KAMPALA – Collective action across 150 countries is what makes World Food Day one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. Hundreds of events and outreach activities bring together governments, businesses, NGOs, the media, and public to promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure healthy diets for all.
Under the theme “Our actions are our future – Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life” the World Food Day 2021 will be marked for a second time while countries around the world deal with the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die every year from eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. However, these numbers represent only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as comprehensive surveillance data for foodborne illnesses is not available everywhere. When food is not safe, humans cannot benefit from its nutritional value and cannot grow and develop. In the face of the Covid 19 global pandemic, consumption of natural, safe, diverse, nutritious food can build our immune systems to fight the virus as well as recover from the disease.
Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda works to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and the sustainability of rural communities through the fostering of ecological land use management. Interventions are undertaken through a broad network of 65 like- minded 65 NGOs that have a presence in over 122 districts and reach over 3 million smallholder farmers in Uganda.
PELUM Uganda is the Country Implementing Partner for the Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture in East Africa (KHEA) which is part of the continental Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture in Africa (KCOA) project. The KCOA project is being implemented by GIZ with funding from BMZ and the Eastern Africa hub is being hosted and coordinated by Biovision Africa Trust and co-hosted by PELUM Uganda.
PELUM Uganda and KCOA KHEA are joining the rest of the world in commemorating this year’s World Food Day 2021. The theme speaks to the core of our work to advance Agroecology and organic farming in Uganda for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.
Organic agriculture presents a great opportunity for Uganda to address the multiple challenges of food insecurity, malnutrition, land and forest degradation estimated at 2.2% per annum (NEMA, 2018) and poverty that is especially higher among the rural agricultural-based population which presents majority of Uganda’s population. Uganda has approximately 262,282 hectares under Organic production and is ranked in 4th position globally and 2nd position for number of organic farmers (IFOAM, 2020). Despite the comparative advantage, the country only enjoys 5% market share of the rapidly growing organic market. The country exports organic products worth 50 million USD which accounts for over 17% of agricultural exports (NOAP, 2019). Scaling up Agroecology therefore has great potential for contributing to Uganda’s socio-economic transformation.
Through our various country-level interventions, we are contributing to efforts by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to scale up Agroecology among member states as well as efforts on implementation of the 2011 African Union decision on establishment of an African organic farming platform based on available best practices; and to provide guidance in support of the development of sustainable organic farming systems and improve seed quality.
Further, still, our work is contributing to the implementation of the National Organic Agriculture Policy 2019, the National Agriculture Policy and the Agro- Industrialization programme of the National Development Plan (NDP III).
The overall goal of the continental KCOA project is to successfully introduce knowledge hubs as an innovative strategy for promoting organic agriculture with actors in the regions of East, West, North, Central and Southern Africa, while the KHEA goal is to ensure that Ecological Organic Agriculture is integrated into the various participating countries’ agricultural systems.
One of KCOA’s action fields is ensuring that validated knowledge, strategies and good practices in the field of organic agriculture, adapted to the contexts of the countries participating in the regional knowledge hubs, are disseminated to various target user groups.
To contribute to attainment of these goals, PELUM Uganda is working closely with country partners including St. Jude Family projects in Masaka and Kulika Uganda center in Lutisi – Wakiso as well as Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi.
Together with these partners, we are collecting, validating and disseminating organic agriculture knowledge and practices and using this knowledge to promote networking within agricultural value chains. We have made great strides in strengthening Centers of Excellence and farmer level demonstration sites on organic agricultural practices as well as strengthened capacities of 6 Master Trainers in organic agriculture practices. The 6 Master Trainers have so far empowered 272 Multipliers and 152 farmer leaders in organic agriculture.
The KCOA project is specifically addressing the following food challenges in Uganda, in line with the 2021 World Food Day theme
- Sustainably increasing agricultural production and productivity
- Improving nutrition and health through providing diverse, natural, safe food that is essential for addressing challenges of the non-communicable disease burden, malnutrition and stunting.
- Conserving agricultural biodiversity and agroecosystems health
- Improving quality of life through increasing incomes of smallholder farmers including women and youth
Food availability and safety requires a holistic approach, such as ‘One Health’, which recognizes the connection between the health of people, animals, plants and the environment. Safe food production improves economic opportunities by enabling market access and productivity. Investing in food availability, nutrition and safety today will reap future rewards for Uganda.
As we commemorate this year’s World Food Day, PELUM Uganda and KHEA would like to create awareness on the benefits of organic food and farming to achieve better nutritional and health outcomes (reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases, malnutrition and infectious diseases) across Uganda, in addition to promoting and preserving the rich African agricultural biodiversity, including use and preservation of seed, enriching and improving soil health by avoiding toxic agro-chemicals which pollute the soil, waterways, air and contribute to climate change.
We call upon the government, CSOs, researchers, academia, private sector, media, farmers, consumer movements and the general public to join us in the efforts to promote ecological organic agriculture for healthy agroecosystems, productivity, nutrition and health.
Ms. Stella Lutalo is the Country Coordinator, PELUM Uganda