What you need to know:
- Due to its location within the Tropics, Uganda is one of the countries with the most conducive environment for rapid pest and parasites multiplication. Poor rains lead to pasture scarcity and loss of crops.
Farming is a constant battle between the farmer and weeds, pests, parasites, and crop and animal diseases. The farmer is also constantly worried about the weather and climatic patterns.
Due to its location within the Tropics, Uganda is one of the countries with the most conducive environment for rapid pest and parasites multiplication. Poor rains lead to pasture scarcity and loss of crops.
Irrigation is expensive and only affordable to just a few farmers. With the onset of climate change and hitherto unknown crop diseases, the farmers are even more anxious.
In the recent months farmers have seen the prices of most inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides go up to unbelievable levels.
A 50-kilogramme-bag of CAN which cost about Shs11,000 last September now costs around Shs18,000 and the price is still rising.
Most herbicides now cost almost twice the amount that they did seven months ago.
A Fuso truck of cow dung commonly used by coffee farmers used to cost Shs800,000 four years ago now costs well about Shs1m.
Yet the country’s major food and cash crops are being wiped out by pests and diseases that have no known chemical cure.
Banana is under attack by the Banana Bacterial Wilt just as cassava is being destroyed by the Cassava Brown Streak Disease.
Dangerous pests such as the Fall Army Worm are destroying the maize crop. Production of cotton, sweet potato, and Irish potato is declining due to pests.
Pesticides which are anyway too expensive can no longer be depended upon to control crop diseases, which is why many governments around the world are turning to different approaches including the use of biotechnology to fight pests.
For example, Kenya has put in place systems to regulate the use of biotechnology to successfully grow maize, cassava, and cotton without the need for pesticides. Uganda which for many years has been conducting biotechnological research to get solutions to its crop production problems is still waiting for a biotechnology regulatory law for her farmers to benefit from the various otherwise successful research projects.
Mr Michael Ssali is a veteran journalist,