Our Work on Agroecology
ESAFF Uganda understands that farming thrives when it works with local ecosystems, for example, improving soil and plant quality through available biomass and biodiversity, rather than battling nature with chemical inputs. Agroecology which is the application of ecological principles to agricultural systems and practices seek to improve food yields for balanced nutrition, enhance healthy ecosystems and build on ancestral knowledge and customs. Agroecology integrates ecological and social concepts in the design and management of agricultural production and food systems while optimising interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment hence addressing the social aspects of a sustainable and fair food system. Many studies have shown that agroecology has the potential of sustainably increase food sovereignty while conserving biodiversity and respecting indigenous farmers’ knowledge and innovations. Agroecology helps enhance the food security of small-scale farmers through improved yields and livelihoods, but also to decreased risk for human health and the environment by promoting sustainable agriculture. But despite the role that Agroecology can play in sustaining diverse ecosystems, their contribution is mostly ignored, neglected or actively undermined by government, businesses and corporations. Agroecology has shown to be much more productive per hectare than industrial, agribusiness monoculture. It, therefore, has great potential for contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our Actions in Promoting Agroecology
Building a stronger Agroecology farmers movement
ESAFF Uganda acknowledges that agroecology is under threat from industrial agriculture which is one of the key contributors to global warming and consequent climate disasters worldwide. Small-scale farmers one year after the International Year of Family Farmers (IYFF) formed the Family Farmers Agroecology Movement (FFAM) with a vision of building a vibrant, prosperous, healthy and resilient small scale farming communities thriving in sustaining agroecological farming systems. The Movement has organized information sharing events, community sensitization meetings, built linkages with like-minded organisations, campaigned for favourable laws and policies.
ESAFF Uganda has continued to provide small-scale farmers with relevant information and supporting small-scale farmers especially women to participate in policy forums where agroecology is being discussed or demeaned by promoters of large-scale industrial agriculture.
Influencing favourable policies for agroecology
For so many years ESAFF Uganda has dedicated time and resources to tracking the formulation processes of Uganda's policies and laws. ESAFF Uganda has been part of challenging some clauses in policies and laws like the Genetic Engineering Act 2018, EAC Seed and Plant Varieties Bill, Extension Policy, Seed Policy etc. that had/has elements that override the seed and food sovereignty of small-scale farmers and also affects the promoting and upscale of agroecology. ESAFF Uganda also added voices in pushing for the adoption of the UN Declaration on Peasants Rights and People working in Rural Areas which favours agroecological farming. ESAFF Uganda has organised many policy dialogues, media engagements, learning tours among others to create space for small-scale farmers to influence policies and laws at the local, national and regional level as well as international level.
ESAFF Uganda promotes agroecology training in Agroecology Schools based on the farmer-to-farmer methodology. The idea is that agroecological small-scale farmers in the community are the best teachers to train other small-scale farmers and share his knowledge and experience. This methodology contrasts with the top-down extension services through which institutions and multinationals develop and promote unsustainable technologies. The training in Agroecology Schools is conducted in the local language to ensure a good knowledge exchange platform where experiences are also documented. ESAFF Uganda is currently running four Agroecology Schools in Amuria, Gulu and Adjumani districts.
Agroecology Clubs in schools
With a drive to upscale agroecology, small-scale farmers innovated Agroecology Clubs in some schools that their children attend. Currently ESAFF Uganda is running Agroecology Clubs in 4 districts of Amuria, Amuru, Gulu and Kasese. These Agroecology Clubs give youths an opportunity to learn a lot about agroecology given the current curriculum that highly promotes modern agriculture. So far the Clubs have membership of over 478 members and are growing daily.
Building capacity on climate-resilient agroecological farming techniques
Industrial agriculture is promoted as a suitable food production system in Uganda. Currently, it's characterised by large-scale monoculture, heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides mostly because of the threat of climate change and the need to feed the ever-growing population. ESAFF Uganda promotes the adaptation to the increased variability in weather patterns through the adoption of ecological farming practices which are climate-resilient as well as productive. ESAFF Uganda has built small-scale farmers capacities in all the membership districts in understanding causes, effects and impart of climate change on their livelihoods and also adapt to small scales climate adaptation technologies such as drip irrigation, water harvesting, and good farming agronomic techniques.
ESAFF Uganda appreciates that empowering actors with agroecology knowledge acts as a resistance against prevailing narrative of industrialised agriculture. ESAFF Uganda has used the different events to popularize agroecology in farming communities and national citizens to get buy-in and ownership. ESAFF Uganda also documents the current best practices to promote experience sharing through videos and other information documents.
Celebrating organic farming and products
ESAFF Uganda believes that organic agriculture plays a curial role in protecting food sovereignty and improving livelihoods of small-scale farmers, especially women in rural areas. Each year ESAFF Uganda and partners celebrate the National Organic Week (NOW) in different districts. NOW involves events like press conferences, radio talk shows, Women Community Dialogues on Organic Agriculture, National Dialogue on Organic Agriculture and Organic Food Fair, School Quizzes and Public Awareness on Organic Farming practices. The week celebrates and popularizes organic foods, products and services as well as creating platform where small-scale farmers can dialogue on the challenges impacting organic farming for a multi-stakeholder responsiveness for scaling up organic agriculture.
ESAFF Uganda acknowledges the impact of media in influencing policies and changing practices. Currently ESAFF Uganda is using social media platforms to share information on agroecology and its contribution to the achievement of SDGs. ESAFF Uganda also lobbies for free radio talkshows airtime for small-scale farmers to discuss policies and practices on agroecology. Currently, ESAFF Uganda has a video on the contribution of agroecology to the achievement of the SDGs