Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A cross-section of agriculture sector stakeholders has renewed the calls on the government to concentrate on promoting indigenous farming practices including organic agriculture which is cheap and environmentally friendly.
The farmers say organic farming and consumption is now more important than before, following the outbreak of the Covid- 19 pandemic which calls for good nutrition.
The push for the National Organic Agriculture Policy was started 16 years ago with proponents calling for it to support the sustainability of the agriculture sector.
Approved in September, the policy is considered more sustainable because agricultural inputs can be easily sourced locally for the benefit of the poor farmers.
It is also said to protect soil nutrients since the inputs like fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are made from naturally occurring processes like decaying of plants, as opposed to inorganic synthetic inputs.
The farmers were more worried by the efforts put in having the other proposed law, the National Biotechnology and Bio-safety Bill, saying it would eliminate the poorer farmers as it would make agriculture expensive.
President Museveni twice refused to sign into law saying it was promoting genetic modification instead of regulating it. He later said he would sign it after parliament changed the name to the Genetic Engineering Regulatory Bill, and included clauses to protect indigenous crops and animal species, among other concerns.
On the organic farming policy, the Commissioner for Crop Production at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Alex Rwakuba says while there is a growing local and export market, organic farming also requires high standards, especially for exports.
The National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda-NOGAMU says the global market for organic products is estimated at 100 Billion dollars annually, with Uganda’s current exports earning just 60 million dollars each year.
Chariton Namuwoza, the Chief Executive Officer NOGAMU expressed the need for Ugandans to take up the growing, processing and trade of organic products because the market is growing bigger.
He says the policy will enable them to push for the tabling and passing of the Organic Agriculture Bill in parliament and to make organic food a household name.
He urged stakeholders, government and parliament now to act quickly to have a law on organic agriculture, to further regulate and boost this sector and boost organic farming.
NOGAMU says that they are targeting to establish at least 100 smallholder organic farms across the country in the New Year, a means of widening production of certified organic products for the international market.
Uganda earns about $60 million from organic agricultural production according to records, but this does not take into account the smallholder farmers who sale locally.
The stakeholders hope the policy and subsequent laws will lead to increased smallholder farm production, better technologies and packaging to boost quality production and exports.
Bamuturaki Tumusiime, an organic commercial farmer and Mbarara district chairman says the farmers fears have been answered. He says that with the on-going sensitization of the people about the importance of organic diet in the fight against Covid 19, the market is destined to grow even faster both regionally and locally.