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Cassava diseases threaten success of proposed ethanol plant



Reduction in cassava production due to cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) threatens food security. 

As Uganda takes steps to make cassava an eco-friendly feedstock for ethanol production, agricultural experts say the crop still faces disastrous diseases that have perennially caused severe yield losses and threatened food security.

Dr Titus Alitai, a principal scientist at the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) contends that any reduction in cassava production due to cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) threatens not only food security, but would also cause havoc to government plans of supporting a project that seeks to utilize cassava pulp for ethanol production.

At the tail end of last year, President Yoweri Museveni pledged government support for a project in the northern part of the country that produces denatured ethanol stoves and that is intended, in the long term, to establish ethanol derived from cassava a sustainable alternative cooking fuel.

Taking a long view, Museveni noted that if the project obtained a firm footing, Uganda would be able to export fuel made from cassava to other countries in the region.

But that depends on a consistent supply of cassava, which has struggled to overcome disease issues. CMD and CBSD still remain a threat and that status quo has been helped by poor farming practices, such as recycling seed cuttings beyond recommended times.

“On the CMD and CBSD mitigation front, there have been inroads made in recent years, principally with the development and distribution of improved cassava varieties such as NASE14, NASE 19 and NARO CASS 1 to farmers by the National Agricultural Research Organization,” Alitai said.

It is not clear, however, if some of the resistant cassava varieties that will likely be supplied by the National Crops Resources Research Institute, which is one of the six National Agricultural Research Institutes mandated to conduct, carry out research and knowledge generation on how to deal with crop diseases such as CMD, will be genetically modified (GM) cassava.

Research findings from the National Agricultural Research Organization have shown that GM cassava is resistant to CMD and CBSD.

Many scientists across the East African region have advocated for the adoption of GM cassava as a means of sustainably enhancing Uganda’s food security. But the country’s environment policy regarding the adoption of biotechnology has in recent years been erratic, if not checkered.

In 2017, a biotechnology and biosafety bill was passed, but it was referred back by the President for adjustments. It was passed yet again in 2018, but with stern liability sections that analysts say impede biotechnology development in the country.

In Uganda, CMD accounts for an estimated annual yield loss of more than 60 million US dollars and it has, by all accounts, been singled out as the biggest economic constraint to the production of cassava in sub-Saharan Africa.

The impact of CMD on Uganda’s cassava production was not considered grave until the late 1980s when its devastating effect was experienced in the north-west of the country. The outbreak caused the disappearance of a cassava landrace called Ebwanatereka, which was widely distributed in the country in the 1980s.

Cassava brown streak disease, on the other hand, is thought to be the most devastating cassava disease in southern, eastern and central Africa. It reportedly can cause up to 100% yield loss.

As a means of combating CMD, a Ugandan computer scientist Dr Jennifer Rose Aduwo has developed a computer application based on an artificial neural network that can automatically detect the disease.

Dr Jennifer Rose Aduwo

Aduwo, the Dean of the Uganda Management Institute’s School of Distance Learning and Information Technology, revealed that the application has already provided an accurate rate of 97.2% for CMD’s classification and 88% for the disease’s severity grading.

“This model will help reduce the high cassava yield losses Uganda suffers annually due to CMD,” she said.

“What is expected is that timely and fast information provided by the model from farmers or agricultural extension workers, at the click of a button from an internet-connected smartphone which has captured cassava leaf images from gardens for the disease’s detection/classification, will be sent to a team at the National Crops Resources Research Institute at Namulonge who will, in turn, develop effective disease contingencies and supply CMD resistant varieties to affected regions across the country,” she added.

“The process of capturing the cassava leaf image from the cassava garden and sending to a computer server for CMD detection/classification takes less than a minute, provided there is an internet connection.”

Alitai said Aduwo’s app will improve on the efficiency and scale at which the CMD disease’s data is collected.

“With her app, we shall be able to know which areas around the country need speedy interventions. Previously, we did surveys, but the processing of data took months but with this digital platform, data on CMD will be availed within a short time.”

In the past 10 years, several research papers on the CMD by Aduwo have been published and have received golden opinions, for good measures.

Her research publication journey on automating CMD set forth in 2010 when Google gave Aduwo and her two research colleagues a $10,000 grant. At length, they produced the paper entitled “Automated learning-based diagnosis of CMD”.  Several other papers followed in subsequent years.

Original Post: New Vision

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National Coffee Forum Petitions Parliament Over UCDA Merger



Coffee stakeholders through National Coffee Forum say UCDA merger will disrupt the coffee sub-sector. Coffee is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange for Uganda

Coffee stakeholders through the National Coffee Forum – Uganda (NCF – UG) has petitioned Parliament through the Speaker over the proposed mainstreaming of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) into Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF)

The government plans to merge a number of Agencies to the line Ministries in a move aimed at saving about Shs1 trillion annually. If the move succeeds, UCDA will be taken to MAAIF.

However, coffee stakeholders through NCF – UG say that they find the proposal to take UCDA to MAAIF untenable and detrimental to the coffee sub-sector.

NCF-UG is a private foundation whose membership includes farmers, processors, exporters, roasters, brewers and researchers, among others.

The Forum Chairperson Francis Wakabi says that mainstreaming the entity will negatively affect the achievements Uganda has attained in coffee production and export.

“This decision will negatively affect our access to the international market and will stunt Uganda’s economic growth opportunities by distorting the functions of UCDA that have stabilized the industry over the years,” said Wakabi in a petition dated February 21, 2024. The petition was copied in to the Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries as well as all MPs.

He adds that Uganda should not risk its achievements by tampering with UDCA that is the main contributor to our coffee success story.

“Mainstreaming it would therefore disrupt the many livelihoods that depend on the industry and adversely affect the badly needed foreign exchange for the country,” the petition reads in part.

As a result of UCDA coffee regulation, Wakabi says that Uganda’s competitiveness was elevated on the global market, ensuring high quality Uganda coffee and enabling Uganda’s coffee to displace that of Brazil and India in Italy and UK coffee markets.

“… World over, coffee is supervised and regulated by a specialized body like UCDA for purposes of institutional memory and specialized focus. Experience from Ethiopia and Kenya who disbanded their specialized coffee authorities and mainstreamed them back into the relevant ministries had to reverse their decisions after registering negative outcomes,” said Wakabi.

The Forum further says that the European Union (EU) buys over 60% of Uganda coffee, making it the biggest market for Uganda.

“The EU has introduced a new regulation called the EU deforestation regulations (EUDR) which bans export of coffee from deforested land, taking effect from 2025. This calls for farmer traceability and the EU commission in Uganda is already working with UCDA to implement the said regulations. They require a country to constantly monitor deforested areas and map all the farmers for purposes of implementation of the farmer traceability program to maintain a high standard of quality. It was reported that Uganda has achieved most of the requirements under the EUDR and required a few steps to be declared compliant. Monitoring and implementing the scheme for the millions of farmers is a tedious activity which requires a specialized unit that can be best implemented using the already established structures of UCDA. Disrupting the current UCDA structure will not only halt the progress made in achieving compliance, but also risk reversing the gains made,” added Wakabi.

He avers that UCDA has been able to greatly contribute to Uganda’s improved Coffee quality through implementation of programs such as certification of Coffee nurseries to ensure quality of planting materials, Provision of Coffee specific extension services and agronomy to improve production and productivity, Provision of technical expertise in Coffee rehabilitation, post-harvest handling practices and pest and disease management and provision of coffee processing equipment like wet mills to farmers and cooperatives to improve quality and promote value addition. The coffee stakeholders are worried that once UCDA is taken to MAAIF which is loaded with many crops and projects, coffee, a key source of foreign exchange for Uganda may not get the necessary priority. Coffee stakeholders argue that if indeed Parliament is a people-centred institution, it should listen to the views of farmers and other stakeholders and retain UCDA as a semi-autonomous agency.

“Given the above position with the attendant reasons, the NCF advises that the proposed mainstreaming of UCDA into MAAIF should not be implemented and that the proposed Bill No. 30 (part VII) be dropped in order not to disrupt the industry and the progress made under the stewardship of UCDA. All coffee stakeholders are unanimously in agreement with this position,” reads the petition in part.


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Govt to import 10 million vaccines to control cattle disease



Entebbe, Uganda.  Government is set to import 10 million doses of vaccines to enable scaling up of ring vaccination as the fight to eradicate Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Ugandan cattle enters a new phase.

Cabinet chaired by President Yoweri Museveni on Monday also proposed that once ring vaccination is complete, farmers start paying for the FMD vaccines in a compulsory vaccination scheme, and thereafter, trade in animal products, will be restricted to those adhering to the plan.

Minister of Agriculture, Animal industry and Fishers Frank Tumwebazwe on Monday shared the resolutions after Cabinet laid out strategies to contain the disease that has hit 36 districts.

Cabinet agreed to create a revolving fund to enable procurement of sufficient FMD vaccines to facilitate compulsory bi-annual vaccination of the susceptible domestic animal population. It also approved a plan for farmers to pay for the vaccines while government covers other costs.

“Vaccination is to be made compulsory. Proof of vaccination will be a precondition for any farmer to sell any animal products,” said Minister Tumwebazwe.

“I appeal to fellow livestock farmers and stakeholders to understand and appreciate these effort as we steadily move to eradicate FMD in Uganda just like other animal diesases like rinderpest wre eradicated.”

Ntoroko veterinary disease surveillance team conducting FMD surveillance and sample collection

The 36 districts currently affected and under quarantine are Budaka, Bukedea, Bukomansimbi, Bunyangabu, Butaleja, Fortportal City, Gomba, Ibanda, Isingiro, Kabarole, Kasanda, Kayunga, Kazo, Kiboga, Kibuku, Kiruhura, Kumi, Kyankwanzi, Kyegegwa, Kyotera, Luuka, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Mbarara, Mbarara City, Mityana, Mpigi, Mubende, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Namisindwa, Ngora, Ntungamo, Rakai, Rwampara and Sembabule.

All districts neighboring the affected districts are at high risk, under strict surveillance, and the authorities have been advised to remain vigilant.

These include Apac, Amolatar, Bugiri, Bushenyi, Butaleja, Hoima, Iganga, Jinja, Kabale, Kaberamaido, Kaliro, Kamuli, Kamwenge, Katakwi, Kasese, Kibaale, Kiboga, Kyenjojo, Mbale, Masindi, Mayuge, Mukono, Namalemba, Nakapiripirit,
Palisa, Rukungiri, Sironko, Wakiso and Soroti.

Tumwebaze assured farmers that in the next one or two months, his Ministry expects to receive and dispatch 2.3 million doses of the FMD vaccine to the affected and susceptible districts for ring vaccination scale-up.

He told parliament earlier that as a way of increasing availability of Foot and Mouth Disease vaccines in the country,
Uganda’s National Agiculture Research Organisation (NARO) has started the process of formulating and developing an FMD vaccine for Uganda.

Source: The independent

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Farmers losing Shs4 trillion due to livestock diseases



ScienceDirect has revealed that farmers in Uganda lose more than $1.1b (Shs4.1 trillion) in aggregated annual direct and indirect loss due to the rising spread of tick-borne animal challenges, with the commonest and economically damaging tick-borne disease being the East Coast Fever.

The livestock industry in Uganda and its productivity continue to be threatened by a number of diseases many of which are tick-borne related.

This, Dr Anna Rose Ademun, the Ministry of Agriculture commissioner animal health, said results from arcaricides that have become resistant, thus the need to ensure collaboration and get solutions to the problem.

“There are ongoing efforts by the Agriculture Ministry, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation to support diagnosis of tick resistance to acaricides at regional laboratory centres but this is not enough,” she said during the livestock industry key stakeholders meeting in Kampala, which had been convened to discuss and prioritise areas for tick control.

The stakeholders included veterinarians, extension staff, farmers, processors and government representatives.

Ministry of Agriculture is already working on the Managing Animal Health and Acaricides for a Better Africa Initiative, which seeks to, among others, provide sustainable solutions to enable small-scale farmers maximise the potential of their cattle by developing and practicing methods that can successfully manage tick infections in cattle.

During the meeting, the TickAcademy App, which will support farmers in managing tick infestations was also pre-launched.

By the end of January, farmers and extension workers will be able to access the app’s educational content, which includes simple-to-watch films, to help them become knowledgeable about tick control.

Mr Enrique Hernández Pando, the GALVmed head of commercial development and impact, said the Managing Animal Health and Acaricides for a Better Africa Initiative will be important in tackling acaricide resistance challenges as well as help farmers and animal health officers to access creative methods of addressing the problem of acaricide resistance.

During the meeting, stakeholders jointly agree to train and sensitise field staff and farmers about tick management strategies that work, as well as strengthen the diagnostic infrastructure and testing capabilities for tick resistance and other animal health-related concerns.

Others will involve making it easier for farmers to obtain credit from savings institutions run by farmer groups at a reasonable cost so they may purchase specialized equipment for applying pesticides.

Mr Nishal Gunpath, the Elanco Animal Health country director south and sub-Saharan Africa, said they will support the Initiative to drive livestock in a better direction, noting that it will also help small-scale livestock farmers to maximise their potential.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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