Indigenous Ugandan Foods and Seeds Face Threat Amidst Growing GMO Dependence
In recent years, a growing concern has emerged among food experts regarding the decline of indigenous foods and seeds. The over-reliance on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is identified as a primary factor contributing to this decline.
Josephine Akia Luyimbazi, the country coordinator of Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda, asserts that all species of indigenous seeds and crops are currently at risk. She attributes this threat to inadequate storage methods, unsustainable land use practices, and the use of agrochemicals, resulting in a reduction of traditional seed varieties.
According to Luyimbazi, the traditional seeds used by previous generations were more resilient to climate change, showcasing better adaptability to drought, prolonged rains, pests, and diseases. She emphasizes that while efforts have been made to improve some crop varieties through research organizations in Uganda, the hybrids often compel farmers to continually purchase seeds, disrupting the traditional practice of saving and sharing seeds within communities.
Farmers Advocate for Certification at Agroecology Event
The call for the certification of indigenous crops and seeds was made during a one-week agroecology event held at Hotel Africana. The event, themed “Nurturing Healthy Nutritious Resilient Food Systems For All,” attracted farmers from various regions of the country who showcased traditional seeds and crops unique to their areas.
Significance of Indigenous Foods and Seeds
Indigenous foods, known for their rich aroma, taste, and nutritional value, have garnered attention for their potential contributions to healthy and resilient food systems. Josephine Luyimbazi emphasizes the need to protect and reintroduce neglected wild species into the environment. Despite challenges, there is a growing demand for traditional foods, driven by their not only dietary but also medicinal benefits.
Dr. Christopher Kyeswa, the chairperson of PELUM Uganda, underscores the positive impact of the traditional food and seed system on consumer well-being, financial stability, and the combat against hidden hunger caused by micronutrient deficiencies.
Challenges and Shift to Hybrid Foods
Brenda Assasira, a master’s student in food science at Makerere University, explains that the shift towards growing hybrid foods is influenced by their faster growth, allowing for quicker and more abundant harvests. Factors such as industrialization, urbanization, and population growth have further reduced the available land for traditional crops.
Assasira notes that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) occupy less land, contributing to their widespread cultivation. The preference for quantity over quality, driven by the need to cater to a growing population, has led to the prioritization of fast-growing hybrid foods.
Preservation Challenges and Government Response
Nancy Ayo expresses concern about the increasing reliance on hybrid foods, emphasizing the need for government strategies to protect traditional seeds. Preservation methods have evolved with urbanization, transitioning from traditional practices such as air and sun-drying to modern methods like refrigeration.
Dr. Paul Mwambu, the commissioner for inspection and certification, assures that the government is actively training and financially supporting farmers. Recognizing the nutritional richness of traditional foods, he emphasizes the importance of teaching preservation skills to ensure the longevity and quality of local seed breeds.
Tourists’ Perspective on Indigenous Foods
Chika Kondo from the United States acknowledges the uniqueness of indigenous foods in Uganda, emphasizing their freshness and freedom from chemicals. She believes that preserving these foods could not only contribute to individual health but also economic development.