Holy & Golden Rice = #Hunger 4 #Poor

During the Radio One FM90 Talk Show, “The Friday Panel on Spectrum”, on Friday, 17th February 2017, His Worship the Lord Mayor of Uganda’s Capital City, Kampala, Hon. Erias Lukwago, aptly pointed out how discussions of Pastor Kakande’s “Holy Rice” had diverted attention from the real challenge of raging hunger and famine now prevailing in Uganda.

On the face of it, some, particularly those often believed as rigidly loyal to Uganda’s ruling party, the so-called National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRMO) die-hards, can easily be dismissive of the Lord Mayor’s insights; easily rebuffing them as politicking. But the more one digs deeper, the more the Lord Mayor’s insights are profound.

The Lord Mayor’s insights are profound when one analyses the central-logic that drives agriculture policy in Uganda; specifically agriculture for food. It is fascinating how in Uganda today it is sexy for the ‘elite class’ to be paraded as model farmers. The story line that parades this ‘elite class’ of ‘pretend famers’ is consistent in its promotion of global-western centric and global-neo-liberal economic interests.

Within the story line that promotes ‘pretend farmers’, genuine Ugandan farmers, smallholder farmers, who farm predominantly using the central logic of the knowledge systems of the first nations of Uganda and who actually feed Ugandans and beyond, are consistently relegated as the beam in the eye of Uganda. This the culturally dislocated leadership of Uganda does within the Biblical ethos of the book of Matthew 7:3 (The Holy Bible KJV, 2000):

And why behold you the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?

Factoids – half truths and outright lies – are popularised that present Uganda’s smallholder farmers as the problem. “If only they could adopt ‘modern’ farming methods, they would increase production and there would be no hunger in Uganda”, the factoids flow. Never mind the fact that smallholder farmers are actually producing more than enough to feed Uganda already while using indigenous knowledge systems.

And that actually in many cases it is the introduction of ‘modern’ farming practices and crops that is the cause of hunger in Uganda. The list is endless – moringa, vanilla, epurpur sorghum, palm oil, and more.

Yes, in reality, on matters agriculture for food, there is a beam in Uganda’s eye but it is not smallholder farmers, but rather it is Uganda’s culturally dislocated leadership which colludes with global-western and global-neo-liberal economic interests as is symptomatic in its praise of ‘pretend’ farmers.

Pastor Kakande could actually be categorised as among such ‘pretend farmers’. He has reportedly amassed wealth through ways that some have characterised as unscrupulous, including allegations of land grabbing of the kind that is seemingly state sanctioned in the name of ‘modernisation’.

The real beam in Uganda’s eye needs urgent surgical removal for it blinds us from an agenda that is promoting that which is causing hunger and poverty in Uganda. A good example of how certain global-western-centric ‘modern’ knowledge causes hunger and poverty to smallholder farmers, such as the majority of Ugandans, is presented by Jim Kozubek in his article “The New GMO Wars” that is published in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Here are some relevant extracts from that article:

Precision GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops are a top-down solution to meeting global nutritional demands and may simultaneously undermine the enterprise of local farmers and fishermen.

In 2000, British biochemist Peter Bramley reported on the creation of “golden rice” after discovering that a single bacterial gene could convert the phytoene compound into vitamin A.

However, Greenpeace continues to voice opposition to “precision agriculture,” arguing that if the goal is to improve the health and welfare of developing countries, money could be better spent on promoting diverse diets through “ecologically farmed home and community gardens.” 

Ecologists suggest a potential danger in releasing a fast-growing fish with an advantage into the ocean: it could out-compete other fish and dominate a niche in the ocean, reducing genetic diversity, and thereby leading the fish population to be at risk for a crash if it is exposed to a pathogen.

There is empirical evidence in Uganda to back the assertions of Greenpeace and of ecologists. One such example is Uganda’s fish industry – ‘new age’ predatory fish species were introduced into Uganda’s fresh water bodies that have depleted and or have rendered other indigenous varieties extinct.

And on top of that, fish harvests in Uganda are geared for exports and not for domestic consumption – the fish fillet is exported to global-western destinations and Ugandans retain the heads and bones; of which apparently even the later have now also become a popular export to Uganda’s neighbours.

Yes, “Holy Rice” is a problem, in as much as it is simply a symptom of a bigger problem, that which is packaged in blinding terminology, such as “Golden Rice”. And moreover, in the final analysis such ‘precision modern crops’ bear similar attributes as ‘Blood Diamonds’.

Photo Credit: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

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