Wednesday January 29 2014

This is the year for small-scale farmers

The UN has named 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. This can only be interpreted as recognition by the UN that farms run by ordinary farmers, whether in urban or rural areas, have a crucial role to play is solving the looming problem of food insecurity as we get closer to 2050 when Uganda’s population will be over 50 million.

The demand for food will be greater and, if incomes continue to improve, there will be increased need for animal protein, putting more strain on the efforts of farmers for future food production.

Home grown
Last year, two international organisations, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and Slow Food, agreed to promote home-grown food. They encourage people to grow their own food. The approach is geared towards enhancing not only food security but food sovereignty.

They want households to eat food that is sovereign to them--grown in their own gardens. To eat food whose history they can account for--where it was grown, when the seeds were planted, and how the crops were nurtured. It is viewed as the best way to preserve traditional food crops and to encourage people to be proud of their indigenous food and cooking methods.

The family farms however currently face such challenges as land and water resources degradation, land fragmentation, unpredictable weather patterns, new crop diseases, lack of capital, and a whole range of other issues.

Nearly half of them hardly produce enough food for themselves because they lack access to high-yielding crop varieties while others, due to ignorance, have not yet accepted the importance of new farming technologies such as fertiliser application and rainwater harvesting for irrigation.

The government and donor agencies will need to support the family farms by spending more money on research to find solutions to the new crop diseases and promoting training of the farmers in better soil management and crop and animal husbandry skills. They will need more farmer-friendly credit facilities to access modern farm implements such as water pumps, fertilisers and water dam construction.