Uganda sees biotechnology as key to food security/nutrition

Despite the widespread cultivation of both cash and food security crops, food security and nutrition still remain uncertain due to frequent, unfriendly weather and other environmental conditions, a Ugandan official, has observed.

Dr Emily Twinamasiko, Director General of the Ugandan National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), made the observation on Monday when she addressed journalists on a media tour of Ugandan agriculture and research sponsored by the Uganda’s NARO, Africa Harvest, a Biotech Foundation International and the European Association for Bioindisutries (EuropaBio).

Of the many food crops in Uganda, cassava has for long time been the food security base and considered as one of the most important crops in the country.

The media tour is aimed at offering the journalists, which include journalists from Europe, an insight into the challenges and opportunities that Africa is facing in terms of food security.

It is also to enable them to see how African researchers, farmers and the public private partnerships are collaborating to address the challenges including biotechnology.

The NARO Director-General noted that with the rapid growth of Uganda’s population, and the limitations associated with the traditional way of practicing agriculture, there was the need to use the biotechnology and be more innovative in agricultural practice.

“The rapid growth of our population is causing urbanization, limited land, fertility of soil is declining and climate change and there is the urgent need for us as Africans to be talking about biotechnology as the alternative to address food security and improve our crop varieties”, she added.

Uganda’s main food crops have been banana, cassava, sweet potatoes, millet, sorghum, corm beans, and groundnuts with the major cash crop being coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco.

Dr Twinamasiko explained that with biotechnology, Uganda was working on banana, cassava, corn and cotton, while considering a law to be passed to allow genetically modified crops to boost production. All these are currently on Confined Field Trials stages.

“Ugandan bio-safety bill is currently being discussed in Parliament and we are testing biotech cassava to fight the cassava brown streak virus, which causes deadly streaks in the roots, whilst biotech corn would be resistant to drought, cotton to bollworm and banana to wilting.”

She commended government for the political will and support being giving in pushing this agenda forward, adding “Since biotechnology is the key to food security and nutrition, we will ensure that we move it from the laboratories to the end users”.

Dr Andrew Kiggundu, Acting Director of Research at NARO, acknowledged the fact that Uganda had the best biotechnology laboratories and was more than ready to go all out as soon as the bio-safety law was passed.

He noted that NARO would enhance the contribution of agricultural research to sustainable agricultural productivity food security as well as eradicating poverty through the generation and dissemination of appropriate technologies, knowledge and information.

Mr Daniel Kamanga, Communications Director of Africa Harvest, called for the need to harness modern science and technologies to help Africa achieve food security, economic well-being and sustainable development.

He urged the media to learn more about the technology to enable them educate and inform the general public so they could also make informed choices and embrace the idea of biotechnology.

Participants from Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Spain, Romania, and Germany, will be visiting NARO laboratories, National Crop Researches Research Institute, bioscience laboratories, Greenhouses and sweet potatoes experiments, Virus Resistant Cassava confined field trails farm as well as banana farms.GNA

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