By Nelson Kiva
A meal without greens is unquestionably lacking diet-wise and in terms of deliciousness.
Therefore, any efforts intended at preserving and developing Uganda’s vegetable seed varieties is welcome.
South Korea, through its development agency, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), has emerged as Uganda’s formidable partner in developing leading vegetable varieties.
KOICA has earmarked $8m (over sh3.6b) to finance the joint efforts to preserve at least five common vegetable varieties. These are; nakati (Solanum Aethiopioum) tomatoes, onions, cabbages and chili pepper.
The project, which was launched last year, will run until 2029. Through the project, Korean researchers will support Ugandan scientists to develop the varieties of vegetable seed for the five commodities.
The intervention is timely, given the fact that some of these varieties risk extinction and yet they are critical components of our healthy food diets.
The intended beneficiaries for financing, according to KOICA, are researchers, seed technologists, seed companies and farmers engaged in the vegetable seed value chain and focusing on the targeted vegetable varieities.
“We intend to reach out to over 600 farmers during the course of the project duration,” Elaine Patience Akurut, the VegeSeed Project administrator at KOICA Uganda, said.
Korea and the Government of Uganda, through the finance ministry, have since signed a memorandum of understanding to implement the project titled Uganda Seed Value Chain Capacity Building for Key Vegetable Crops. It will be code-named the “VegeSeed Project”.
The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and the National Seed Certification Services (NSCS) under the agriculture ministry are the project implementers.
Akurut said the project aims at developing new varieties of vegetable seeds, building the certification capacity of national institutions such as NARO and NSCS, and improving the technical skills of vegetable farmers.
“The final goal of the project is to increase agricultural crop productivity and farm income through the development of certified high-quality vegetable seeds as well as an efficient, stable, and self-reliant dissemination system,” she said.
The National Crop Resources Research Institute director, Dr Godfrey Asea, said the vegetables were selected due to their importance in the market and nutritional security.
Speaking during the project launch at NARO recently, Asea said it will involve farmers from pilot districts of Mukono, Wakiso and Luwero.
“To develop an onion seed, you need to keep onion flowers at very low temperatures; the same applies to cabbages, which we do not have. The project is going to develop capacity in terms of infrastructure, and a controlled environment, where we will be able to initiate some of those flowers and then later have seed well-adapted to our environment,” Asea said.
Christopher Nsamba, a horticulture farmer from Namulonge, Wakiso district, said on average, he buys improved tomato seed at sh900,000 in order for him to realise a good profit.
According to the director general of NARO, Dr Ambrose Agona, almost all exotic vegetables on the market are imported.
“When you look at the production systems and then the market demand, it far outstretches our capacity as NARO. So, we shall tap from our Korean counterparts’ new technologies like hydroponics and aeroponics to increase vegetable seed production,” Agona said.
Fred Kyakulaga Bwino, the agriculture state minister, said the project will help avail quality seed for vegetable production, a venture that is being promoted among smallholder farmers through the Parish Development Model.