Appreciating the Role of Small-scale Farmers in the development of the National Strategy to scale up Agroecology
On the 3rd of March 2022, Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) Uganda, PELUM Uganda, ACSA, NOGAMU, and Biovision in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) organized an inception meeting for the development of the National Agroecology Strategy (NAS) at Hotel Africana in Kampala. The meeting attracted participants from different regions in Uganda including district local governments, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and ministry officials from the ministry of health, agriculture, and trade among others.
The meeting attracted over 100 participants and was officially opened by the Permanent Secretary (PS) for MAAIF who was represented by Commissioner John Okiron. The PS highlighted that there is need to conserve the environment and biodiversity that can only be done through promoting agroecology. To him, this calls for the development of the National Agroecology Strategy. “The NAS will help to promote natural resources”. The Permanent Secretary MAAIF added.
According to the National Chairperson ESAFF Uganda, Mr. Hakim Baliraine, different stakeholders needs to be brought on board in order to get a comprehensive strategy that takes care of everyone. He said that there is need to include the cultural institutions in the development of the strategy. “To me I think it is very important to bring the religious leaders in the development of the NAS as they have huge followers and possess vast pieces of land for agroecology”. Mr. Hakim added.
During the meeting, the participants discussed the way forward as guided by agroecology. Among the issues discussed includes; a shift from the current mentality of industrial systems to most sustainable, ecologically and viable systems; adopt a system approach to redesigning a new and sustainable food systems; financing of agriculture should focus on well ecologically adopted systems that is more productive and sustainable; redesigning agro-ecosystems towards sustainability through agroecological practices.
The National Coordinator PELUM Uganda, Ms. Josephine Akia said that agroecology speaks to the Strategic Development Goals 2, 11, 13 and 15. Agroecological practices aims at restoring or transforming food systems. Agroecology is looked at as a way to deliver healthy food systems and food security, contributes to soil regeneration, biodiversity protection, climate change mitigation, water quality and rural economic development.
On the other hand, the following recommendations were outlined during the inception meeting on the development of the strategy to ensure effective development of NAS; Understanding ecosystems and roles of constituent components through participatory research; aligning food systems to diverse ecosystems; being inclusive and participatory in all food systems and its value chains.
Dr. Kajura Charles, District Production Officer for Hoima district in his remarks stressed the demand/market for local organic products that is growing steadily. However, he noted that other policies were developed in Uganda and they failed. He therefore warned the stakeholders to review the failed policies and draw lessons that will guide the development of NAS.
Following the launch of the development of the National Agroecology Strategy, multi-disciplinary stakeholders have conducted regional consultative meeting for the development of the National Strategy for scaling up agroecology.
On 18th May 2022, ESAFF Uganda and partners including PELUM Uganda, IIRR, NOGAMU and ACSA organized the Northern regional consultative meeting on the development of the National Agroecology Strategy at Church Hill Courts in Gulu City. The objectives were to gather stakeholders’ input into the process of developing the National Agroecology Strategy and to share updates on the progress of developing the Agroecology Strategy.
The meeting in Northern Uganda which was attended by 68 participants (46 Males & 22 Females) yielded results as stakeholders called for the inclusion of avenues to promote the multiplication of neglected crops which are nutritious and climate-resilient in the Strategy.
Stakeholders during the meeting also suggested that there is a need for government to provide an enabling environment for all stakeholders, stakeholders should walk the talk, and not just stop at talking about agroecology
Participants advised that synthetic agro-input dealers be invited to seek their opinion and also convert them into dealing in agroecological inputs other than only consulting those he referred to as already converted categories, they also cried out against the misleading advertisement about synthetic agro-inputs which are done on radio stations and called upon the government to regulate the messages that are given to the population through advertisement.
Similarly, on 27th May 2022, partners conducted the regional consultative meeting for the Western region in Kabarole district at New Fort View Hotel, Fort Portal. This meeting was attended by 82 participants (52 males and 30 females) including the District Production Officers from western districts, CSOs, small-scale farmers, media among others.
During this consultative meeting in Kabarole district, CSOs and other stakeholders noted that the National Agroecology Strategy will lead to reduced use of chemicals, International competition by Ugandan agricultural products, increased safety levels, increased labour cost of production, equal and active participation by small-scale farmers, promotion of value addition among value chain actors, increased food safety and improved soil fertility.
Most importantly, during the consultative meeting in Kabarole district, different stakeholders committed to do the following in mainstreaming National Agroecology Strategy in upscaling agroecology;
1. Mainstreaming National Agroecology Strategy (NAS) into the different programs being carried out at the organizations.
2. Popularizing the strategy through training and sensitization meetings of small-scale farmers and others.
3. Conducting research on the implementation of the National Agroecology Strategy.
4. Implementation of the National Agroecology Strategy.
5. Evaluation of the National Agroecology Strategy.
6. Promoting agroecology in the work of different organizations in the farming communities.
7. Integrating National Agroecology Strategy into National Agriculture Extension Strategy.
8. Rolling out National Agroecology Strategy in Schools and institutions to scale up agroecology in Uganda.
On 7th June 2022, ESAFF Uganda and partners organized the central regional consultative meeting in Mukono district that was attended by 123 stakeholders including 71 males, 52 females and 36 youths. The meeting got the issues that were important and needs to be included in the National Agroecology Strategy.
The issues generated from the central region include the following;
1. Setting up manufacturing centers for bio-fertilizers among others to reduce the cost of production.
2. Awareness and sensitization of the masses on the strategy.
3. Enforcement of protection of natural environment in the agroecology strategy.
4. Increasing public financing for agroecology.
5. Setting up agroecology centers to scale up agroecology.
6. Strengthening public-private partnerships for just transition.
7. Investment in value addition and creation of market linkages.
8. Break down or simplify definitions and terms in the strategy.
9. Documentation/profiling of indigenous knowledge.
10. Deliberate inclusion of youth and women.
The Eastern regional consultative meeting took place on 24th June 2022 in Mbale district. The meeting gathered 85 consisting of 51 male and 34 female participants from the different value chain.
The stakeholders proposed the different avenues on how they will implement the National Agroecology Strategy that is under development upon its completion;
1. Organize and mobilize agroecology actors including farmers and private sectors.
2. Organize public hearings between government and agroecology actors.
3. Financing advocacy platforms for engagement.
4. Mobilize funds to finance agroecology.
5. Dissemination of the Strategy.
6. Simplification and translation of the Strategy.
7. Scaling up agroecology systems.
8. Advocating for tertiary institutions and public universities to embrace the teaching of agroecology programs.
In the various regional consultative meetings on the NAS, ESAFF Uganda was represented by the small-scale farmers that gave their input into the National Agroecology Strategy that is being developed. Small-scale farmers gave in their views which will frame the National Strategy to scale up Agroecology.