Earth markets have a place in the fight against disease

What you need to know:

A report from the World Health Organization points out unhealthy diets as one of the four primary factors driving the rise in Non-communicable diseases

Over the recent decade the growing rise and contribution to deaths by Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) has become a major global concern. Statistics show that the NCDs are responsible for 74 percent of all deaths globally while in Uganda, non-communicable diseases are responsible for the death of 33 percent of Ugandans annually. A report from the World Health Organization points out unhealthy diets as one of the four primary factors driving the rise in Non-communicable diseases. Research indicates that almost all the fruits and vegetables on the Ugandan market are contaminated by pesticides residues, and these pose a serious health threat to the population.

The lack of access to healthy diets directly implicates food insecurity in Uganda. Food security is the state where all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. To achieve access to it is critical that interventions are set up where communities will be able to identify places they can access and trade in healthy diets at affordable costs giving returns to farmers and consumers. The key intervention to achieve this is through the use of earth markets!

Earth Markets can easily be defined as places to buy high quality products, but also spaces to build communities, create exchange and education. Earth markets therefore adopt a multidisciplinary approach to food and provide nourishment while promoting and protecting history, culture identity and traditions in a way of meaningful exchange unlike other conventional markets. They are important points of social gatherings where different communities come together, exchange products and knowledge of how the crops are grown agro-ecologically without using dangerous chemicals. Unlike other markets that are held every day, earth markets can be held regularly at least once in the week.

Products sold and bought in earth markets are only local and seasonal products grown agro-ecologically by small scale farmers and cannot endanger one’s life or lead to NCDs. They are sold directly by producers who ensure that they sell them at a fair price and guarantee environmentally sustainable methods.

Earth market products like fruits and vegetables are safe for human consumption as they are fresh and uncontaminated by harmful synthetic chemicals. . The objective for earth markets is to ensure there is access to safe food and that traditional and local products are preserved and bringing together small-scale farmers or producers and consumers avoiding middlemen who exploit the small scale farmers.  This therefore makes earth markets critical in fighting against the growing NCDs especially in the least developed countries like Uganda.

Earth markets focus on supplying safe foods, thereby reducing NCDs and giving the consumers an opportunity to develop a close relationship to the food producers and the food that they eat and avoid a long distribution chain that creates distance between consumers and food producers hence bridging the gap. They also improve the small scale farmer’s livelihood not only just by selling the products directly to consumers but also investing more time and efforts in their job and know how things are moving on in the world.

Earth markets are, therefore, critical in combating the increasing cases of Non-Communicable Diseases as well as improving food, income and nutrition security for poor and vulnerable women as it is provided in the Markets Act 2021, that a market can be established to cub the emerging and important matters that have for so long affected the public ad provides for the establishment and management of public and private markets.

Earth markets are of big value in the communities since they create market opportunities for small scale producers and agroecologists normally excluded from conventional commercial channels. This also improves access to organic products which in turn leads to consumption of safe foods and prevention of Non-Communicable diseases.

To this end, in order to reduce the consumption of unhealthy diets and growing cancer cases in Uganda, it is urgent to establish and support community earth markets where organic products can be accessed. 

Support should be provided especially to small-scale farmers to produce organic food crops by creating an enabling environment for them to market their products. These interventions will be critical in reducing the NCD rates in Uganda through consumption of healthy diets.

Shamirah Nakijoba                           

Program Manager, Community Empowerment, Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights

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