Thursday May 22 2014

Why farmers in developing world should preserve indigenous practices

By Eric Nelson Haumba

Developing the agricultural sector remains a critical factor towards the achievement of sustainable food production as well as global food security.

Of all the basic needs, food seems to be the most critical. A hungry man is an angry man, goes a common saying. There is also a popular adage to the effect that no other matter can arise or be entertained in the presence of hunger.

It is, therefore, not a surprise that the world food situation, which has reached a critical state, has led to the apprehension of a global food crisis and made food security a global concern.

It is estimated that more than 900 million people around the world suffer from hunger while a larger number experience malnutrition, majority being in lower income developing countries. Strategic programmes and initiatives have been adopted at different levels to tackle the challenges of food security and prevent imminent global food crisis.

International organisations, particularly the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), have championed some of these initiatives.

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) has also done a lot through their initiatives and contribution towards achieving the millennium development goals, particularly the eradication of poverty and hunger.

Similarly, the African Union (AU) has put in place a plan to make Africa food secure by requiring countries in the continent to allocate a substantial portion of their budget to agriculture, provide farming input subsidies, and make available affordable information and communications technology. This is in apparent recognition of agriculture as the critical sector for sustainable food security.

But what is lacking in these initiatives is the recognition and integration of indigenous knowledge initiatives.

Harnessing indigenous knowledge potential is one of the key strategies for developing the agriculture sector. Local knowledge is very crucial for sustainable agriculture and food security. It’s essential in maintaining farm productivity, efficiency and profitability in the long run, without depleting the natural resources and the environment.

Unfortunately, the indigenous knowledge systems are at risk of becoming extinct. Research attributes this to the fact that people are no longer staying in homogenous community blocks. It’s documentation and dissemination also remain a big challenge for many Ugandans and other people, particularly in Africa.

To ensure the sustainability of our farmers, it is useful to encourage the adaptation of the indigenous skills and methods with greater emphasis on crop diversity, crop rotation, and production focused on local needs and easy marketability.

Farming systems which adopt indigenous farming systems can lead to eco-friendly green revolution. In such situations, we can reduce the consumption and production of agro-chemicals. The polluting automobiles need not run up and down between the cities and villages to transport agricultural inputs and outputs.

The cost of food production can also be lower and the retail price of locally-produced agricultural commodities will subsequently reduce. This is a ‘win-win’ situation for all, except the transporters and traders.
Therefore, small, large and elite farmers should be encouraged to adapt indigenous knowledge as eco-friendly measures for profitability and environmental safety.

It is, therefore, important to create awareness and bring critical issues relating to the documentation and dissemination of indigenous knowledge to fore. This is a great way of preserving indigenous farming practices that can contribute to sustainable food production to combat imminent food crisis.

Mr Haumba works with YMCA in Kampala Branch.