31 December 2018

Uganda: Farmers Protest Government Registration of Seeds

Photo: Sally Nyakanyaga/IRIN
(file photo)

Farmers countrywide have protested government decision to register seed varieties saying it will throw many out of business because of the stringent requirements.

According to farmers, the seeds, which are grown in the different soils, topography and climate in Uganda, cannot be "uniform, distinct and stable," as the requirements for registration state.

They aired their grievances during a meeting of various farmers' associations spearheaded by Food Rights Alliance in Kampala last week.

In many shops selling the government-approved seeds in the city which Daily Monitor visited, a kilogramme of maize cost Shs5,000, beans go for between Shs7,000 and Shs10,000 per kilogramme depending on the variety, a kilo of millet at Shs15, 000 while sorghum costs Shs6,000.

In November, government, through Ministry of Agriculture began countrywide registration of seed varieties to improve crop yields.

The registration is being conducted at region, district down to village level.

According to the ministry, the registration will be concluded before the next planting season.

Mr Vincent Ssempijja, the Agriculture minister, in an interview with Daily Monitor, asked farmers to be patient.

"This process will affect farmers positively and we are being very strict. We want to improve productivity and agriculture in the country. Many countries have done it and it worked for them. It will work for us here too," Mr Ssempijja said.

According to government, seed experts will be dispatched to different villages and sub-counties around the country to visit renowned farmers and get their seeds for testing and certifying.

The seeds that pass the standards will be cleared for planting the next season and those that fail the quality test will be destroyed.

Certified seeds

The minister also said government has already marked certified seeds and supplied at sub-county level and shops across the country to be availed to farmers at a fee.

"If the seed from the previous harvest does not meet the standards, we shall advise the farmers to consume it as food and not to replant it at all. Those who refuse to comply will have their seeds destroyed," Mr Ssempijja said.

Mr Sam Obiya, a farmer from Koboko District, said farmers should have been given adequate time and sensitisation before the start of the registration exercise.

"Our seeds have been destroyed. This means we shall go hungry the following season if we do not have money to buy the seeds that government has provided as alternatives. In any case, they are expensive yet we could have afforded our own seeds," Mr Obiya said.

No sensitisation

Ms Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance, said there is need for a clear explanation to farmers as to why their seeds should be kicked out.

"There was no proper sensitisation, so the farmers are ignorant about what is happening. Government needs to come clean on this if they really care about agriculture and people," Ms Kirabo said.

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