Fake Seeds Aggravating Food Insecurity in Post War Northern Uganda

A local seeds dealer in Pabbo, Amuru district of Uganda

A local seeds dealer in Pabbo, Amuru district of Uganda

Kampala-Monday July 21, 2014, Agricultural production, in former war ravaged northern, has suffered a setback, as a result of fake seeds, that were supplied to the farmers by the Government of Uganda and donor agencies.

The former IDPs, who spent close to two decades in the camps surviving on handouts from international relief agencies, are currently struggling to rebuild their lives as relative calm returns to the region.

As they resettle back to their homes, the Government of Uganda, and a number of non-governmental organizations are helping them with farm inputs including seeds with the hope of making them to be self-reliance once again.

However the former IDPs are now expressing fear of a looming famine as a result of low crop productivity. They attribute low yields to poor quality seeds that they were supplied by the government and donor agencies.

The Continent Observer’s Joseph Elunya who visited the area that suffered from decades of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army led insurgency says farmers in almost all sub-counties are crying foul over poor yields.

Farmers Lament

“I was given two and half basins of rice seeds which I planted on three acres of land but they did not germinate. I don’t know what I will do because I had hoped to raise school fees as well as use part of the yield to feed my family” Laments 35-year-old Albert Okello of Kalogoro village in Amuru district.

Okello explains that the seeds were given to him by a non-governmental organization under assurance that they were high yielding variety but to his shock none germinated.

“When they were giving us, the seeds at Ayugi Farm, they had told us that we would be able to harvest, the rice after only three months but as you can see it’s now two months since I planted them and none has germinated”.

Like Okello, Stephen Obal another farmer from Kal Parish in Amuru complains about fake orange seedlings that they were supplied by the National Agricultural Advisory Service-NAADS an agency of the Government of Uganda.

“We were given orange and mango seedlings by NAADS and we were told that they are grafted ones but my friend five years down the road I’ am yet to get the first harvest. Why did those people fool us like that? As you see is this really a grafted orange?”.  Obal is contemplating cutting down his three acre orchard because of frustration.

 

A frustrated farmer stands next to the oranges that have failed to yield

A frustrated farmer stands next to the oranges that have failed to yield

Source of the seeds

“I bought K20 variety of bean seeds from a produce dealer in Pabbo Trading Center and planted them on these four acres but to my shock very few have germinated as you can see” explains 40-year-old Night Akonye a former IDP who is currently struggling to resettle after spending close to two decades at Pabbo IDP camp in Amuru.

She explains that she had hoped to raise some money from the sale of the beans but all that is now lost.

Night a farmer standing next to the beans that she planed but few germinated

Night a farmer standing next to the beans that she planed but few germinated

Leaders Speak out

“We have received numerous cases of fake seeds of which many are a result of seeds supplied by NAADS and NGO’s. Onetime we were forced to sit as Pabbo LC3 council and deliberate on it after receiving numerous complaints from farmers in Parubanga parish” explains Sev Ogik the Labala parish councilor.

Ogik says the councilors made an on spot visit and confirmed that the seeds that were supplied to farmers had not germinated.

“This came about as a result of poor storage by the supplier-Makweri Enterprise (a Gulu based local seeds dealer). We deliberated but we did not take any action” Ogik adds that the council discovered that the seeds that were supplied in Parubanga parish had expired.

In neighboring Gulu, the Chairperson of Gulu Farmers Association Helen Kilama says that her office received and investigated reports from farmers that the East African Seedlings branded groundnuts and sunflower seeds had failed to germinate. The seeds were supplied by local NGO’s.

According to Kilama the seeds were later discovered to be expired.

Dealer Speaks out

Oscar Torach, a local seeds dealer in Pabbo however blames the problem of fake seeds on both the farmers and dealers. “The farmers don’t mind reading the expiry date whenever they are buying while prolonged stocking also sometimes makes them to be infested by weevils.

Torach explains that farmers usually just ask for seeds and don’t mind about whether they are branded or not. He blames the problem on the seeds that are locally purchased from produce dealers.

The agricultural sector employs 73% of Uganda’s adult population and supports aggregate food production that is required for the country’s growing population of 34 million.

It is however important to note that whereas the small scale farmers who form over 95% of the farmers in Uganda had control over their seed since time immemorial, the trend is quickly changing.

Many other actors have joined the sector including the government, national and multinational seed companies, seed multiplication farmers’ associations, seed dealers, farmers and the Civil Society.

Consequently, there are two main categories of seed supply systems currently operating in Uganda; the formal and informal seed sector.

The formal seed supply system involves the entire seed production and certification process and is linked to research, production, processing and marketing. It is organized on a commercial basis by seed companies or enterprises and is fully regulated by government.

According to Uganda Seed Trade Association-USTA, by 2009, there were 20 registered seed companies which have contributed significantly to increased production levels of certified seed from 1,800 Metric Tons (MTs) in 1998 to about 12,000MTs annually against a current demand of 110,580MTs for grain crops.

But the informal seed system’s contribution of 80% of the seed supply has no organized seed production chain and is heavily unregulated. The source and quality of seed used for planting purposes is in most cases not known. It is mainly community based seed production (using farm saved seed).

However all activities related to regulation of the seed sector including seed trade, are governed and enforced through the Seeds and Plant Act, 2006. The Act provides for the promotion, regulation and control of plant breeding and variety release, seed multiplication, conditioning, marketing, importation or exportation, and quality assurance of seeds and other planting materials, for own use and other related matters but the act has never been enforced.

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