Thursday, May 15, 2008

Food Production: Why Uganda should go Organic

Recently, while appearing on Kampala F.M’s Hard Talk show program, a caller asked me a question on whether Uganda should go organic or GMO? GMO in full is Genetically Modified Organisms. For the benefit of those who did not listen in, the answer for me is that organic is the way to go because Uganda clearly has a comparative and competitive advantage in organic agriculture as opposed to GMOs. I also then quipped that GMO would work alongside organic only and if Uganda crafts and legislates an elaborate biosafety policy. I will return to this issue in future. I will today focus on organic food production which I strongly believe can be Uganda’s strategic flagship and roll coaster sub sector that can deliver Ugandan farmers to prosperity. Through backward and forward linkages, deliberate and incidental spill-over, majority citizenry can benefit from this enterprise.
What then is organic food production? For starters, it refers to the growing or production of crops without use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other off farm inputs. For animals, it means they are reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones. In other words, organic food production must not be genetically modified. A more technical definition of organic production looks at it as, an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. The tools and practices of organic agriculture include traditional alternatives like crop rotation, manuring and liming.
Organic farming enhances soil structures, conserves water and ensures the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Organic agriculture adheres to globally accepted principles, which are implemented within local socio-economic, climatic and cultural settings. Agricultural contaminants such as inorganic fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from conventional agriculture are a major concern all over the world. Eutrophication, the suffocation of aquatic plants and animals due to rapid growth of algae, referred to as "algae blooms", are literally killing lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. Persistent herbicides and insecticides can extend beyond target weeds and insects when introduced into aquatic environments. These chemicals have accumulated up the food chain whereby top predators often consume toxic dosages. Organic agriculture restores the environmental balance and has none of these or other such deleterious effects on the environment

A recent study conducted by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) supported by European Union through the Capacity Building Task Force (CBTF) of the United Nations Environment (UNEP) and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCTAD) documents that in Uganda, demand for organic products has been growing considerably over the years. In 2004/2005, export of organic agricultural products were estimated to be in a range of US$6.2 million having risen from US$ 3.7 million 2003/04. The range of products being exported include fresh vegetables, fresh tropical fruits, dried fruits, coffee, tea, cotton, sesame, spices, honey and other forest products. Major market destinations for organic agricultural products include the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Uganda therefore has tremendous potential of harnessing this immensely growing organic production market. To date, the organic agricultural sub sector has registered dramatic growth over the last few years at a rate of 38% per annum. Uganda is presently estimated to have 45,000 certified organic agricultural farmers and an estimated 185,000 hectares of land certified for organic farming.

Uganda has a strategic comparative advantage due to her conducive weather conditions that support organic agriculture allowing increased production without resorting to non-agriculture inputs. Secondly, Uganda currently has the lowest agro-chemical usage in Africa estimated at less that 2% compared to an average of 5% for East Africa. The country has the biggest amount of organically certified acreage in Africa standing at approximately 122,000 hectares. Therefore, a robust organic agricultural sub – sector would increase income opportunity for the poor, stabilize the environment and increase export earnings.

However, these tremendous opportunities exist with no specific policy geared at enhancing organic production. The country therefore, needs to strengthen organic production potential through supportive macro and micro economic policies, adequate budget allocation, favorable tax regimes, farmer education and sensitization, export sector competitiveness, strategic zoning for agriculture production and agro-processing and marketing. In addition, growth in the organic sub-sector could be made more elastic by undertaking measures to increase the number of organic agricultural producers and traders, undertaking strategic research and development activities focusing on identified products and scaling up the documentation and utilization of traditional knowledge practices.

It is also important to note that standardization and certification lie at the heart of organic production and marketing. Organic products cannot sell in international market like the U.S, Europe and Japan unless they adhere to clearly set standards of quality and quantity requirements. Over 85% of farmers in Uganda practice defacto organic production without certification. This means that they cannot easily sell in international markets. Uganda also has only one recognized certification body – Ugocert, which is not enough to certify the majority of farmers who practice defacto organic production.

There is therefore a need to address the specific constraints to organic production and market access to the growing international market, particularly through standardization and certification. The international Trade Centre has projected that by 2010, the organic agriculture markets could reach US$46 billion in Europe, US$ 45 billion in the United States and US$ 11 billion in Japan. Uganda must position its self to reap from these surging opportunities that have of recent been surged by the global food prices. There is an urgent need for investment in terms of policy direction and budget allocations. The current process of drafting the policy is a significant step in the right direction. The proposed policy actions must be practical and time bound.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Benchmarking Prof. Bukenya’s strategy in Rukungiri District;
Perspective from an eye witness

As NRM winds up two years in power since the last election, NRM leaders at all levels are grappling with questions from voters on the status of the ‘promise’. The key blue print/promise of the ruling NRM manifesto was ‘prosperity for all’ whose major objective is to empower every household in Uganda to meet its basic needs and earn an annual income of at least shillings 20 million per year. This aspiration was to be delivered through micro-policies and subsequent programs that would lift Ugandans to prosperity. In effect, this is NRM’s strategic move, to drive the country to a people owned affordable financial infrastructure. To many this is the Rolls-Royce of the Movement. It is the mothers’ milk for movementocracy. It will also be the litmus test for NRM’s re-election appeals in 2011. For the politicians where the scent of PFA is still elusive, questions are leaping skyward! The process for the conceptualization and laying of the PFA or Boonabagagawale (Luganda), lonyobotdanodocu (Luo) and Boonabagaigahare (Runyoro-kitara) implementation/ action strategy has been quite a protracted struggle that engaged everybody from the practicing farmer here in Rukungiri up to the Head of State. The strategy was finally launched by President Museveni himself on the 8th of October 2007. Its now time to move away from the Boonabagagawale as an aspiration to a reality. In other wards, it must now be touched and felt in people’s pockets. This simple raison d'ĂȘtre brings forward the concept of Boona-Bakole (let every body work) as an operational strategy towards the achievement of Boonabagagawale (wealth for all). To achieve this, leaders must do a lot in mobilizing the rural and urban citizenry along this aspiration and its operational strategy of hard work ethic as requisite software for realization of prosperity. This is important for marshaling the will of Ugandans to embrace and demand development. Henrik Ibsen, 1828-906 argued that “it’s not by spectacular achievements that man can be transformed, but by will. Where there is will, there is a way”. If all Ugandans come along to embrace this full fledged government effort to address the entire range of the value chain that encompasses production, micro-finance, marketing and processing then surely poverty will be sent to sleep.

In Rukungiri with the help of Professor Gilbert Bukenya we started on this process. His upland rice revolution took us by surprise. We are hoping that the roll out of this PFA strategy will backstop the exiting efforts and build on them; and the youth in Rukungiri here who must be at the core of this program are eagerly waiting.

For us here in Bwambara and Bugangari, Rukungiri district Professor Bukenya’s model amazed us because of its practicability. I must argue that Bukenya is not taken up by bookish fantasy of ideologies, concepts and complex models of bureaucrats and technocrat’s that are usually too complex but not configured to suit the reasonable basic needs of the household poor. Vice President Bukenya used hands on but rather smart formulae in his upland rice enterprise. He conducted practical studies of upland rice from his own Kakiri farm. After his pilot experiment, he broadcasted his workable findings/strategy to many districts. For Bwambara and Bugangari people it was very simple ‘Use one sack of nerica rice seed on one acre of land and you harvest seven bags’.
The Author( in a pull neck sweater) discussing farmers enterprises and forests at the mountain forestry university Boku Vienna Austria- feb 2008

Prof.Bukenya identified up land rice as a high yielding enterprise capable transforming rural poor household and I must confess that his rice revolution has changed the way of life of people here. The citizens of the said sub counties were hitherto tobacco farmers whose efforts reached the ebb with the pull out of British American Tobbaco Ltd (BAT). The Bwambarians and Bugangarians resorted to drinking alcohol as a way of life. Drinking would start at 8:00 am! Bukenya appeared to them like angel Gabriel and his scheme has changed their life completely. Currently rice is their white gold. Reaching Bugangari and Bwambara trading centers you definitely smell progress, people are very smart on Sunday, riding on new bicycles, motorcycles and few vehicles. Grass thatched hoses are now a fact of history. Many have started installing solar energy for lighting. Many have also bought plots of land in Rukungiri town council and have started building. Every body is amazed at how life can change very fast! Because of this empowerment, these rice entrepreneurs have set up their own SACCO in Bwambara, Kubumbu and Bugangari. The actors have procured for and by themselves rice hurling machines. In Rukungiri we are now debating to have a brand of ‘Bwambara rice- the white gold’, just like the Kibimba rice scheme I used to hear about. I love to joke that Bukenya Model provided us with Old Testament of PFA upon which New Testament. We say this because are optimistic that the long awaited policies to guide PFA will be purely hands on practical.

Leaders must always come up with practical models that suite people’s needs. If we move on like this, things will improve. I have not followed up other districts like Apac, Kamwenge, Kaberamaido, Nakasongora, Kayunga, Mpigi, Wakiso, Sembabule, Rakai and Masaka where this wonder rice scheme has been introduced. I am optimistic that things are okay. Of course there are still some challenges that came with this revolution in Rukungiri, notably parents removing their children from schools for days to chase birds from rice shambas, total lack of saving culture among our farmers and the June 2007 hailstorms that hit our districts. This reminds of the need to mainstream issues like sensitization on importance of saving and agriculture insurance among others.

Finally, to galvanize and insulate the Bwambara and Bugangari gains, government must deepen provision of its mandated common goods like law and order, security, health services, education, energy and road infrastructure. These public goods will provide the basic but highly needed software for incremental and sustainable blossom of PFA generated actions that address the entire range of the value chain amongst our people. This must also underpin coherence and harmony in the implementation of this PFA strategy where as accountability needs not to be emphasized. It is just a must. Are u ready to prosper?

Rwakakamba Morrison
Coffee farmer- Rukungiri

Saturday, May 3, 2008


My village, Nyiebingo Kebisoni in Rukungiri was a paradise ten or so years ago. It was graced by rivers Kanywa, Kiborogota, Omukyijurirabusha, Kanyeganyegye, and Omukagyera. These rivers and streams that used to flow with a natural effect are now extinct. The hill tops of Itemba, Matebe and Nyakashozi are bare, punctuated by deadly gullies! The famous wetlands of Muyorwa and Garubunda are extinct! If you have lived the past ten years or so in a village and you have cared to observe, you notice that those rivers with fresh water where you took your daring swimming lessons as a naughty young lad are no more. What is left in some instances are small traces of flowing water surrounded by eucalyptus trees, food crop gardens and traces of waning riparian wetlands. In some cases, the rivers and streams got extinct and small towns are thriving! The early morning fog is now a fact of history, rainy season’s can longer be traditionally predicted! When such rains come any way, they are adjunct with devastating floods and their causative links like displacements and diseases! What exactly happened? Are these symptoms of climate change and subsequent global warming? Unabated encroachment? Irresponsible land use? A curse? Saharization? Imposing Impunity? Inefficient policy regimes and deficiency in Implementation monitoring and evaluation of good policies?

A recent study carried out and managed by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), funded by DFID; “Auditing the Effectiveness of Government in Protection and Restoration of Water Catchments System” documents and reveals a deepening water crisis in Uganda. The study gives an explanation to prolonged droughts, acute water shortages, poor, erratic and intermittent rains. The study explains a nexus between land use, environmental degradation and subsequent deepening water crisis. ACODE study observes that the rate at which these resources are encroached upon and consequently depleted is higher than the rate at which they are restored and as a result, Uganda stands at the brink of an escalating environmental calamity. The encroachment, drying up and depletion of R. Rwizi in Mbarara, R. Nyamwamba in Kasese, L. Kyoga and L. Victoria are glaring manifestations of a severe environmental breakdown, inadequate and non-functionality of policy regimes as well as a major cause of economic mayhem, poverty, conflicts, disease, drought and famine. ACODE findings corroborate with the Uganda Poverty Status Report (2005), which reveals that Uganda’s forest cover has diminished from over 11m hectares in 1890 to the below par 3m hectares in 2005! This means that at this geometric rate, in few years ahead Uganda will have no forests and subsequently no water. In the circumstances, public water works like boreholes and protected springs have started drying up.

The foregoing coins a testimony that environmental conservation today is no longer a question of beauty but a question of economic survival of both individual households and the nation at large. It also presents poverty as so much a cause and a consequence of environmental degradation most especially when every wetland is encroached on, every swamp drained, top soils eroded, rivers drying up and lakes shrinking, the water table continues to go down and desertification becomes a reality. This has eventually reduced and depleted water yields to feed public water works like gravity water schemes, boreholes, shallow wells, and protected springs and so on. In Katakwi, Mbarara, Ntungamo and Kasese over 50% of public water works are nonfunctional! Water granaries that feed them dried up! How much money did Uganda spend to put these public water works? Will Uganda achieve the ambitious 77% water coverage target as laid down in the PEAP by 2015 at a time when all its wet lands, forests, rivers, hills, lakes are rapidly getting depleted? If Uganda is to insulate itself from this calamity it has to deliberately replenish and restore its water catchments. This is why the talked about proposed give away of Mabira intrigues me under what ever explanations. Mabira and other catchments are at the moment a mater of life and death. Mabira is no longer for scenic beauty and ecotourism, it is important for survival of humanity to begin with. If we don’t have water, then we don’t have life. The debate and contestation over Mabira incarnation to a sugar cane shamba should not arise. It is simply a taboo.
Yet the state of the environment in Uganda’s pre-independence period was the most ideal in the whole of Africa. Once described as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ and a fairly tale by Sir Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of United Kingdom and Second World War hero. The country enjoyed an ideal weather pattern suitable for agricultural production that boosted the country’s economy in the immediate period after independence. Agriculture, thus, formed the country’s economic backbone until today. Increases in population, now at over 26 million people, have had very negative implications on land usage, mainly for agricultural and shelter purposes.
The findings reveal that Uganda has a number of laws and policies geared at conserving and protecting her environment. From the Constitution, the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), the National Environment Management Act (NEMA among others. Despite a forest of policies, catchments continue to dwindle! This calls for meticulous review and avid implementation of the existing environmental policy regime with the view of tailoring, customizing, localizing and genderizing it for practical purposes. My friend Godber Tumushabe of ACODE argues that if the top leadership (read President Museveni) demonstrates the will for uncompromising implementation of environmental policies, this deepening water crisis can be averted. However, the President argues that he wants to create jobs for the citizenry and boost Uganda’s economy. Can this be achieved sustainably? Can Ugandans be guided to engage in profitable ventures that don’t compromise the wider environmental needs? ACODE, a body of policy gurus should provide guidance and answer the seemingly legitimate concerns of the President.
Finally, as I sign off I say to you that you either environmentalize or perish. That is what I wish for you and myself. Over to you fellow Ugandans.

Rwakakamba Morrison-
Policy Research and Advocacy Manager
Uganda National Farmers Federation


Hitherto scarcely known Buliisa district, is now days a household name. The discovery of oil resources and Balaalo crisis have put this district which is located in great Albertine Graben region in spotlight. For starters, the beauty of Buliisa district is amazing; Buliisa is a gargantuan indelible gift of nature. It has to say the least the whole lot depending on which side of context you emerge from. From the rift valley gorges and escarpment to the even grazing land, Budongo forest, the Murchison falls national park and the Lake Albert; you are presented with a curvature of picturesque beauty and a resource studded sachet that civilized, uncivilized and Byzantine empires would fight for control. Buliisa enjoins rivers and lakes with a host of fish and other aquatic species, forests, wildlife colonies, vast expanses of savanna and minerals such as sand, oil and gas. To cut the story short, these fights or you may call them skirmishes have already been witnessed in the last two years of discovering the Buliisa treasure! Buliisa is now a land of wet politics.

The leaders and indigenous citizens of Buliisa are up from ostensible slumber. Buliisians are ready to protect and defend what belongs to them. They have now moved fast to stealthily codify their land of historicity, of new discoveries and increasingly embattled from real and presumed forces, whether internal or external-period! They are now working on an environmental ordinance which will be possibly the only, if not the most elaborate in the history of local governments in Uganda. Two months ago, the Buliisa district administration sourced Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), a regional think tank on environment and development which is supported by PRIME West/USAID to facilitate a forum for dialogue and consultation on a multiplicity of issues and generate ideas that are necessary for the development of a District Environment and Natural Resources Ordinance. The district environment Ordinance is a subsidiary legislation deriving powers from the Local Government Act, section 39. This ordinance must conform to the existing constitutional and legislative framework and general principles of law applicable to Uganda and its utility is the deepening of the legislative machinery to lower local settings to enable legislation to better capture local and peculiar environmental issues in a specific district or lower local government setting. We all hope that this ordinance will work and will be supported by all stakeholders. We also hope that it will not join the myriad cum catalogue of other important environmental laws and policies that have gathered dust in district and national book /files stores.

What then will this ordinance mitigate? The Buliisa administration will use the organically generated ordinance to ensure that land degradation stops by curbing overgrazing and maintaining cattle that conform to the holding capacity of the district. Forestry resources will be protected through outlawing of charcoal burning and unregulated extraction of forest products. Threat to wildlife will be arrested by containing rampant poaching of hippos and cobs in Bugungu. Buliisa leadership projects that oil exploration and exploitation will potentially cause pollution of water bodies and the atmosphere and could further diminish fish resources in the Lake Albert. The prospect of oil spills and other related disasters demand contingent plans to address attendant environmental reversals through impact assessment and mitigation measures.

The ordinance will also mitigate apparent destruction of catchments and riverine forests, unregulated sinking of bores holes and discharge of untreated effluent and molasses into water bodies and non observance of lakes and river buffer zones. In Buliisa, the fish resources are on a steady decline, precipitated by population explosion, increasing numbers of un regulated fishing villages, illegal activities such as use of illegal nets and fishing methods, fishing in breeding grounds and over dependence on fishing as an occupation. Yet administrative and management structures (BMU) at most landing sites are either non existent or inadequate. There nascent rapid sprouting of urban centers in the district with out well planned drainage systems, no toilets, and careless disposal of Kaveera in towns, gardens, farms will if not checked befall a catastrophe on the district.

I have argued before, that such environmental initiative should involve farmers at all stages. This is because; farmers interact on a daily basis with the environment. This therefore means that farmers can be the best protectors and custodians of environment if they are sensitized and given capacity to sustainably utilize environmental resources. If farmers are relegated to the periphery, they can be unfortunately the worst culprits of environmental destruction. I believe Buliisa is setting a timely example that other local governments in Uganda should benchmark. Let’s keep our ears on to the ground while auditing the strides of this celebrity district.

Till then;

Rwakakamba Morrison
Resident Consultant and Manager for Policy Research and Advocacy
Uganda National Farmers Federation

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cassava, Uganda’s Food Security Crop

Cassava, a tropical root crop is the third most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and corn. According to FAO, more than 600 million people depend on the cassava in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For Uganda, cassava provides around 13 percent to the daily caloric intake. According to Dr. Robert Mwanga of NaCRRI, cassava is an assured way to attains some of The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) in particular, the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. This is because its roots provided food, the leaves a vegetable delicacy and the stem is a planter that can be turned into wood for cooking, thus the Baganda saying that ‘wamalako nga Muwogo’ (you complete as Cassava). Cassava has also increasingly demonstrated its role as a key raw material in the industrial sector owing to the various uses to which its starch can be put to. Certainly, to sustain cassava’s duo roles for food and non-food uses, it’s critically necessary that its key production constraints be addressed in order to attain optimal productivity. The colonial government in Uganda made the first attempt in 1941, through variety selection, to increase cassava productivity. During this period (1941-1958), introductions from Amani, Tanzania and a few local varieties were screened at Serere and Bukalasa, and promising clones multiplied and released to farmers. Further interventions to sustain cassava productivity in Uganda were done in the 1990’s with collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Together, these colonial and post-colonial cassava selection schemes resulted into the release of cassava varieties that significantly increased cassava productivity at farm level.
Unfortunately, throughout the crop’s growth to harvesting, it experiences a continuous assault from a plethora of pests and diseases that cause substantial yield losses. For example in 2007 the country reported an outbreak of the cassava mosaic virus and cassava brown streak disease which threatens to undermine prospects. Worse still, are the increasing challenges from recurring droughts, persistent low-input cultivation, and market limitations in form of reduced shelf life, poor quality standards and lack of an effective and national cassava industrialization strategy. The heterozygous nature of the crop, low fruit set and susceptibility to inbreeding depression further undermine breeding initiatives aimed at improving its genetic potential. In response to some of these challenges, the National Cassava Programme has since then implemented activities to address some of these challenges, principle of which is the integration of end-user participatory approaches, appropriate biotechnology tools and traditional breeding methods to make cassava a highly competitive starchy crop for both food and non-food applications. This is being done in partnership with local, national and international collaborators. The National Cassava Research Programme is optimistic that this initiative will both increase the competitiveness of cassava in the industrial sector and reduce food security problems in Uganda


Only if, basic commodity and non-pecuniary services costs remain stable (kerosine, fuel, soap, salt, school fees etc)

The twenty first century is witnessing an unprecedented escalation in food prices. Adjuncts of this trend according to the Britons wood institutions (IMF and World Bank) will sink more 100 million in debilitating poverty and a myriad of conflicts and unfettered violence. Food prices related conflicts have already floated itself in countries like Haiti. Over the years, consumers of food around the world have enjoyed relatively cheap food for so many decades that we have taken it for granted. We in Africa in particular are accustomed to the concept of farmers having a life dominated by poverty from which they generally want to escape by moving to towns where they can share in the political protection afforded to consumers against rising food prices. This protection has continuously pumped poverty back into the rural areas where farmers are told they must improve their efficiency if they want to climb out of poverty. While it is true that inefficient production systems in the small scale sector provide little or no reward for the work applied to them, current producer prices do not provide scope for a decent living even by those who can improve on production efficiency. Rural poverty will not be reduced without improvements to systems of production, and these systems will only be induced by better price incentives. Food prices are shifting upwards along with demand for farm produce. We may no longer take cheap food for granted, and those who have abandoned agriculture in exchange for the urban life would do well to consider returning to their land to apply improved production techniques to benefit from improved producer prices. Agriculture is where reliable dime can found.

For starters, sharp rise in the demand for food is attributed to several factors, First, the costs of production have increased because the price of oil has increased to all-time highs and demand for agricultural inputs has increased enormously. Nitrogenous fertilizers in particular are directly related to the cost of oil and the associated cost of transport, and world supplies of phosphoric acid have dwindled such that prices have tripled in the last few months. Second, increases in demand for grain to make ethanol for fuel to reduce dependence on oil and mitigate environmental damage has led to a 25% increase in production of maize in the USA to a record 335 million tonnes, partly at the expense of alternative crops, but the incremental output of 8 million tonnes will be absorbed into ethanol production. Third, increasing wealth among consumers has implied greater demand for meat, especially in China where annual consumption has increased form 20 to 50 kg. per person, and producing a kilo of beef by feeding grain requires 8 kg. of grain, or 3 kg for a kilo of pork. Fourth, potential for expansion of agriculture in developed countries has reached a plateau since all suitable land is already used and mot known technical advances in production have already been applied. Fifth, any expansion of farmland now implies advancing into remote areas of the world including our own neighbourhood where costs of transport and development of infrastructure impose greater production costs. And six, there have been devastating droughts or floods in areas that traditionally produced high output. However, the reason for increased prices is not that total production has declined, because it has actually increased by huge amounts world-wide, but that demand for grain has increased for purposes that were not previously so significant. World reserve stock s of coarse grain are expected to be down by 53 million tonnes this year and amount to only 53 days’ supply in January, so that countries needing to import emergency supplies are in trouble. When World stocks feel to 56 days in 1972 prices doubled.

There is little doubt that increased prices for food are going to be a fact of life. The steep rise in the price curve is not one side of a peak but the vertical face of a step which consumers are obliged to mount. We in Uganda should accept the positive side of this fact and see it, not as a threat to our national economy, but as the handle by which we can pull ourselves out of rural poverty and develop our agricultural production capacity to take advantage of regional and overseas markets to play the role of grain basket to the region that has been hailed so often before as our rightful destiny. Uganda has meaning reserves of land especially in the north, irrigation water, a capable workforce and sustainable technology that optimises access to sources of fertility under conservation farming practices. The time has now come to apply these resources to economic advantage, not only to meet our own food security needs but to supply others within the region and beyond who are less fortunate or less organised than ourselves. Increased prices allow investors to open up areas that were previously uneconomic, and they provide an incentive for all farmers to adopt the most appropriate production technology on new and existing land.

The World Bank calculated that, if agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) did not increase at the global rate of 2.5% per annum, there would be an increase in the number of people in SSA living below the poverty line of $1 per day. If the productivity levels remained unchanged, this increase would be 5%, making 36% of the population by 2015. Inefficient farming makes for higher cost of production but higher prices attract more efficient producers who will increase output and generate national wealth. Therefore, Uganda should not shield itself from the world food price trends. Investors, whether foreign or local, large or small, need confidence to invest; confidence in the knowledge that there will be no artificial distortion to the natural influence on prices, such as export bans or price control; confidence that agricultural and trading policies will acknowledge the inevitable trends and take advantage of them; and confidence in the long term sustainability of conducive policies so that sustainable agricultural practices will be applied conscientiously and consistently to preserve our forests and water catchment areas against erosion and our rivers against siltation. It is in this spirit that shrinking rivers like Rwizi in Mabarara, Mporogoma in Mbale, Nyamwamba in Kasese among others, should be restored.

Recent acknowledgements by policy makers in Uganda that the wholesale adoption of Washington consensus economics spelled on Uganda 101% liberalisation raped our agriculture sector is a positive sign. Now we are going back to basics of command economics where government now takes a central role in financing and promoting innovations and technology in the agriculture sector. We now know that NAADS will be supplying inputs to farmers and that under Prosperity for rural financial services will be revolutionalised. This is important for rescuing our dwindling production and productivity in the agriculture sector. These and other regulatory parameters that make farming sustainable can do more for citizens’ economic empowerment. This is why; the awaited five year National Development Plan (NDP) that will replace Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and the popular Boonabagagawale (PFA) should be priotized and allocated to formidable resources to buttress the supply side of food such that we can be wholly food secure and be able to supply food to those in need and reap big.

Rwakakamba Morrison
Resident Consultant & Manager for Policy Research and Advocacy
Uganda National Farmers Federation

Climate Change and its terror adjuncts are a formidable threat to farmers in Uganda

Prolonged droughts, acute water shortages and poor and erratic rains that have hit Uganda both in the past and presently have not only left many in the country-side hungrier and poorer but have largely contributed to the overall slow down in economic growth from 6.6% to less than 5%. For starters, Eastern and Northern Uganda experienced heavy rains during the three months of July, August and September 2007 that resulted in severe floods in many locations, this trend has continued to manifest its self as early as March 2008 in east and central regions of Uganda. At the height of the floods in September 2007, many rivers burst their banks and could not be crossed on foot, some bridges were washed away and roads became impassable. In the worst affected areas some schools, health centres, homes and other infrastructures were destroyed or badly damaged and many families were displaced and forced to seek shelter in school buildings on higher ground. As a result, Food balance sheets for Amuria and Katakwi for the period July 2007 to June 2008 indicate that Amuria would have a deficit of 16 419 tones of cereals, 27 743 tonnes of roots and tubers while Katakwi would have a cereal deficit of around 3 315 tones but small surpluses in roots and tubers and pulses. This also has a bearing on the protruding global agricultural prices.

The above, coupled with an apparent decline in the water resources and the consequent food insecurity and decline in economic growth is a testimony that environmental conservation today is no longer a question of beauty but a question of economic survival of both individual farmer households and the nation at large– indeed poverty is so much a cause and a consequence of environmental degradation. With every wetland encroached on, swamp drained, top soils eroded, rivers drying up and lakes shrinking, the water table continues to go down and desertification becomes a reality in Uganda. Uganda’s small rivers that feed in the international water bodies like the great River Nile and Lake Victoria are facing extinct. The most visible is River Nyamwamba in Kasese, River Rwizi in Mbarara and River Mporogoma in Eastern Uganda. The culprits and victims for this environmental catastrophe are largely the farmers who interact with the environment on a daily basis. Yet if educated and given capacity, farmers can be the best protectors and custodians of environment.
Yet Uganda has a number of laws and policies geared at conserving and protecting her environment. From the Constitution, the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), the National Environment Management Act (NEMA), the national Land/Land Use Policy, the National Wetlands Policy (NWP) and the Water for Production Strategy, among others.

What then explains the continued environmental catastrophe in Uganda? The problem lies in implementation malnourishments. Laws and policies merely exist on paper with palpable limitations in enforcement and implementation. At the Uganda National Farmers Federation we contend that, much as Uganda is one of the few countries in Africa to posses what looks like a supportive legal framework and policy regime on environmental protection, her natural resources continue to dwindle and deplete daily at an alarming rate and as a result, the country stands at the brink of a severe food, environmental and deepening water catastrophe and the subsequent related conflicts. In all this equation it the poorest that suffer. In Uganda when we talk of the poorest we mean farmers. Farmers in Uganda need capacity in terms of knowledge and resources to confront climate change adjuncts. It not until then that farmer’s commitment to feed the world can be pulled to fruition.

We at Uganda National Farmers Federation in partnership with all those actors that wish farmers well call for, is effective implementation and monitoring and evaluation of existing policies and laws without fear or favor, sensitization of farmers on conservation and restoration of environmental resources and promotion of sustainable natural resources management in agriculture. We also call for meticulous review of the existing environmental policy regime in Uganda with the view of tailoring, customizing, localizing and genderizing it for practical purposes. With the changing climate at a time when farmers still depend on nature mercies and goodwill farmers options for productivity enhancement seem to dwindle. Unless farmers adopt technologies that accommodate climate change, unless farmers learn to adapt to the changing climate, farmers in Uganda and Africa generally will perish. To the farmers and governments I say- Adopt Adapt or Perish!!!!!!!!!

Morrison Rwakakamba
Resident Consultant and Manager for Policy Research and Advocacy.
Uganda National Farmers Federation