Mr Jackson Jurua is a farmer specialising in bee keeping, assorted crop production and animal husbandry among others. As vice president of Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) he is keen in following issues in the agriculture sector including policies and supporting upcoming innovations.

He passionately dives into laboratories where scientists are breeding improved crop varieties finding out how beneficial they are in commercial agriculture and he is able to obtain major hybrid crop varieties which he plants in his 20 acre land located in Erewa village in Rhino Camp Arua district in order to achieve better output.

Mr Jurua who worked with Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS) as tax administrator at the International Airport for over 20 years started farming in the year 2010 and he is passionate in growing cassava, beans, sweet potato, cattle rearing including bee keeping.

Last year he planted Cassava variety Naro Cas1 in part of his land and harvested cassava cuttings which he sold worth Shs5 million. He is intending to carry out second harvest of the cuttings and thereafter he uprooted the tubers for processing.

Mr Jurua explains that they have formed farmer’s organization, the West Nile Seed Multiplication Cooperative Society comprising of 30 members owning about 300,000 acres of land for growing major crops important for the region including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
The team sells cassava cutting to None Governmental Organisation such as Danish Church Aid who distributes the same to Refugees who have settled in various refugee camps in Arua district as well as host refugee communities.

His take on commercialization of Biotech Crops and the newly passed
Swallowed in the debate around the globe in the controversies surrounding application of Modern Biotechnology in the agriculture sector as a new innovation where a section of people are opposed to the science yet scientists are moving on with their research work in the Laboratories, Mr Jurua is able to iron out positive and negative sides of this technology.

To him a good invention can have its downsides because technology has ushered in controversial issues an example is mining of minerals, oil and gas under oceans, seas and lakes where people think it is a good technology for nations to gain economic benefits while others think it will end up destroying marine life.

In recent days Mr Jurua is involved with his team from the Federation trying to understand the new law the National Biosafety Act 2017 Uganda’s Parliament passed in October for commercialization of Biotech Crops in the country.

“Since I represent the farmer’s interest country wide and as a practicing farmer, it is important to know that scientists engaging in breeding crops such as maize, East African Highland banana, cassava, Irish Potato, against disease resistance, food nutrient fortification and drought tolerance are doing a great work. It is good that Parliament has passed a law to regulate their research work in the various laboratories in the Country. Farmers can be assured of adopting well regulated agriculture products from this technology,” he said.
To him as UNFFE the organization’s mission is to ensure Uganda’s population is food secure as well as nutrient and income secure.

In a guided tour organized by Science Foundation for Livelihoods and Development (SCIFODE) for staff of UNFFE to the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) Namulonge, Jurua and his team were so attentive listening to the scientists explaining the research process of transgenic crops, tissue culture and conservation of various plant varieties in the laboratories.

“I think this science is good because it is not only for breeding transgenic material but hybrid crop varieties which are resistant to drought. You can imagine scientists are conserving cassava varieties and rice seed in the gene bank laboratory for future use. This means crop varieties which will get extinct can be revived from this conservation initiative,” he noted.

He notes that UNFFE is developing information system to disseminate the information his team has acquired in the Laboratories and field Trials at NaCRRI) to farmers countrywide.
This will be done through district focal persons by hosting radio talk shows as well as through other media networks including print media.

The Biosafety Act
Ms Harriet Etyang a lawyer explaining modalities of the Biosafety Act noted that Uganda’s parliament passing the Biosafety Act 2017 into law is in line with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity which is an international agreement on Biosafety of research and use of GMO products for countries engaged in the same world over.

In the Ugandan case this is for regulation of application of modern Biotechnology products bred by scientists and importation of the same into the country.

Some of the key components of the law include an Authority set up as a directorate under the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovations to handle approvals of research and release of products bred using modern Biotechnology which previously was handled by the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST).

The National Biosafety Act comprises of a committee of experts of over 13 members with different expertise in the field of Biology, agronomy, legal fraternity and National Bureau of Standards. They will handle assessment of applications in research, its legal implication and standard issues in imports and exports.

General release of GMO crop variety will be in one hundred and twenty days after the competent Authority giving a go ahead.

It provides for the competent Authority personal to inspect products of modern biotechnology being imported into the country.

It also involves issues of penalty to those who intent to abuse this science for their own selfish reasons and such a person shall be liable to a conviction of a fine not exceeding one thousand currency points or six years of imprisonment or both.

Scientists and development partners now have a duty to sensitize the farming community as to how they will adopt this technology.
alominda@ug.nationmedia.com