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Go organic to beat drought - minister

By Andrew Ssenyonga

Added 25th October 2017 09:41 AM

Helping smallholders to improve farm productivity of traditional foods can contribute to lifting the rural poor out of poverty, according to experts.

Food 703x422

Helping smallholders to improve farm productivity of traditional foods can contribute to lifting the rural poor out of poverty, according to experts.

PIC: The Chairperson Kawanda Seedlings Association, Kalule Jingo, explains to the agriculture minister Vincent Ssempijja Bamulangaki (centre), FAO country representative Alhaji Jallow (right) and other participants the fruit and tree organic seedlings he grows. This was during the 7th annual indigenous and traditional food fair held at Uganda Manufacturers Association confrence hall on Friday, October 20 (Credit: Pix Shamim Saad)

Farmers have been advised to embrace organic methods of farming to beat  drought.

Agriculture minister Vincent Ssempijja said organic methods can be applied without use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides and livestock feed additives, among others.

He was speaking at the 7th annual indigenous and traditional food fair at the Uganda Manufacturers Association grounds in Kampala. The event was organised by Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM).

Ssempijja noted that some indigenous and traditional varieties are drought and salt water resistant.

“Farmers need to spend a little on input costs. They can also get good returns on their investment if they grow traditional varieties. Some of the indigenous varieties require less water, compared to high-yielding varieties developed under laboratories,” he said.

He added that traditional systems have their own peculiarity in food sovereignty and rural development.

“Indigenous and traditional food systems contribute to rural development and well-being in faculties such as nutrition, income generation, medicinal value, food security, biodiversity and cultural values,” he noted.

Ssempijja further added that such food systems provide great potential for agro-tourism through conservation of agricultural biodiversity and interlinkages with culture.

Marilyn Kabalere, the programme advocacy officer at PELUM, said Uganda is a source of high-quality organic agriculture products.

"Our comparative advantage lies in organic food, yet there is a law that seeks to promote, rather than regulate GMOs. GMOs undermine harnessing agro-ecological aspects, such as Bio-Intensive Agriculture, which farmers have used for long to meet their food and nutritional needs,” she said.

She explained that helping smallholders to improve farm productivity of traditional foods can contribute to lifting the rural poor out of poverty through increased production and sale of indigenous foods.

“Off-farm employment opportunities linked to indigenous and traditional foods provides additional income sources for the poor rural communities,” Kabalere said.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) country representative Alhaji Jallow, said sustainable food systems, indigenous and traditional, are key to ensuring sustainable development.

“They ensure food security and better nutrition and satisfy a growing demand for quality and diversity while protecting and conserving natural resources,” he said.

Agriculture shadow minister, Francis Gonahasa, said Uganda should come up with policies that will secure the sovereignty of her seeds in a bid to enhance food security and conserve the indigenous seeds variety.

“Systems should also be put in place to identify and document all Ugandan seed varieties to protect the sovereignty, history and boost food security,” Gonahasa said.

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