A woman buys food in Nakasero Market. Use of agrochemical affects the country’s ability to exploit the organic market. PHOTO/Edgar R. Batte

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Govt should enact organic food law, says social-economic rights advocate

What you need to know:

  • Traditional farming. We are better off using organic controls and our traditional method of farming in dealing with the threats posed by pests, diseases and weeds than using the indiscriminate, deadly agrochemicals.

The disadvantages of using agrochemicals to control pest, diseases and weeds far outweighs its advantages, if any, according to Mr David Kabanda, a social-economic rights advocate in trade and food systems. In an interview, he explained to Prosper Magazine’s Ismail Musa Ladu why the use of chemicals in the farm is almost an equivalent of steady suicide mission—self destruction.

Why are you opposed to agro-chemicals use in the country’s agrifood systems?
There is overwhelming evidence indicating that chemicals pose a potential risk to humans and other life forms and unwanted side effects to the environment. No segment of the population is completely protected against exposure to pesticides and the serious health effects associated with it. Our guards must be up all the time. The process of regenerating soils that have been rendered lifeless by these chemicals is a whole generation affair—time that we don’t have before we end up lifeless ourselves.

What are these agrochemical (agricultural chemicals) you are talking about?
They include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides and plant growth regulators among others.

Certainly, there must be some benefits …
If the credit of pesticides include enhanced economic potential in terms of increased production of food and fibre, and amelioration of vector-borne diseases, then its downside in terms of serious health implications to human being and the environment cannot be over emphasized. The direct gains expected from its use is limited compared to the damage it can inflict on the ecosystem. Just look at the high risk groups exposed to pesticides among them production workers, formulators, sprayers, mixers, loaders and agricultural farm workers. I can tell you we are better off using organic controls and our traditional method of farming in dealing with the threats posed by pests, diseases and weeds than using the indiscriminate, deadly agrochemicals. I can also tell you that during manufacture and formulation, the possibility of hazards may be higher because the processes involved are not risk free. In industrial settings, workers are at increased risk since they handle various toxic chemicals including pesticides, raw materials, toxic solvents and inert carriers.

You are an advocate of agroecology, saying it  is the answer to agrochemicals. Why do you believe so?
Continued use of agrochemical affects the country’s ability to exploit the lucrative organic market. The Implementation of the National Organic Agriculture policy hangs in balance because how can it be implemented efficiently in this chaotic situation? We believe in agroecology and related traditional farming system where organic fertilisers and natural local technology are applied in dealing with pests, diseases, weeds and the likes.  We don’t need synthentics in our agrifood system because we believe that our inaction is not only immoral but illegal as well.

Use of glyphosate and Glyphosate Based Herbicides (GBHs) is not allowed, but its use is still evident. What is amiss?
Local and international legal frameworks are clear about use of these herbicides, given their dangers. So failure by the government to ban the use of glyphosate and Glyphosate Based Herbicides (GBHs) is a violation of the right to life, health, right to adequate food and to a clean and health environment guaranteed under Objectives XIII, XXI, XXII, XXVII, Articles 20, 45, 8A and 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. Failure to properly regulate and control agro - chemical use is a violation of economic rights guaranteed under Article 40 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. Failure and omission to regulate the use of agro - chemicals in the agricultural sector is a violation of the right to adequate food and clean and health environment contrary to Objectives XXII, XXVII, Articles 20, 45, 39 of the Constitution of Uganda.
The Court has ordered that government issues an immediate ban on use of glyphosate and Glyphosate Based Herbicides (GBHs) in Uganda and all internationally banned agro-chemicals.
It wants the government to initiate a shift from conventional agriculture to agroecology farming.
 Government should also implement the National Organic Food Policy and its Action Plan. Regulations in relation to Section 18 (1) (a), (e), (f), (j), (k) of the Agriculture Chemicals (Control) Act 2007 should be enacted.
 The Government should introduce use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures to examine food products before their supply on the market by farmers.
The Government should also fully implement the Extension Workers’ Policy and its Action Plan and pass the Extension Workers’ Bill into law.

Who bears the responsibility of right to food?
The right to adequate food, the right to a clean and healthy environment and economic rights is not negotiable.
The right to adequate food is realised when every man, woman and child, either alone or in community with others,  have physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.

So how can this be achieved?
Agriculture has everything to do with it. We need a farming method that increases yields while reducing environmental impacts. With Agroecology which is the kind of agriculture I am talking about, we can be guaranteed of adequacy and sustainability of food availability and access. This also means what we will be free from adverse substances, resulting from the unnecessary use of chemicals on the crops as well as the farmland.  
You seem to be short of saying that regulation of agro chemical is wanting.
There are serious enforcement issues that must be tackled. Somebody is sleeping on the job yet there are laws that can be invoked to deal with this hemorrhage.  
You must understand that rule of law is not a mere adornment to development; it is a vital source of progress. It creates an environment in which the full spectrum of human creativity can flourish, and prosperity can be built.

So do you think the problem is not necessarily the law, but its appreciation and application?
When the law is understood and for everyone, it defines and enforces the rights and obligations of all. This allows people to interact with one another in an atmosphere that is certain and predictable I can tell you that no modern market economy can function without law, and to be legitimate, power itself must submit to the law. So rule of law in agroecology is not a mere adornment to development; it is a vital source of progress. It creates an environment in which the full spectrum of human creativity can flourish, and prosperity can be built.

Mr David Kabanda, a social-economic rights advocate in trade and food systems.

Now that it is what is. Where do we go from here?
There should be a review of the National Agriculture Policy and the National Development Plan III to include agroecology specific interventions.
We also believe that there is need to Identify, document, and standardize local traditional knowledge and technologies. This is in addition to Integrating organic and agroecology agriculture into the education curriculum.
Further we believe that promotion of the establishment of demonstration farms and community-based agroecology learning centers, providing incentives for investment in value addition for organic and agroecological products, must be a fixture,
Creating the community seed banks to promote community seed multiplication and sharing, promoting agroecology as a financial inclusion and food security tool while implementing the Parish Development Model and carrying out of research and documenting the impact of synthetic chemical use in agriculture to land and water and other natural resources should be a priority.




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