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March 9th, 2018 / Dispatch, Uganda

The current debate about the use of genetically-modified seeds in Uganda might determine Africa’s agricultural future.

John Ssembajjwe, a long-time maize farmer in the Wakiso and Masaka districts, walks around his two-acre farm in Sissa and recalls the time he almost broke down in tears after his crop was scorched by the sun.

“I do farming in different districts of Uganda where I have land, but my major problem is that the rain seasons are no longer reliable. Two years ago I lost all crops on my farm in Masaka due to extended drought,” he recalled.

Even as Ssembajjwe’s maize crops failed, starvation caused by extended drought wracked portions of Eastern Uganda. Maize, the most widely grown staple food in Africa – feeding close to 300 million – is badly affected by drought. Unlike some farmers with the capacity to irrigate their crops during drought, Ssembajjwe is one of the many African farmers that cannot afford irrigation, hence relying on the natural weather conditions.

But now, Ssembajjwe is excited by a proposal by the American multinational company, Monsanto, to introduce drought-resistant GM (Genetically Modified) maize tests to Uganda. These new GM strains of maize are predicted to be resistant to pests and drought, increasing yields by 24 to 35 percent. Read more