By The Independent (Uganda)
ENTEBBE – The government of Uganda has been called to open up markets for more agro-ecologically produced foods. As a starting point, territorial market leaders have asked the government to kick-start the process of certifying agroecology farmers, and to ensure that ample space is allocated for their products in all markets.
This call was made Thursday by market leaders, farmers and suppliers of agroecology products from Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe at the end of a three-day training facilitated by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum) Uganda.
KCCA, municipalities, and city leadership were challenged to ensure healthy organic products are allocated space in market stalls where they can be differentiated by buyers from other inorganic foods.
“We want to see how we can have more of these products in our markets but also ensure that consumers can identify and easily access them.This is why we are bringing agencies such as KCCA on board,” said Hadija Nalule from Pelum Uganda, one of the training facilitators.
At a press conference in Entebbe, the leaders of Territorial Markets highlighted challenges that continue to inhibit production and access to organic products in all territorial markets.
Joseph Mudhasi, the chairman Nakawa Makert decried the government’s complacency, which he said, has led to the proliferation of dangerous chemicals in crop production in all parts of the country.
“The technologies they are bringing are breeding laziness and destroying the environment because farmers no longer want to weed their crops. They just want to use the sprays and the soil is getting destroyed,” he said.
On his part, Richard Mugisha, a farmer with Jero Farms in Entebbe, dispelled the notion that agroecology is more expensive.
He pointed out that having started out growing tomatoes on an acre of land, his farm has increased and his output scaled up without having to incur any costs on synthetic fertilizers.
He said, however, that the stumbling block he and fellow farmers have been facing is market access.
“It is good that we are bringing market leaders on board because we have had situations where market leaders conspire to block organic product suppliers. I have experienced this in one of the markets here in Entebbe,” Mugisha remarked.
Mugisha on the other hand called for government support in certifying organic food producers to make them distinguishable from the rest of the inorganic farmers.
The stakeholders thanked AFSA and Pelum for this initiative which aims to shift consumer mindset and foster a greater appreciation for organic and agroecological products.
“When I go back I will push for space to be allocated in my market for organic foods and we shall work to ensure that it is fully stocked,” said Zuena Nantume -Market Master Wandegeya.
Blessing Tendekani Muwomo from Pelum Zimbabwe said the 3-day workshop had taught him the importance of integrating agroecology in territorial markets as they perfectly link up all the players from the farmers to policy-makers to bring about change.
Civil Society organizations such as AFSA and Pelum have been engaging the government at different levels in the push for the production of healthier food products, including participation in development of the national organic policy which protects organic producers, and the national agroecology strategy that is currently being developed.