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MAAIF spoilt for choice between hybrids and indigenous crops



The ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) is walking a tightrope between preserving low-yielding indigenous crops commonly known as organic crops while at the same time promoting commercially viable hybrid options, writes DAVID LUMU. 

On October 10, President Museveni went out of his normal routine to express frustration about the quality of some products he consumes.

“The things that my people have been buying from the market….these are not onions. They look like onions but there is nothing you feel when you eat. Even some of the oranges…when you put them in the mouth, you feel nothing,” he said.

“So, I want to warn you people, especially the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) and the commissioner in charge of crops; save us from these carelessly imported seeds.”

The president said this while flagging off agro-processing equipment for post-harvest and value addition farmer organisations at Namalere Agricultural Referral Mechanization Centre in Wakiso.

Incidentally, MAAIF had a week earlier released an updated policy on crops, which in itself calls for the preservation of indigenous crops.

The remarks have since opened up debate about Uganda’s agricultural strategy to tackle the double-edged sword which on one side calls for the preservation of indigenous crops that are rich in nutrients but low on yields and, on the other hand, commercialization of the industry through hybrid crops that have high returns on investment. Indeed, several technocrats in MAAIF have expressed optimism on the president’s remarks.


Pius Wakabi Kasajja, the MAAIF permanent secretary, concurs with the president that some onions no longer have that original taste and aroma, but he also emphasizes that indigenous onions are still available on the market.

“We are in a catch-22 situation whereby we are fighting two wars; commercialization and preservation. If we are to commercialize, we cannot continue with our indigenous products mainly because productivity is low and you can hardly make commercial sense out of indigenous products,” he says.

“As agricultural products keep on improving genetically, they lose out on certain attributes. That’s why you find that these big onions which mature quickly and are easy to peel, don’t have that original aroma because of the improvements done to them to make commercial sense. So, as a ministry, we have a double-edged approach in the interest of transforming subsistence farming into commercial agriculture. If you’re going commercial, there is no way you can achieve that on indigenous-only output.”

Kasajja also noted that there is a tendency to erroneously refer hybrid crops as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“Hybrids result from the deliberate crossing of two different parent varieties from the same species to improve quality and resistance to diseases,” he says. 

He also intimated that the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) is researching ways to improve and increase the production and productivity of indigenous crops.

“The president said we must not kill the indigenous crops, and we are saying we are promoting the indigenous; in fact we released a policy recently on the indigenous crops and how the ministry is going to be handling them,” he says.

“This is going to address the president’s concern by increasing the research on how to improve production and productivity for the indigenous crops.”

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that Ugandan agricultural produce holds international acclaim. A 2016 study by the Organic Agriculture Worldwide put Uganda second behind only India when it comes to the number of local organic producers (190,552).

NDP III interventions prioritize commercialization

In the third National Development Plan (NDP) III, which runs from 2020 to 2025, efforts in MAAIF are geared towards increasing production and productivity as well as improving on post-harvest handling, storage and agro-processing which directly supports the agro industrialization agenda.

This, according to Paul Mwambu, the commissioner, department of Crop Inspection and Certification at MAAIF, is aimed at improving on the competitiveness of crops in the local and international markets plus empowering institutional capabilities.

In doing so, MAAIF’s major focus is commercialization of the agriculture sector through empowerment of farmers by providing affordable credit and insurance for agriculture.

MAAIF is also implementing an agro-industrialization program together with other ministries of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives; Local Government; Water and Environment as well as Finance, Planning and Economic Development.


Whereas the president cautioned about what he termed as carelessly imported seeds, it turns out that these imported hybrids are spearheading the commercialization of the agricultural sector.


Meanwhile, Dr Ambrose Agona, the director general of Naro, says efforts are underway to conserve indigenous crops and plants at their gene bank at Entebbe Botanical Gardens.

“We are doing this in two ways; through the in-situ conservation approach, whereby genetic crops are conserved through the designation, management and monitoring of biodiversity in the same area where it is encountered,” he says.

“We have about 4,400 different plants and crops and have partnered other countries like Norway to keep duplicate samples there just in case something goes wrong here. Also note that we have six community crop gene centres countrywide, where farmers provide staple seeds or crops within the region to create a community seed bank.” 


When The Observer visited Nakasero market, there was a variety of fruits and vegetables but conspicuously, the prices of a particular item varied.

For instance, a sack weighting 5kg of indigenous onions goes for Shs 50,000 while a 5kg sack of hybrid onions is at Shs 35,000. The same applies to tomatoes, carrots and chicken.

Alex Kiguli, a market vendor, says while most customers hardly differentiate the varieties and mostly got for the cheapest, there are still a number of keen customers who prefer indigenous products.

“Our local chicken is expensive at about Shs 40,000 but people who understand its sweetness don’t mind about the price yet a broiler of the same weight goes for half the price,” he says.

In the end, it is all about choice. It’s just a matter of knowing where to find indigenous products even though they are priced higher.

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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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