East African Native Crops Threatened
In Uganda, the foods that have sustained generations include cassava, maize, bananas, ground-nut, and sweet potatoes. All of these staples of the African diet are under threat from new diseases never before seen in the country.
Agricultural experts in this region are issuing warnings that indigenous species of plants are at risk due to a batch of new, devastating diseases. Farmers, researchers and government officials are working on a comprehensive plan to save the familiar food staples, while growing new foods.
The head of root crop research at Namulonge, Titus Alicia that all groups, including rice, are threatened.
Alicia reported that he and other experts are working with the Agricultural Ministry to find solutions. He noted that because they are so new, researchers have not yet discovered effective remedies for what is killing plants.
“Viruses that attack the crops have changed over time. The indigenous varieties cannot withstand the new disease strains,” Alicia said.
Uganda, which relies heavily on agriculture, loses about $80 million each year to a combination of crop diseases and pests.
Several crop breed varieties that are disease-resistant have already been developed, and there is hope that some GMO foods can also provide a more stable and sustainable variety of crops in this region.