Communities in Buliisa District applaud Ugandan President for his hesitation to sign the Bio-safety and biotechnology bill into law

“If there was an option of choosing whether to support president Museveni or not regarding the GMO law, I would mobilize a long queue for him not to sign”. These were words of Ms. Eveline Babyesiza, the vice Chairperson of Buliisa Town Council Community Green Radio listeners’ club at the close of 2017.

Ms. Babyesiza’s pledge and commitment is hinged on two grounds; her community’s experience with Genetically Modified food species versa vis the indigenous food species and the fact that on December 21 2017, the Ugandan President wrote to the Speaker of Parliament expressing his reservations about the Bill that the house had passed earlier in the year.

The law is intended to provide a legal and regulatory framework for safe development and application of biotechnology in Uganda.

“Our indigenous food species are so nutritious to a level that no GMOs can reach. Our great grandparents ate indigenous food and lived longer. I’m 100% in support of our indigenous food species”, Ms Babyesiza explained to Community Green radio.

Jackson Aliguma believes the Genetically Modified foods being imposed on communities can not ensure sustainable food supply.

“Every time we plant these imported seed varieties, they simply dry up. I encourage communities to continue planting our indigenous food species to ensure sustainability in food supply”, Aliguma explains.

Food sovereignity: A seed multiplication garden for indegenous food species established by the community in Buliisa District with help from NAPE and partners. PHOTO CREDIT: ALLAN KALANGI

Relatedly, the Executive Director, National Association of Professional Environmentalists, NAPE Frank Muramuzi has told the national media that the president’s action brings new hope to the country.

“We appreciate the President (Museveni)’s attitude of rejecting the Bill so that it can be improved because if it had become law, all the indigenous species would disappear. Having genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will not promote our food sovereignty,” Mr. Muramuzi told the Daily Monitor newspaper.

NAPE and Community Green radio have been working with communities in the Albertine region to restore indigenous food species. Several seed multiplication gardens and traditional granaries have been established in Hoima and Buliisa Districts. NAPE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in February 2015 to produce indigenous food species in the kingdom. The radio has been mobilizing communities to voluntarily provide seeds in the campaign dubbed ‘ Food security and Sovereignty’. Communities have offered free land where multiplication gardens have been established.

"Food sovereignty", a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996, asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to dominate the global food system.

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty prioritizes local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability.

In April 2008 the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), an intergovernmental panel under the sponsorship of the United Nations and the World Bank, adopted the following definition: "Food sovereignty is defined as the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies."

Story Compiled by Julius Kyamanywa