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  • Ronald Bagaga

A Small-scale Farmer's Journey in the Development of Uganda's National Agroecology Strategy.

Amidst the challenges posed by climate change, and unsustainable agricultural practices, Uganda's National Agroecology Strategy (NAS) stands out as a source of hope and inspiration. This comprehensive framework, born out of the necessity and collaboration, aims to transform the country's food system, placing agroecology at the forefront of policy and practice.

The urgency of the situation in Uganda cannot be overstated. Nakijoba Irene a small-scale farmer (SSFs) from Mukono stated that the increasing frequency of extreme climate-related events, over use of agrochemicals among others have wreaked havoc on small-scale farmers, threatening their livelihoods, life and the stability of the agricultural sector. She added that biodiversity loss, pollution, invasion of pests and diseases, floods, and soil degradation have become all too common, jeopardizing food and nutrition insecurity, increasing poverty and inequalities for farmers. In the face of these challenges, the need for sustainable and resilient agricultural practices has never been more pressing.

Agroecology advocates collaborated with the government to champion the development of the National Agroecology Strategy (NAS). Organizations like Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) Uganda, PELUM Uganda, ACSA, Slow Food, CEFROHT, Uganda Martyrs University (UMU), and the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) formed a coalition to develop and implement the NAS. The NAS prioritizes agroecological principles for biodiversity, resilience and sustainability, aiming to shift towards nature-based approaches for improved food production, environmental protection, and livelihood enhancement.

Hakim Baliraine a farmer from Mayuge district expressed gratitude that since the start of this initiative, farmers this time have actively participated through their umbrella organizations like ESAFF Uganda, PELUM Uganda, and Slow Food, promoting inclusivity with the motto "No one should be left behind." Hakim added that stakeholder inputs were gathered through a national and four regional consultations, engaging various actors in the food value chain such as small-scale farmers, market vendors, cultural and religious leaders, traditional herbalists & healers, academia, media and researchers. However, Nakijoba Irene from Mukono district highlighted the inadvertent exclusion of farmers at the least levels like parishes, and villages during consultations.

Mr. Hakim highlighted strong support for the NAS, especially from small-scale farmers, bridging gaps in agriculture. The timely strategy aims to unite sectors, granting communities access, ownership, and empowerment in food production. He added that the NAS will counter corporate influence, promote sustainability for better returns. Endorsing eco-friendly innovations, it fights climate change and boosts conservation. The NAS enhances local markets, elevates farmers' goods, and improves health outcomes by advocating for nutritious, agroecological food consumption.

Irene Nakijoba stated that this strategy has arrived at a crucial juncture, aligning with the essential need for it. For instance, farmers possess invaluable indigenous knowledge passed down through generations, yet this knowledge often remains untapped by researchers. By engaging farmers in research activities, the strategy aims to leverage their wealth of knowledge on practices like seed saving and traditional farming methods. It seeks to bridge the gap between farmers and researchers, facilitating the dissemination of indigenous knowledge within communities and fostering the involvement of extension workers well-versed in agroecology.

Hakim, a local farmer and agroecology advocate, sees the NAS as key to a healthier and a more prosperous future. He called for translation of the NAS to avoid stagnation due to language barriers or lack of will. He added that implementation requires stakeholder involvement, especially from small-scale farmers. Local governments must be informed and take ownership for successful grassroots implementation. Utilizing various media channels is essential to reach diverse audiences. Engaging policymakers through national dialogues is vital for support. Nakijoba suggests simplifying and translating the strategy for wider dissemination through community radios, schools, churches, and local institutions to engage farmers and raise awareness.

Small-scale farmers made firm commitments towards the NAS implementation i.e. to engage proactively in partner-organized consultation and technical dissemination meetings, distribute the strategy amongst their farmer groups, adopt sustainable practices, and lobby for government funding to support strategy implementation. They further committed to advocating for the training of extension workers and the incorporation of agroecology into both National Development Plan IV and the Parish Development Model to facilitate wider scaling up and influence as well as meaningfully participate in monitoring of the implementation.




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