Forage is simply food or plants that are eaten by livestock or wildlife mainly green grass, hay and fodder. The forages are grown or processed to supplement the existing pastures, especially when pasture is scarce.
Apparently, there is no policy regulating or guiding the forage seed sector in Uganda which is equally hurting the livestock sector.
According to livestock farmers, the National Seed Policy that was formulated in 2018, left the forage seed completely out, yet they were involved in the policy formulation in the first place.
The existing seed policy guides, promotes, develops and regulates the seed subsector to ensure availability and access to safe and high-quality seed to all stakeholders for increased food and nutrition security, household income, wealth creation and export earnings, except for the forage seed.
As a result, the livestock farmers, agricultural experts, local and international seed dealers, want the policy to be revised and include the forage seed to address various gaps in the livestock sector.
In a stakeholders’ engagement meeting held at in Masaka recently, they suggested that the government of Uganda reviews the policy to boost the forage seed production for the good of the livestock sector.
Elson Tumusiime, the chairperson of Kazo Dry Husbandry Agro-pastoralists Association, said there is a need to review the policy since it ruins all the efforts to produce and sell quality forage seeds on the local and foreign market.
Tumusiime explained that it is difficult for the forage seed dealers to get the seed certification from Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute and labels from the agriculture ministry for standard packaging due to the absence of a policy that favours them.
He noted that the law removed the forage seed farmers from seed certification, especially the section of fodder crops which would be examined and regulated by the seed certification services.
“We shall not be able to package, market or to compete with other seed companies which are dealing in certified seeds,” Tumusiime said.
He said Ugandan dairy farmers need forage seeds to supplement the existing pastures which are of low nutritional value due to the worsening climate change effects. The farmers need advanced adaptation mechanisms, mainly quality forage seed, so as to thrive in the dairy sector.
Tumusiime added that with inclusion in the seed policy the farmers will be able to adopt forage seed production and take the livestock and dairy industry to an advanced level which means improved household incomes.
He explained that with the worsening climate change, the farmers need to use forages because feeding plays 60 per cent of livestock production yet the pastures in Ugandan are of low nutritive value. The farmers can easily get a genetic improvement of their dairy cows and milk production with forages.
Unless the farmers get quality forage seeds and get trained in climate change adaptation and agronomic practices, and conservation, the productivity of Ugandan livestock will still low, and the farmers will not benefit, according to Tumusiime.
According to Deogratius Oneka, the Senior Veterinary Officer in charge of the Diary Section – the Ministry Of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the livestock farmers were involved in the formulation of the seed policy but the forage seed issue did not come out prominently to favour its inclusion in the policy.
He noted that the demands of the farmers, business community and other stakeholders plus the need for certification will be addressed with the support of MAAIF. He explained that certain regulations usually address various standards when it comes to different varieties of the forage seed.
“Now that the forage industry is growing very strongly and we think the seed policy should be reviewed to address the gaps. As MAAIF, the only thing we shall have the forage seed issue included in the policy. But on the animal feeds bill which is in the offing, we have captured hay and silage production,” he said.
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
According to Dr. Ben Lukuyu, the Country Representative -International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the farmers in Uganda cannot produce quality forage seeds for their animals due to the lack of access to quality seeds.
He added that the ILRI project aims to identify and improve the forage seed models to enable smallholder farmers to access high-quality forage seed.
Lukuyu noted that feed is one of the main constraints of smallholder farmers and the farmers are unable to produce more high quality feeds on their farms due to lack of good quality forage seeds. In Uganda, the intensive system works in Mukono, Wakiso, and Kiboga, and the extensive improved system in Kiruhura and Mbarara.
“This project was designed to understand the constraints and opportunities that exist in the forage seed value chain in Uganda and Kenya. And once we identify the constraints then we design interventions that are able to remove any bottlenecks that exist in the forage seed production in Uganda,” he said.
He explained that the ILRI has another objective of delivering the forage seed to the farmers through understanding the business model that exists in the two countries. Lukuyu noted that they have identified three business models.
The first is the small-scale farmers who are producing forage seed and selling it to other farmers. The second model, are groups and entities that are producing forage seed and selling to others, and the third model is the international companies who import forage seed and distribute them.
Dr. William Nanyeenya Ntege from the National Advisory Research Organisation (NARO), noted that there is no clear focus on forage seed certification and standardisation which affects the livestock industry.
According to Ntege, without quality forage seed farmers cannot get good feeds for their livestock. He added that for all livestock species their productivity is mainly based on good quality forage feeds.
Ntege said that the crackdown on poor quality animal feeds and standards, is becoming difficult due to the absence of the livestock feeds policy. “There is no enforcement to put them to order since the policy has dragged on for some time,” he said.
Netherlands Agricultural Expert
Dr. Tom Van Mourik, the Advisor -Agriculture and Seed Systems at KIT Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, Netherland, said that they have a project on Seed, Forage and Seed Business model to develop the seed sector for forage crops.
Forage seed sector that aims at helping the farmers to produce large quality and quantity milk.
He noted that there’s lack of enough forage in Uganda adding that they are trying to make improved fodder seed available to farmers and help them adopt improved practices and use of fodder.
In Uganda, the farmers especially in the dry cattle corridor need quality fodder but there isn’t enough quantity at the moment, according to Mourik.
“We are presenting some of the findings of the assessments we have done at the community level and the seed companies that sell forage seeds. We present the findings to different stakeholders for validation and opinion and then adopt the recommendations for the forage seed sector in Uganda,” he said.