Seed is the most fundamental resource for any farmer as it ensures continuity season after another and therefore key to ensuring improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers. It is the critical determinant of agricultural production potential. The possible impact of all other agricultural inputs depends on the quality of initial planting material. Therefore, sustained increase in agricultural productivity is largely dependent on access to good quality and constant supply distribution mechanism (AT Uganda, 2010).
Overtime, the farmers’ self-reliance to provide own seed and other planting materials has continually been undermined by both natural (such as climate change) and manmade effects (war, fake or poor quality seed on the market and unfavorable legal and policy environments). Smallholder farmers have been most affected by seed insecurity yet they produce more than 85% of total food production for consumption and marketing in Uganda, resulting to low productivity, increased vulnerability, food insecurity and poverty among farming communities.
With support from Oxfam Novib, PELUM Uganda and other partners (ESAFF, FRA, COPACSO, and IFPRI) are currently implementing a 3 year project (2016 – 2018) on securing seed rights and land rights for the realization of the right to food in Northern Uganda. The project appreciates that farmers’ right to seed (and land) will enable women smallscale food producers to adapt better farming methods, increase production and thrive under volatile climatic conditions. Therefore, empowering Right to Food partners (R2F) in appreciating seed sovereignty and specific interventions that promote farmer managed seed systems is of the strategic importance to the success of the Right to Food project.
It’s against this background that PELUM Uganda in collaboration with other R2F partners organized a learning and exposure visit on farmer managed seed systems. The activity that lasted 5 days revealed that both Kenyan and Ugandan farmers face similar challenges that require similar solutions or combined effort as east Africans.
The national legal frameworks in both countries support corporate seed breeding, storage and exchange yet majority of the farmers are small scale; access to finance still challenges both; there is continued usage of chemicals; and hybrids and gradual disappearance of indigenous seeds are common observations in both countries.
As policy influencers we have to continue capacitating farmers to advocate for more inclusion on decision making on matters that concern them, voting more money to the agricultural sector will not help but establishing functional systems will enable farmers get access to finance, markets and knowledge that they desperately need to influence policies in their favor.
By Jude Ssebuliba