by Megan Sell

Pearl of Africa

Uganda is one of the top African countries that has embraced organic farming

Uganda is one of the top producing organic farming countries on the African continent
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In 1909 Winston Churchill gazed across the lush green plains of Uganda and named it the ‘Pearl of Africa’. Today, due to Uganda’s incredible biodiversity, the country is promoted as a rapidly developing local organic farming producer.

Organic farming has been on the ‘up and up’, and is an ever-evolving international practice. To define ‘organic agriculture’ is not an easy task, but in a nutshell, it’s about promoting the life and sustainability of all living ecological systems – producing organic products prohibits the use of synthetic inputs such as chemicals, drugs, fertilisers and pesticides.

Before the introduction of inorganic methods, our ancestors farmed the land in natural ways, thousands of years ago. So organic farming is really nothing new.

In South Africa we’ve just started to develop our local organic market and if we were to take reference, Uganda is a fine example of how organic farming is the truest form of a sustainable resource.

Uganda, since gaining independence in 1962, has a history marked by intermittent conflicts and civil war, however the result of this bloodshed has seen the survivors turning to their environment (with simple tools in hand) for food sources and the hope of a small livelihood.

Many Ugandan farmers have limited access to and can ill afford modern chemical solutions and therefore are using natural alternatives. These are innovative and have been the reason behind the enormous transfer of skills between the farmers and specifically new entrepreneurial, smallholder farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of Uganda reported that in 2007 Uganda had as many as 206 803 certified organic farmers and 296 203 hectares of land was in use for organic farming production.

With 85% of the population being engaged in agriculture production and agriculture contributing 42% of the country’s GDP, the sector will simply continue to grow.

Through the establishment of a farming society spread across the land, organic farming in Uganda has grown from strength to strength.

The non-governmental organisations together with the training institutions and the community builders in Uganda have placed emphasis and put effort into capacity building. These initiatives and developments must be backed by governmental policy support.

There are many policies within the Ugandan national government that relate to sustainable agriculture, however according to PELUM (Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Uganda) most promoters of sustainable agriculture in the country have different understandings of the subject and the concept.

It is believed that this has hampered the smooth implementation and development of sustainable agriculture. The recommendation is that Ugandan policy makers and government parties need to develop minimum standards and guidelines. In turn these decision makers should facilitate the NGOs, institutions and other agencies to monitor implementation of sustainable agriculture.

Uganda has shown excellent growth in the number of projects and export companies. The export market is well supported by the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU). The movement aims to promote development, networking and marketing of organic agricultural development. The demand for organic export produce from Uganda is certainly growing.

All organic products are being exported in their raw form however the cotton exports are almost entirely used to produce organic textiles for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) market. Uganda forms a part of the East African Community (EAC) and is a beneficiary country under AGOA.

Uganda’s abilities and production within organic farming has ensured that the country gains economically and may be highly commended for it’s contribution to mitigating climate change.

By 2003, Uganda had the world’s 13th-largest land area under organic agriculture production and the most in Africa. GHG emissions per ha is estimated to be on average 64% lower than emissions from conventional farms. Various studies have shown that organic fields sequester three to eight tonnes more carbon per hectare than conventional agriculture.

Organic agriculture reduces green house gas emissions and fossil fuel energy use, cuts nutrient and pesticide pollution and stops potentially harmful pesticide residues entering our food chain.Some studies support the idea of organic farming building resilient farming systems, reducing poverty and improving food security.

Celebrating 50 years democracy, the hardships experienced by the Ugandan people has united them and their need for harmony is unspoken but ever-present. Uganda has risen from her ashes – and has successfully developed its agriculture, and enhanced its community and environment.

Policy

Uganda is recognised as a key player in the trade of organic produce and considered a country with the potential to take a fundamental role in the market. The country has successfully been exporting their produce since 1993.

2004 saw the Uganda Organic Standard adopted, and in 2007 the East African Organic Products Standards developed by the UNEP-UNCTAD initiative were implemented and by 2009 the Ugandan government released a Draft Uganda Organic Agriculture Policy. The outcome of these policies is as follows:

• Between 2002-2007, the number of certified organic farmers increased by 359% and acreage under organic agricultural production increased by 60%;

• Improved income and food security;

• Reduced greenhouse gas emissions (conventional farms, on average emit 64% more emissions per hectare);

• Reduced agricultural chemical runoff into local water bodies;

• Certified organic exports increased from US$3.7 million in 2003/4 to US$22.8 million in 2007

• In 2006, the farm-gate prices of organic pineapple, ginger, and vanilla were 300%, 185%, and 150% higher, respectively, than conventional products.

 

 

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