For many years, Ugandans have debated about GMOs. Activists have called for rejection of seeds developed through genetic engineering while scientists at institutions like Naro have defended them as necessary for food security. But in this debate, farmers’ voices have been weak.
Many farmers faces challenges, often lacking necessary inputs like fertilisers and irrigation. And with climate change, soils are losing fertility and the rains are unreliable.
We do not want to be dependent on imports, so the food security depends on success or failure of the farmers.
I have been interacting with researchers from Namulonge for many years I got my first cassava cuttings from NaCRRI in Namulonge. In my interactions, I learnt that Naro has used GM technology to address major crop problems.
If we have trusted our researchers for the previous varieties, we can also trust them to use this technology to help us.
As a cassava farmer, I worry about Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), which makes cassava unfit for consumption or sale. The diseases also affects the leaves.
Smallholder farmers are losing food sources while commercial farmers are losing income. But in a sensitisation meeting by Naro officials, they told us they have developed virus-resistant cassava using genetic modification. Why is this cassava variety with the farmers yet?
Also, bananas are affected by bacterial wilt for example. Yet bananas, are crucial to the food security of Uganda. When the wilt attacks, the only option is to destroy the plantations.
Moreover, we are told to disinfect our farm implements with Jik or to buy paraffin to burn the plantations infected with BBW and CBSD, but some small-scale farmers cannot afford to buy paraffin or Jik. So, they end up with total crop loss.
But we have been told that Naro has developed GM bananas and cassava with resistance to these diseases.
I am confident that these researchers are giving the best available solution to address crop challenges. Some critics have vehemently opposed biotechnology, citing several shortcomings, many of which I have learnt to be myths. I do not know any crop variety that has been developed by these opposing NGOs and groups.
Lastly, I have learnt that there should be a law in place to allow researchers at NARO to release the improved varieties to farmers.
There is a current solution to farmers’ predicament and as the researchers look for permanent solutions, let us embrace biotechnology and genetic engineering now, to raise yields and better our livelihoods, while expanding the country’s food basket.
The writer is the chairperson Farmers’ Forum, Busukuma Sub-county, Wakiso District
SOURCE: Daily Monitor