22 August 2018

Uganda: Farmers Blame Rise in Fake Seeds On Govt's Poor Policy

Lira — Farmers in Lango, Teso and Karamoja sub-regions have expressed concern over counterfeit seeds that are widely available on the market.

The farmers say they have been duped into buying the fake seeds on the open market, expecting to get good yields yet they never sprout.

Agricultural experts and civil society blame the challenge on the absence of the national seed policy.

Currently, between 30 per cent and 40 per cent seeds on the market are estimated to be counterfeits.

A farmer from Agali Sub-county, Lira District, Mr Alex Okello, says: "When you go to buy seeds, a dealer sells you the seeds without issuing a receipt and when you plant them, they fail to germinate yet you have nowhere to complain."

Widespread

Ms Deborah Atebo, the programme manager of Church of Uganda Teso Diocese Planning and Development Office (COU -TEDDO), says the problem of fake seeds cuts across the entire north-eastern region.

"Farmers are duped; they buy seeds, expecting to get good yields but at the end of the season, they barely get anything. This has impacted on their productivity and I believe this has greatly contributed to the poverty in Teso," Ms Atebo says.

Mr Christopher Komakech of Aridland Development Programme , a local NGO, says farmers in Karamoja are faced with the same problem because there is no policy framework that local authorities can use to monitor and eliminate the fake seeds.

"As civil society, we look at the enactment of the policy as a good step towards protecting farmers by ensuring that the seed producers know what to do and at the same time our farmers access quality seeds that at the end translate into increased production," Mr Komakech says.

Survey results

A 2015 survey commissioned by a consortium of three organisations; ADP, Facilitation for Peace and Development (FAPAD) and COU-TEDDO established, among others, poor regulation of activities of agro input dealers.

"We have realised that much as we are trying to give support to farmers in the country through training and input support, all these are not holistically addressing farmers' challenges," says Mr Geoffrey Onen, the programme officer in-charge of livelihoods at FAPAD.

Mr Onen notes that key challenges currently affecting farmers include, among others, limited access to quality seeds and land.

Mr Richard Ogwang Odyero, the Amolatar Resident District Commissioner, says government has left everybody to deal in seeds "and that is why there are very many fake seeds dealers in the market".

"But if the policies were comprehensive enough, stringent conditions would be put in place that state who is to become a seed dealer," Mr Ogwang says.

EXISTING POLICIES

Uganda has the Seeds and Plant Act 2006, the Plant Variety Protection Act 2014, Seeds and Plant Regulations 2011, the Plant Protection and Health Bill 2010, and the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2013.

FAPAD's programme manager Juliet Ebil says the draft of the National Seed Policy, currently before Parliament, favours interest groups such as the youth and the women but not the small-scale farmers.

However, Ms Ebil acknowledges that the Seeds and Plant Act 2006 is a good law if effectively implemented.

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