Scientists root for Organic Farming as a buffer against Food Insecurity

Kampala, Uganda: Scientists have warned against future food insecurity if Uganda’s Agricultural sector does not mainstream use of organic farming practices to preserve land fertility and sustain reasonable productivity.

Speaking at the launch of a report on the Status of Agro-ecology and Livelihood Systems Capacity in Uganda at the Cardinal Nsubuga Leadership Training Institute last Friday, Dr. Joseph Ssekandi, the Dean, Faculty of Agriculture at Uganda Martyrs University noted that only 17.9 percent of youth are engaged in agroecological activities compared to their counterparts above 50 years.

Ssekandi further noted that some farmers were even using harmful chemicals to prop up production, undermining land productivity in the long-term.

“In our research, we found that only 15.2 percent of smallholder farmers were aware of existing agroecology policies, and the majority (56.6%) used inorganic chemicals to control pests and diseases. Indeed, it is of public health concern that some farmers use rat poison as a pest control measure, as we found in Masaka and Kasese districts,” Ssekandi said.

The study, the first of its kind on the status of value chains in the adoption of agroecology among smallholder farmers in Uganda research was undertaken by Uganda Martyrs University under the African Center for Agro-ecology and Livelihood Systems, and was jointly funded by the Government of Uganda and the World Bank.

Researchers collected data from 14 districts in the 10 agro-ecological zones of Uganda. Among other findings, they concluded that women face greater risk of landlessness because while they have land access rights, they cannot sell the land off or offer it as collateral to access credit. Similarly, they found, youth lack security of tenure from land owners, which hinders their decision making on how the land is utilized.

Speaking at the report launch, Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja noted that such research was critical in shaping decisions and policies. “Government of Uganda is aware that 65% of the population in Uganda relies on agriculture, and that our livelihoods must be sustained through profitable and proper use of the environment,” he said.

He expressed particular concern at some damning findings of the report, which found that 54.5 per cent of farmers rely on traditional methods to control pests and diseases, while only 31 percent of farmers had acquired organic certification. Moreover, the report found, as many as 92.2 percent of farmers depend on the seeds saved after harvest to regrow crops.

“We need to popularize the adoption of environmentally friendly practices such as mulching, intercropping and use of organic chemicals for farming,” said Ssempijja.

Alex Lwakuba, the Assistant Commissioner for Crop Production in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries on his part noted that the ministry was moving to encourage the use of liquefied fertilizers as a way of increasing food production, in line with the rise in population.

“We can’t talk of Ugandans farming their way into the future when we still have just 249,000 certified organic farmers in Uganda out of the 5 million household farmers,” said Lwakuba.

Presently, Uganda’s population is estimated to be around at 44.27 million and is expected to shoot to 100 million by 2050. It(population) is estimated to grow at approximately 3.3 percent per year, while the rate of food production stands at 2.2 percent. It is this mismatch that has researchers worried that the population will over time have inadequate food to feed on unless immediate interventions are addressed.

As a solution, the report proposes the setting up of Agroecology Centers of Excellence to facilitate easy access to information, the coordination of research and development of organic agrochemicals to deal with pests and diseases.

Speaking at the closure of the launch, Uganda Martyrs University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Rev. Fr. John. C Maviri also urged government to implement the ban on buveera, noting that it would go a long way in conserving the environment. “Our land has been poisoned by buveera. I am a farmer and each time I dig, what I get is buveera,” he lamented!

The post Scientists root for Organic Farming as a buffer against Food Insecurity appeared first on The Cooperator News.

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