ARUA. Mr Alex Drapari, a member of Aliowaku farmer group in Erekpea village, Uriama sub-county in Terego district has been relying on the seeds supplied by various companies in the district.
He says the companies usually supply well-packed seeds to farmers without giving them the opportunity to verify the content.
“For example, they can supply Longe 5 maize variety but inside there, you can’t be sure of the very type of the seed they have labelled. Since most of us farmers are illiterate, we just receive these seeds without knowing how they look like. We normally come to realize that they are fake seeds after planting and when they fail to germinate thus leading to losses,” Drapari explained.
Drapari is not the only farmer facing such a change in the West Nile region. Many of his colleagues are also crying about the same problem.
It is for this reason that the Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA) in collaboration with the Rural Initiative for Community Empowerment (RICE) West Nile organized a two-days training for selected farmers across the West Nile region.
The training that ended on Friday at Desert Breeze hotel in Arua town was aimed at creating a platform for dialogue and discussion of the key corporate accountability issues and sharing updates across different areas of business and Human Rights.
During the training, farmers, civil society organizations (CSOs), district agriculture officers and production officers shared experiences, discussed common challenges and exchanged lessons learned around the respect for human rights in the context of business activities.
They were also able to establish and consolidate networks and collaborations among the key stakeholders in the region that will ensure protection, respect and access to remedy to the victims of corporate abuses and violations.
“This training has now made me know that as a local farmer, I have my right which must be respected besides, I have the right to seek for services and it has also shown me the right people to approach in case of abuse of my rights,” Drapari said shortly after the training.
Similarly, Mr Narcis Binwengi, the chairperson of Zombo district banana producers’ forum said as farmers, they had not known how human rights cut across the businesses they were handling.
“The training was so important for us because issues concerning seeds and market for our produce were well handled. We now know where to go in case we are given fake seeds and if we are also subjected to market related challenges by the companies we are dealing with,” Binwengi said.
Meanwhile Mr Isaac Wai, the Executive Director of Community Empowerment and Rehabilitation Initiative for Development, a CSO in Koboko district noted that through the training, they are now aware that there are existing rights which people have been ignoring.
“We have been working with farmer groups which didn’t know that they had rights as farmers but from this training, I have come to know that farmers have rights which they can advocate for and be helped. One of the issues we have been talking about was seeds, you will find that most of our farmers in the villages have challenges when it comes to seeds,” Wai said.
“They can’t tell which one is the good seed and why is it good. They only get to know that they have challenges once they receive seeds and they fail to germinate or when the seeds have problems and they don’t know the procedures to follow. So, from this training, it is now our role as CSOs to go and inform farmers about their rights and procedures to follow in case of any problem,” Wai added.
Mr Pax Sakari, the Executive Director of RICE – West Nile said the two-days engagement was very necessary for them as a capacity enhancement institution.
“We have over 1000 farmer groups and the experiences that they share with us are so far disturbing and pathetic that we needed such an engagement. You are aware that so many issues have been coming up with the seeds and seedlings that seed suppliers have been giving to our people,” Pax said.
“Seeds that are given, some don’t germinate, others germinate but they don’t yield and some germinate but they are just leafy so, we think there is a problem, this problem must be addressed and how will it be addressed, just if we can get this category of people to come and dialogue on these issues and that is what we have done today,” Pax stated.
Mr Joseph Byomuhangyi, the programs officer of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights under UCCA said they have been getting complaints from farmers who receive fake seeds from suppliers in growing food.
“We discovered that if you keep having fake supply of seeds, then it is a threat to food security and food security would then risk people in this region having shortage of food which will also result in an abuse and violation of their right to food and you know that human rights are interdependent. If you are not eating well then definitely, you will have health complications and some may lose lives,” Byomuhangyi said.
He said the issue of having quality seeds was very important to the participants on top of other business and human rights issues including the proposed Eco-City that will be taking over Arua Central Forest reserve which has made people worried of the environmental hazards that may result from its destruction.