Feeding The Hungry, Or The Greedy?

Ilya Gridneff | The Global Mail | March 22, 2014

As Uganda prepares to legalise GMO, supporters say it will save a farming industry gripped by epidemic blights, and help alleviate hunger and malnutrition. Opponents believe it is a neo-colonial conspiracy that connects the White House to billion-dollar multinational corporate greed.

The midday sun is searing over Alice Kulabigwo’s farm in Luwero, north of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, as she inspects the blackened stem of one of her banana plants. It’s infected with Black Sigatoka, a major scourge for Ugandan farmers. Nearby, her cassava plants are also frequently destroyed by “brown streak”, an insidious disease which turns the starchy root vegetable into a putrefied soggy brown mess.

A retired teacher, Kulabigwo, like eight out of 10 Ugandans, has also farmed part-time for years to help make ends meet. Now she tends fulltime to a 10-hectare plot at her ancestral home, growing cassava, beans, pumpkin, a few pawpaw trees, and Uganda’s staple food, the banana.

Kulabigwo also knows all about the devastating Banana Xanthomonas Wilt that rapidly kills entire banana plants and ruins the soil around them. In some areas of the country wilt and Black Sigatoka have forced almost every farmer to destroy their banana crops. Brown streak afflicts 60-70 per cent of Uganda’s cassava growers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.