Farming

Getting good seed to farmers in Uganda

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By Gumisiriza Mwesigye

Posted  Wednesday, December 4   2013 at  00:00

In Summary

To address the challenges in getting quality seed for farmers, the stakeholders agreed on proposed solutions and forged a way forward.

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Stakeholders in the seed industry have called for recognition of the informal sector alongside the formal one and pushed for implementation of laws and regulations to counter challenges.

This was at the annual national seed event organised by Agri-Pro Focus Uganda in collaboration with Uganda Seed Trade Association (Usta) and Integrated Seed Sector Development Uganda.

It was held on November 27 in Kampala and brought together farmer groups, representatives of seed companies, agro-dealers, publishers, service providers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academia and development partners.

Counter challenges
Komayombi Bulegeya, commissioner for seed protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, opened the event. He pointed out some of the issues and highlighted government’s role in supporting the stakeholders to address them.

“As government, we are aware of the challenges you face and we will provide the necessary structures to support the stakeholders in dealing with them,” he said.

The event had four parallel sessions, which ran alongside an exhibition, and attracted 30 exhibitors and 220 participants. The sessions covered counterfeits, quality, production and financing.

Participants discussed how to counter the circulation of counterfeit seed. For the informal sector, they suggested farmer training on quality seed, distribution of open pollinated and self-pollinated varieties to farmers because they are easily manageable.

They expressed concern over flaws in information sharing, which partly contribute to dominance of counterfeit seed in the market. Therefore, they proposed communication hubs in communities so that farmers get the required information.

Quality assurance
On extension and uptake of quality seed, for the informal sector, participants suggested that farmers should be trained on seed production and linked to researchers so that their traditional seeds can be preserved.

There was also a suggestion to set up community seed banks where seed can be accessed by farmers. In the formal sector, they suggested the ministry and seed companies should be involved in setting up research stations and production points, and ensuring quality assurance. It was suggested that government acknowledge the informal sector.

With professional seed production, it was agreed that National Agricultural Research Organisation, the ministry, seed companies and development partners have a big role in educating farmers about quality seeds and giving them technical information. There should also be capacity building, recruitment of more professionals, and public private partnerships.

Best for the farmer
The session on financing focused on the key challenges. Government, private sector, development partners, farmer organisations, the warehouse receipt system and NGOs were identified as stakeholders who can address the challenges by co-guaranteeing loans, investing in public private partnerships, improving agricultural practices and facilitating farmers’ groups and associations.

In all, from the various session, it was agreed that; the national seed policy should be circulated; the private sector should spearhead the quality management of seed; the national bureau of standards—UNBS—should ensure quality products on the market; and the Plant Variety Protection Bill should be passed into law.

“Our interest is to provide the best to the farmers and we have discussed the issues and made suggestions on how to solve the challenges,” said Richard Masagazi, Usta chairperson in his closing remarks. “We will work with the ministry, development partners and other stakeholders in this effort.”

dmwesigye@ug.nationmedia.com