Farmers and agriculture officers from various districts participated in a three-day-conference in which they interacted with policy makers, scientists, and researchers.

The conference, whose theme was “Advancing Agro-biosciences and Innovations for Climate Smart Agriculture”, was held 22-25 November at Makerere University.

It was organised by Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development (Scifode) to discuss the challenges facing agriculture given the onset of climate change.

One speaker after another observed that food insecurity is a threat due to decline in agricultural production and that modern biotechnology is an option to overcome the problem.

The conference also discussed malnutrition reduction, which is one of the Sustainable Development Goals and how biotechnology can be used to achieve it.

Farmers observed that weather patterns are more unpredictable than ever before and that it has become harder to grow food crops such as maize.

Uphill task

They also noted that food crops such as cassava and bananas are being wiped out by viral and bacterial diseases, which have no known cure so far.

Dr Theresa Ssengooba, from Uganda Biotechnology and Bio-safety Consortium (UBBC), said Uganda, like other African countries, cannot apply biotechnology solutions to such agricultural production challenges in the absence of a regulatory law.

While the government has been supportive of biotechnological research, it has been hesistant on the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill.

“UBBC has organised activities to sensitise stakeholders on the need for this law but it has been an uphill task,” she said.

In his presentation, Dr Arthur Makara, executive director, Scifode, noted: “Whereas many countries across the world have continued to progress with the adoption of modern biotechnology, African countries continue to sit on the fence, with difficulty in deciding whether to embrace the technology or not. In most cases, the confusion has been attributed to limited knowledge, misinformation and lack of political will to make final decisions.”

To be passed?

In his World Food Day speech, President Museveni criticised MPs for delaying to pass the law to let Ugandans benefit from biotechnological research and findings.

MPs Mathias Kasamba and Florence Kintu, among other MPs at the conference, however assured the participants that the Bill will be passed.