By Andrew Masinde
Mary Akello 53 years old, is a farmer in Bala Sub County, Kole district. She says that before, she was using home saved soybean seed something that made her harvest to below.
However, in 2018, Akello was advised by a friend to join Bala women and youth Local Seed Business (LSB) located in Bala sub-county which is supported by Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) plus project and implemented by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and funded by the Embassy Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN) so as to get training on good agronomic practices such as use of quality seed.
The group is certified by the Ministry of Agriculture Animal husbandry and fisheries to produce Quality Declared Seed (QDS) and it deals in the production and multiplication of beans and soybean seed.
After joining the group, she was trained and immediately started planting quality soybean seed. Today, her harvest has more than doubled.
From an acre, before joining Bala LSB, she would harvest 500 kilograms. But now with the use of quality seed, from an acre, she harvests about 1,400 kilograms something that had never happened before.
“I realized the low harvest was as a result of using recycled seed or buying from fellow women in the village,” Akello said.
According to Akello, after harvesting her seed, she would store it in her sitting room where the seed would be infested by rodents hence making losses but also compromising the quality of her seed.
Aida Abia, the chairperson Bala LSB says many farmers in Uganda are still struggling to get access to quality seed something that is affecting production. She said that the ignorance of some Ugandan farmers who still believe in recycling seed is a result of low or no access to quality seed and information.
“Farmers need to be sensitized about the importance of planting quality seed. It looks expensive to buy it but the yields are very encouraging,” Abia says.
The 2019 Access to Seeds Index for Eastern and Southern Africa found that in Uganda, 30% of the seed planted by farmers are fake.
“Fake seed and other agro-inputs are still a big challenge. But with the development of local seed groups this will be minimized since farmers will be getting seed from trusted suppliers within their locality,” Abia said.
In Butaleja district, another local seed-producing group known as Namunasa Mixed Farmers Association is also changing rice farming in the areas by making quality seed available and accessible.
Edibe Koire, the chairperson Namunasa LSB says that the local seed-producing groups have eased access to quality seeds whereby farmers do not have to move long distances looking for seed.
“With the availability of quality seed, farmers are willing to invest in growing rice as a business because they are assured of quality and improved productivity. They now have confidence that their products will not go to waste,” Koire says.
According to Koire, there is a demand for about 1million kilograms of seed every season in Butaleja district alone but they only produce 40,000 kilograms.
“There is huge potential in quality seed production and our commitment is to see that farmers get quality from us. We want to see farmers progressing and changing their lives,” Koire says.
Bala and Namunasa LSBs are among the 300 LSBs that are being supported by ISSD Uganda through training members in seed production and management practices, field management of seed crop, and post-harvest seed-handling among others. This has increased the production of quality seed in the country.
Patrick Oyee, the Chief of Party ISSD Uganda, says the farmers have also been equipped with the necessary skills to produce Quality Declared Seed (QDS) and also helped establish multiplication gardens.
According to Oyee, the QDS system is important for Uganda as it will help improve farmer productivity, enhance incomes, curb food insecurity, and bring about development. The LSB groups are helping bridge the gap that multinational seed companies have filled.
“The seed business is very expensive and heavily regulated but it is also very lucrative in the long run if you are focused,” Oyee says.
LSBs get new Seed stores
With LSBs now producing seed, many have been lacking proper storage facilities hence affecting the seed quality.
Lilian Namuwenge, a farmer from Namunasa LSB said that lacking a seed store meant that each member stored the seed in their homes. Hence this in the most case would force some members to sell their seed as grain because of lack of space.
To help solve this challenge, ISSD with funding from the EKN started supporting the LSBs with matching grant opportunities to help them construct permanently affordable seed storage facilities to ensure seed quality control.
The LSBs contribute 25% of the total funds and are supported with a 75% top-up from ISSD towards the construction. At least 30 seed stores have been built across the country.
Recently, some completed stores were officially launched and handed over to the LSB, including; Butaleja (Namunasa LSB), Kole (Bala LSB and Apongi Malo LSB), Kabale (Karukoba LSB), Rubanda (Hakabaya LSB), and Kisoro (Mariba LSB).
While commissioning Namunasa LSB seed store, Oyee said that after the farmers had increased the production of QDS, post-harvest handling and storage had become a challenge. Yet the quality of seed is based on proper storage, hence without good storage facilities, then the seed is declared as not of good quality.
According to Oyee, now that they have proper clean, pest-free, and safe place to store seed, the groups are going to bulk their seed for easy access to buyers but also for authorities to sample the quality of the seed.
In Kisoro district during the launch of Mariba Bahinzi Borozi LSB seed store, Solomon Basaza, the DAO said the seed store is to increase quality but also improve on the production of potato seed in the district.
He advised Mariba LSB to use the seed store to increase potato seed production because there are no other people producing quality seed in the district apart from them.
“Farmers should go for farming as a business if they are to fight poverty in their homes and community at lager. ISSD, thank you for working closely with the district, I promise that we are going to support the LSB even when ISSD is not there,” Basaza promised.
Dr Laban Turyagyenda Director of research Ngetta ZARDI said Northern Uganda is still faced with a challenge of poverty hence once farmers adopt the new technologies by ISSD Uganda then poverty will reduce.
He called on farmers to ensure that they use the seed store well because it is for their benefits
At the launch of Bala LSB seed store in Kole district, Nickson Adupa, the DAO thanked ISSD for allowing the people to grow quality seed noting that it has saved them from common counterfeits.
During the launch of Mariba Bahinzi Borozi LSB seed store in Kisoro, Phina Kamanyire, the Chief of Operations- ISSD said the seed stores are to help the farmers protect their seed from rodents, moisture, variations of temperature, and humidity among others.