Farmers in Greater Masaka area are recycling low-yielding seeds following delays in the delivery of agricultural inputs by the government.
For close to a decade now, the government has been directly distributing farming inputs that include improved planting materials and fertilizers through Operation Wealth Creation-OWC and the National Agricultural Advisory Services-NAADS. This was part of the strategic interventions aimed at increasing the production and productivity of various crops for purposes of improving household incomes and food security.
But this financial year, the budget meant for procuring the inputs was withdrawn and instead channelled towards financing the Parish Development Model, another government strategy for delivering public and private sector interventions for wealth creation and employment generation at the parish, as the lowest economic planning unit.
The change has now left farmers stuck without planting materials, and many of them confirm to have planted low-yielding seeds in this planting season after they waited for government inputs in vain.
Wilberforce Mucunguzi, a resident of Kanoni village in Mijawala sub-county, Sembabule district says that the majority of them are using seeds from their previous harvests after failing to get improved varieties from the government. He says that they were left with no alternatives because they could not afford the improved planting materials on the open market.
Mucunguzi is concerned that the change in government policy coincided with very poor farm harvests due to a prolonged drought, has compelled some farmers to borrow seeds from their neighbours without even minding about the variety and quality.
John Betambira and Remigius Ddungu, both subsistence farmers in Ndeeba Parish, Mijwala sub-county have cried out to the government to reconsider its decision arguing that many people may even fail to get what to plant this season.
Betambira has expressed fear that the area may face a serious food crisis due to the failure of the farmers to access the required quality and quantities of agricultural inputs that would guarantee them reasonable harvests. According to them, some farmers are even yet to get home-saved seeds, and they are still stuck with their prepared gardens, waiting for kindhearted people who can offer them any seeds.
Similarly in the Kalungu district, youth councillor Muzafaru Nsubuga explains that they are currently overwhelmed by demands for farm inputs especially seeds for seasonal crops from farmers across the district. He adds that due to a lack of better alternatives, they are also asking farmers to replant seeds from crops they earlier harvested, as they wait for the government’s response.
Stella Adur-Okello, a research officer at the National Crops Resources Research Institute-NaCRRI says recycling seeds is not a viable option, especially for the ordinary smallholder farmers because it comes with challenges that many farmers can hardly avoid. According to her, many farmers can’t differentiate between seeds and may easily use ones that cannot be recycled.
“Hybrid seeds you cannot recycle. Open-pollinated varieties can be recycled only if a farmer is trained on the aspects of seed selection, purity and maintenance. And within open-pollinated crops, there are self and cross-pollinated ones. This has implications for home-saved seeds. Generally, it still stems back to limited capacity,” she explained.
Research by the Food and Agricultural Organization indicates that there is usually a progressive yield decrease of recycled seed varieties, and the practice is described as backward.