By Stephen Enatu
Civil Society and stallholders in Eastern Uganda have tasked the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries to put in Place safe alternative ways of practicing organic Agriculture in Uganda’s environment where the ecosystem has been tampered with.
They raised this during the Regional dissemination of NOAP Policy organized by Pelum Uganda, Community Integrated Development Initiative (CIDI) and MAAIF at Timisha Hotel in Soroti yesterday 25th February 2021as the Ministry seeks opinions from stakeholders on drafting the National Organic Agriculture policy into a bill before parliament of Uganda.
The engagement involved officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, civil society representatives, Research institutions, academia, District production department Soroti and farmers.
The National Organic Agriculture Policy (NOAP), 2019 was adopted by the Government of the Republic of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) after a long wait of 16 years (2004 –2020).
The set objectives for NOAP includes increase in annual growth rate in Organic Agricultural products by more than 3.0% to be able to spur a 6% agricultural growth target, reduce degradation of the ecosystems by increasing investments in Organic Agriculture and encourage and regulate the practice of organic Agriculture in Uganda among others.
According to Teddy Wabomba, a farmer in Soroti, growing organic crops is very difficult in an environment where the ecosystem has been destroyed especially in Uganda.
“It’s only possible if the government puts in place alternative ways of spraying plants and showing people the dangers of using the pesticides we buy from the market,” she said.
She said Organic Agriculture is the way to go except that more is still needed in terms of sensitization.
Rose Alaso, a farmer said the Government through the ministry of Agriculture has to gazette shops that sell only organic inputs not in a conventional shop where seeds are mixed up with pesticides that end destroying the organic plants.
Another farmer also said that before the policy is drafted into law, government should clearly state its will in promoting the use of organic fertilizers and bio fertilizers.
“We are rich in so much organic stuff that can be converted into fertilizers or even bio pesticides but where the investment plan is probably not in a large scale but at grass root level for poor small scale farmers.” He said.
While reacting to the suggestions, Irene Odongtho, a Policy Analyst at the ministry of Agriculture said that the concerns are incumbent upon the ministry to incorporate into the policy and provide for.
“Their suggestions will form the basis of the consultation that we are doing,” she said.
However she encouraged farmers to embrace it saying that there is a huge global market demand worth $ 80 Billion for organic products attributing it to consumer preferences for safe and hazard free food.
She added that organic agriculture is increasing consumer consciousness about environmental conservation and increasing concerns about health associated with indiscriminate and unsafe use of Agro-chemicals.
Uganda’s global market share is only 5% yet it is ranked 2nd in the world in numbers of organic farmers and contributes approximately USD 50M, this is 17% of the value of agricultural exports which stood at USD 291.2M per annum (MoFPED, 2017/2018).