Commentary

Farmers can use intellectual property tools for value addition

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By Edwin Tabaro

Posted  Monday, August 18   2014 at  01:00

In Summary

Tourism, sports, and most of all, agriculture are the industries that would enhance these novel qualities, but how much has been done to make this possible?

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Uganda is said to be the Pearl of Africa and gifted by nature perhaps because of the fertile soils, congenial climate and friendly people - also echoed by the country’s National Anthem.

But how have we used these great gifts to enhance our productivity and have the world/markets realise that our agricultural products originate from these natural endowments.

Tourism, sports, and most of all, agriculture are the industries that would enhance these novel qualities, but how much has been done to make this possible?
Because of these natural endowments, Uganda produces very high quality pineapples, coffee, cotton and bananas.

In the area of animal husbandry, the Ankole cow, a multipurpose breed adapted to the environmental rigours of the region, tolerant against ticks and produces milk with low cholesterol levels, stands out as a pristine product for intellectual property protection.

Ironically, government programmes have undermined the breed in favour of the boran or exotic cattle, which have quantitatively more production.

The breed is now under threat from indiscriminate crossbreeding, breed substitution and lack of a systematic breed development programme.

Yet, on the other hand, modern society is seeking new, more sustainable, fairer values which has sparked off unprecedented demand for return to authenticity, to what is genuine and sustains good health.

The product chain now demands that organic or natural food products be marketed with a mechanism that emphasises genuine marketing and efficient management systems for the product. This in turn emphasises value addition and better farm gate prices.

The previously non-productive product will attract a better price as long as the system in place such as geographical indication or collective trademark certifies its origin and quality with clear labels that can be easily identified.

The danger with the failure to recognise the gifts we have is that someone will sell our products, thus depriving Ugandan farmers and government of income.

This was the case with Ethiopian coffee whose brands were for a long time registered and marketed by Starbucks as its own, until the Ethiopian government challenged it and an agreement was reached.

The government is keen on adding value to these products.

Such value addition would require that the product ought to be protected by law with a verification system to certifying its source and quality to prevent it from unfair exploitation by third parties.

The revamped Uganda Registration of Services Bureau has set up an Intellectual Property Registry, which will help in registering the rights subsisting in these products.

Intellectual property is defined as those creations of the mind in relation to which the state confers monopoly to prevent their unauthorised exploitation.

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