Striving for sustainable agriculture in Uganda

“I see food insecurity as one of the main future problems for Ugandan farmers”, mentions Emmanuel Buchana, as we discuss on the main challenges that a Ugandan farmer could confront in the near future.

Emmanuel is an External Associate of Food Security Center and Project Officer in the Agency for Integrated Rural Development (AFIRD) in Uganda. He mainly works on the field in Wakiso District, training local farmers and pupils towards a more sustainable way of farming and -on daily basis- he faces innumerous challenges while striving for a greener and food secured future.

The introduction of GMO seeds has made sustainable farming in Uganda a not-so-easy case to deal with since farmers seem to continuously support the existence of GMO market. In addition, there are cases where the seeds procured by the farmers are not the genuine-indigenous ones, which compromises the sustainability of the crops all year around. In fact, according to what Emmanuel says “…it is not easy at all for local farmers to identify fake seeds from genuine ones, so they end up with low or poor crop yields at the end of the season. This is something that affects their income and leads them towards food insecurity as well. To this are also adding the prolonged drought seasons. Farmers find it difficult to be consistent in production, since during dry spells they lack adequate innovations in order to mitigate and adapt in this situation”.

Food Security Center | Striving for sustainable agriculture in Uganda
Emmanuel Buchana working on the field with Ugandan farmers.

Through the implementation of education programs, but also through specific training programs and workshops, Emmanuel aims at helping local farmers to adopt more sustainable agricultural methods and farming techniques, whereas he also trains them on how they can add extra value to their products – for example through specific culinary preparations, such as jam and wine making which can expand products’ life, decrease food waste and create income generating activities among small scale households.

“The limited ability of technical infrastructure makes education programs on the field less sufficient since -as we have noticed all these years- knowledge is more conceived by the farmers when we pass from theory into practice. Practice can definitely increase understanding and help the farmers to comprehend and embrace sustainable methods much more easily”,

he notices as he starts talking about the obstacles he meets while implementing all these activities regarding rural development, environmental sustainability and food security in his country.

Food Security Center | Striving for sustainable agriculture in Uganda
Emmanuel Buchana during a training seminar with Ugandan farmers.

Having a family farm in Uganda may seem the simplest thing to do. Yet, the challenges are pretty high nowadays. “Many farmers out there depend on agriculture. Unfortunately, the lack of skills and knowledge regarding some more fruitful farming methods that could save a lot of energy and money, are leading towards low harvesting crop yields which directly affect their income and their nutritional security. In addition, government procurement is -in most of the cases- absent, while many farmers are imposed on unreliable sources of agricultural inputs by middlemen whose interest is more on money than on the quality of service being offered to these farmers. Last but not least, local farmers do not know how to successfully put on the market their products since “marketing” has never been so easy for them to understand and to cope with”.

Without a doubt knowledge must be… planted in order to fill in the gaps.

“People here need to be informed not only regarding agriculture, but regarding the integration of livestock in farming as well. You see, there is a mutual coordination between crops and animals as they need one another in order to perform better. Through this integration, we also aim at fighting malnutrition which is highly observed among lactating mothers, children below the age of five and elderly farmers of 65+ years”.

Food Security Center | Striving for sustainable agriculture in Uganda
Ugandan pupils taking care of their school’s gardens.

But, is there actually a place for ecology among all these challenges? “At the first glance, there isn’t. But that is what we are trying to do. Reverse this reality and introduce some more sustainable farming techniques to Ugandan farmers. For example, they need to be informed on soil fertility management, as well as on a diversity of agronomic practices that will drastically improve their crop yields.

Soils have been depleted as a result of poor farming methods and other malpractices such as overuse of chemicals and pesticides. Biodiversity is diminishing but it is essential in crop and livestock production. Soil and water conservation structures -including water harvesting techniques- must be introduced in family farming, while restoring indigenous farming systems can enhance sustainability in agriculture without a single doubt”. So, where do we start from? “We definitely start from schools. Future generations must be fully aware and ready to act towards a more sustainable and food secure future. Along with them though, we are also addressing to small holders – after all, they represent 70% of Africa’s food suppliers”.

When survival leaves no room for green thoughts on people’s minds, knowledge takes over. Yes, it might not be easy that agroecology keeps up with agricultural modernization, but this is the only way to achieve food security and environmental sustainability for future generations.

Photo at the opening of the article: Random Institute via Unsplash

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