Agency For Transformation

Agriculture can adapt biotechnology

Uganda’s Minister of State for Agriculture, Christopher Kibanzanga has warned that the attainment of the middle income status by 2020 will depend on the extent at which the country will be able to lift a majority of her population who depend on agriculture from the current dominant traditional methods of farming. 

“We are only remaining with 4 years to 2020, a year which the president said he wants to see Ugandans migrate to middle income status, but with the current form of technology being applied in agriculture especially by farmers is worrying and  we may miss that economic target unless we commercialize biotechnology application in the sector,” said Kibanzanga.

Kibanzanga sounded the warning during the Launch of the 20th Anniversary report on commercialization of Biotechnology crops   which was held in Kampala recently.

He said a majority of the country’s population depends on the agriculture whose Gross Domestic Product contribution to the country’s economy is declining   because of soil infertility, land fragmentation among other catastrophes related to climate change.

Kibanzanga said for farmers to shift into middle income status as anticipated, they should be helped to adopt and embrace modern ways of farming which he said require the adaptation of Biotechnology in the Agricultural sector.

President Museveni during the recently concluded general elections promised to take Ugandans to a middle income class by 2020. To achieve this, government pointed out sectors which will drive the country into middle income status agriculture being one of them.

However, it is reported that the sector is performing at snail speed and if nothing is done to boost the sectors performance; this may become an obstacle that will hinder the government from attaining the above projected economic status.

The poor performance within the agricultural has been attributed to outbreak of diseases, climate change related challenges and over dependency on traditional ways of both food and cash crop production.

Kibanzanga said over depending on traditional approaches of agricultural production has exposed many Ugandans to food Insecurity because the yields from their gardens cannot synchronies with demand for food at their homesteads thus exposing many to starvation. Citing Ruwenzori region as an example to drive his point home, Kibanzanga said Ruwenzori region used to be the leading producer of cotton and maize but currently there’s not much production taking place in the region.

“Farmers in the Rwenzori region on many occasions have been experiencing food scarcity not because they are not engaging in food production but because of the challenges the sector is facing and on many occasion farmers do not have alternative solution since the challenges can only be addressed by scientific solution.

As Ugandans, we are lucky that our scientists have developed the solution but the Nationals are still misled by some few Individuals,” Kibanzanga said.

According to the report, Uganda is still lagging behind towards the commercialization of Biotechnology crops as compared to other countries within the East African Community block.

In the region, Kenya and Tanzania have moved forward towards the commercialization of the technology. The two countries passed their Biotechnology Bill into Law but Uganda’s Biotechnology and Biosafety bill is still under Parliament despite having been endorsed by the Cabinet.

The Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy was approved by Cabinet in 2008 from which an implementing law was drafted and tabled in Parliament in February 2013. Consultations have been conducted by Parliament with all key stakeholders and a comprehensive report tabled in November 2013.

When the Bill was tabled before the floor of Parliaments it received both positive and negative reactions from the legislators which led to the failure of the 9th Parliament to pass the Bill ant Law.

However, scientist believes that if the country adopts biotechnology, it will go a long way in solving some of the technical and scientific challenges hindering the performance of Agriculture sector.

Dr. Andrew Kigundu, a senior Biotechnology scientists, told Journalists that Ugandan farmers continue to suffer tremendous economic losses and food insecurity resulting from manageable stresses such as pests, diseases and drought. According to him crop varieties have been developed which are resistant to such challenges but farmers won’t access them without putting the law in place which regulates the application of Biotechnology in the country.

The Bubulo West Legislators, Rose Mutonyi Masaba said the 10th Parliament should support the Bill when its tabled back on the floor of parliament.

She noted that in her constituency, food production has gone down because of the land shortage coupled with pests and diseases which have negatively affected the production of food and cash crops in Manafa district.

“Let the legislators support the local farmers by passing the bill into Law because if we are to fight food Insecurity then Biotechnology is the way to go,” she said.

In response to the above concerns, the Minister said he will push for the passing of the bill into Law to ease the adaptation of Biotechnology in Uganda’s Agricultural sector.


Source: East African Business Week