GULU - Small scale farmers want government to involve them in seed management system say this will help them stop depending on expensive inputs available from the market by the private sector.
According to a new study conducted by Eastern and Sothern Africa small holder farmers’ forum –Uganda chapter (EASFF) on “Challenging Seed Industrialization in Uganda”, the current legal regimes are obstacles to farmers especially small holder when it comes to using indigenous seeds.
It reveals that most local farmers prefer indigenous seeds due to the social, cultural and economic benefits associated with these seeds as compared to the hybrid ones.
The study carried out in three districts of Gulu Hoima and Iganga, says farmers are very free to access the seeds in the community without any law hindering them. In all the districts, the exchange of seeds is done by consensus where two parties agree to what both are interested in, hence sharing or exchanging the seeds freely.
Result shows that in the past, smallholder farmers used to exchange indigenous seeds among themselves especially women and the act was passed on from generation to generation. Those who had granaries would store seeds for the next season. However, the culture is no more because of the use of pesticides and hybrids.
The study recommends that government supports smallholder farmers technically and financially in order for them to exchange knowledge and experiences as well as strengthen their organizational capacity in managing and promoting Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS).
Speaking at the Launch of the report in Gulu recently, EASFF Uganda chapter Hakim Baliraine said once farmers are supported to participate in the seeds management system chain, it will lower the cost of production in the agriculture sector.
“The cost of production in Uganda is high because farmers depend on conventional farming inputs such as seeds we need government to support local farmers to produce their own seeds rather than depending on the private sector (seed companies)” He said.
Launching the report, Gulu district chairman Mapinduzi ojara asks farmers from Northern Uganda to practices good practices if they are to fight poverty at household’s level.
“For the agriculture sector to perform at its maximum, farmers need to embrace technologies that will help them overcome the challenges of climate change which is becoming big problem to the sector especially in Northern Uganda,” he said.
Why farmers are advocating for FMSS
The Seeds and Plant Act, 2006 and the draft National Seed Policy do not address the right of farmers to use, exchange, and sell their saved seeds. Neither does the Seed and Plant Act 2006 which is responsible for the production of breeders ‘seed and early generation seed. The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) through Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) facilitates access to seeds and planting materials for smallholder farmers. The Crop Protection Department of Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries is in charge of seed company licensing, variety release and cataloguing; import and export regulations; and seed quality assurance.
“Under such legal regimes we (smallholder farmers) are finding it more challenges, how? The government programme of free seed distribution to farmers distorts market dynamics and negatively impacts the seed distribution networks. This is because not all seeds for the various crops farmed by small holder farmers are being supplied to the end beneficiary under the current government arrangement,” Baliraine explained.
The launch of the report was attended by farmers from Northern Uganda District officials and Local government leaders from the region.
In the report, farmers are saying that over depending on seed provided by Government won’t support smallholder farmers to adopt climate change and other related outraces in the Agriculture sector. The report indicates that Smallholder farmers use the local seeds because they are healthy and do not contain the chemicals, sweet and nutritious and very natural, resistant to some weather shocks and climatic changes and can be used as medicine. Local seeds can be replanted for a number of seasons, very tolerant to weed infestation, very good nutritive value, very easy to store, alongside being resistant to diseases and pests.
Additionally, the report also found that local seeds are very easy to access as they are found within the community and are affordable.
Despite the above positive attitudes about the local seeds, government urges that local seeds produce low yields, have a very long maturity period, for example cassava, pigeon peas, sorghum alongside the varieties not being tolerant to negative effects associated with climate change.
The report suggested the need to strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers that are engaged in saving seeds to value and protect these local genetic resources and related knowledge.
The report furthers calling for more research to be to be done in FMSS amidst changing climatic conditions which has increased smallholder farmers dependence on private seed companies.