Of the many factors that keep small-scale Ugandan farmers poor, seed counterfeiting may be the least understood. Passing under the radar of the international development sector, a whole illegal industry has developed in Uganda, cheating farmers by selling them seeds that promise high yields but fail to germinate at all – with results that can be disastrous.
Counterfeiting gangs have learned to dye regular maize with the characteristic pinkish orange colour of industrially processed maize seed, duping farmers into paying good money for seed that just won’t grow. The result is a crisis of confidence in commercially available high-yield seed.
Problem is, as Ola Westengen points out in a tweet, the project seems to be confused about what “fake” or “counterfeit” seeds are.
— Ola Westengen (@OlaWestengen) March 2, 2016
This from the project proposal:
…only 13% of farmers buy improved seed from formal markets in Uganda. The rest rely on seeds saved from the previous season or traded informally between neighbors, but such seeds generally produce far lower yields than genuine high yield hybrids… This problem can be addressed by empowering local seed businessmen or empowering the locals to produce their own seed through training.
So the “problem” is farmer-saved and -traded seed? That’s hardly addressing the havoc being wrought by Uganda’s seed counterfeiting gangs.
I’m all for helping farmers build their capacity in seed production, but there’s no reason why they should then produce nothing but “high yield hybrids.”