ministry is speaking another language so there is no coordination within the different departments, so when there is no harmonization,  the person to suffer is the small scale farmer, the ordinary man/woman whose livelihood entirely depends on agriculture”-Mugisha concluded.

Mugisha says that the absence of the regulations to implement the Seed law also expose farmers to rely on genetically modified Seeds (GMO) which undermines the indigenous seed systems. He  warned that this could force Ugandans in a challenging situation which he referred to as Acquired Economic Dependency syndrome which he describes as another AIDS .

If the farmers are denied their rights (rights to save, share, the right to multiple seeds) it is likely to put our seed systems at risk, meaning we have already surrendered our inheritance, the only inheritance we have as Ugandans or African s is our indigenous seed system, one that has a lot of nutritional and medical values.

Yet this is something (indigenous seeds and animal breeds) that Africans should jealously safe guard from the intrusion of seed varieties that are coming from other countries. for example the varieties that are coming from South Africa and other countries , those ones have failed to work that is why you hear some farmers complain  that when  planted they never germinated , true.

Sometimes farmers have found such seeds already timed out either they are expired or they are not compatible with agro-ecology, so that is why it is important the leaders should support the indigenous farming system.

Activists from the Food Rights Alliance call for strengthening of the capacity of the existing farming communities to increase on production by using they own natural resources.

“We have the potential by-the-way what we need is a strong will of the leadership to further invest in agriculture, it’s a  shame to say that agriculture is the country’s  backbone  and yet when you look at the kind of investment in  the national budget  it(agricultural Sector)  is the least funded , so you wonder which is which , I think that is a  strong contradiction”- said Mugisha.

He went ahead to disagree with the concept that it is time to introduce GMOs in Uganda to match well with the fast growing population in terms of ensuring food security.

He says that the issue is not about meeting the food demands in terms of the fast growing population; but the issue is having many consumers of food that do not produce neither, do they buy food who are   the youth. We need to have the youth who are the biggest portion of the population into agriculture. so It is time that all of us get into food  production, he suggested .

GMOs are being pushed into Uganda. this is not our own initiative, it came into Uganda in 1997 from the then USA president , it is coming to cause an economic genocide, enslavement of our farmers that have already been used to the culture/practice of saving their own seeds, Mugsiha warned .

According to the food rights activists, what is also disappointing is we (Uganda) are putting all our eggs in one basket.  They point out that for instance when someone visits the field trials in Kawanda, Namulonge, and Kasese, the scientist there are trying out GMO Bananas, GMO Maize, GMO Cassava, GMO millet.

 And of late there is information about a GMO fish where they will be picking a gene from a pig which means Muslims will eat a pig in fish which I think will be very bad, Mugisha regrets.

Now the Food Rights Alliance together with the Participatory Ecological land Use management (PELUM) want the local communities to be supported to develop and establish their own local seed banks so that in case something wrong happens in future at least they have a fall-back position.

They highly recommend that investment is made in supporting local farming communities to establish either individual or groups seed banks of indigenous varieties for future purposes because you don t know what will happen. Since even the motives of the pushers of GMOs into Uganda are not know.

Dr. Grigon Olupot a science lecturer at Makerere University recommended the enactment of laws that protect the indigenous seed systems in order to save the country from the adverse effects of the GMO seeds on the soils, food security and the consumers themselves.

Olupot notes that our indigenous varieties have been selected by nature over a long period of time thousands if not millions of years and if you want any drought resistant varieties, it is our indigenous varieties.

 “and that is why the other guys are smart while they are bringing us products they have programmed to fail, they are actually harvesting ours and taking them to their gene banks to store, probably to bring back to us later in a new form. So we need laws that actually protect the indigenous knowledge first, but if you look at the current seed policy is all about corporatizing the seed industry”-said Olupot.

According to the Makerere University Science don, the Plant variety and protection Act is all about inspectors and condemning our indigenous practices. He says that if one looks at the bio-safety and bio-technology bill, it is all about commercialization of GMOs in the country. Yet there is no single country in the world that has solved the hunger problem with the GMO technology. He gives an example of America where 1 in every 5 people is surviving on food aid.

“The environment is getting destroyed, people are getting sick, what is not happening right with GMOs, and it is a downward trend to mutual destruction”. -Olupot