Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS)are a great contributor to food and nutrition security
More than 85% of Uganda's population works in the agriculture sector, which also contributes more than 24% of the country's GDP. As the world's population grows, so does the demand for food; however, farmers' ability to raise global food supply to meet demand is jeopardized by a number of variables, including climate change, limited access to high-quality seeds, and a lack of market access. These have led to the sector's steady shift from subsistence to semi-commercial operations.
The transformation involves moving away from the conventional system of producing food for family use and production outside the framework of the market to market-led commercialized production. While input and service provision, self-sufficiency assurance, and export promotion are the primary objectives of sector development strategies, there is an increasing desire to capitalize on Uganda's comparative advantage provided by its distinctive and varied physiography and environmental conditions. Uganda has particular capabilities in several areas, including organic agriculture.
In Uganda, the lack of desired and high-quality plant genetic resources continues to limit smallholder agriculture and jeopardize food and nutritional security, particularly as the environment is changing. The majority of people in Uganda are small-scale farmers who use farm-saved seed obtained via farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS), which are insufficiently supported by laws and academic studies. Seed is now a "commercial proprietary resource" due to technological advancements, market manipulations, and shifting rules and legal systems.
Small-scale farmers are no longer active producers and are now passive consumers of industrial goods, including seeds, as a result of the introduction of modern agriculture. In addition to increasing the financial and ecological costs, this has also caused farmers to lose control over their productive resources and production methods, making them targets of private ownership and consumption.
Since 2019, ESAFF Uganda has been organizing the annual National Organic Week with a major aim of celebrating organic foods, farming and products in Uganda as well as increasing public awareness on organic foods and their contributions to food security, improved nutrition, poverty alleviation, economic growth and environmental conservation.
ESAFF Uganda organised the 5th annual National Organic Week with the objectives of Positioning indigenous seed varieties as the best adaptation strategy to address the impacts of climate change and providing a platform for dialogue between policy makers and small scale farmers on how to sustainable organic and biological farming methods and products directly meet the agricultural and environmental challenges. The event was carried out through community dialogues, Media engagements, awarding certificated to learners who participated in the agroecology poem writing completion and a national dialogue all which facilitated knowledge exchange amongst the farmers, policy makers, students, consumers and other stakeholders.
The weeklong activities led to increased appreciation of local biodiversity as a great contributor to food and nutrition security hence the need to further strengthen the FMSS and other initiatives that conserve traditional seed varieties.
The recommendations presented during the National Dialogue, emphasizing policy changes to support organic farming and indigenous seed conservation, may gain traction and increase appreciation the role of different stakeholders in promoting sustainable farming techniques. This could potentially lead to policy advocacy and formulation initiatives at the national and local levels, promoting organic farming and related sustainable practices. Further to that, the collaboration with educational institutions may result in the integration of organic agriculture concepts and the farmer managed seed system into school curricula and the establishment of clubs focused on agroecology and seed within academic institutions.
The weeklong activities were greatly appreciated by the representatives from the academia who acknowledged the role of biodiversity in ensuring food and nutrition security. Biodiversity is the number one indicator of food security worldwide, in order to protect the ecosystems, we need to control the biodiversity around us and not eliminate it. We need to be mindful on how we feed the environment because one day, it will make a presentation and everyone will hear it. The more the biodiversity, the more secure a household is. Br. Dr. Murongo Marius, Lecturer Uganda Martyrs university.
Increased understanding of the contribution of the FMSS and agroecologically produced seeds in ensuring safe foods for communities which is likely to influence the consumer behaviour hence increasing the popularity of FMSS.
As part of the community dialogues. Mr. Olupot Micheal Agriculture Extension Officer Amuria district quoted that; Farmers are only focusing on taking from the environment but create less time to feed it, they are always planting either infected seeds or planting in sick soils and this affects our yield. Plant healthy seed in healthy soil and get healthy yield.
There is a need to strengthen community seed banks as a one stop centre for indigenous seed varieties that have proven their resiliency. This is because CSBs ensure the preservation and accessibility of indigenous seed varieties thus empowering communities to maintain control over their agricultural heritage and contribute to a more resilient and sustainable food system enhancing agricultural biodiversity and resilience in the face of changing climates. These need to be equipped with training on seed saving, storage and management techniques as well as develop policies that prioritize the use of indigenous seeds for their resilience and adaptation to local conditions.
Engage with policymakers, academia and other stakeholders to advocate for policies supporting agroecology, and seed conservation building more partnerships for funding from various sources to enhance sustainability initiatives.
Further to that there is the need to integrate policies that address food insecurity and malnutrition through supporting farmers with training, access to credit, and market opportunities to grow diverse and nutritious crops using agroecological principles.
Collectively influence policy decisions to ensure that the regulatory framework aligns with agroecological principles, enabling a conducive environment for sustainable farming. Engage with policymakers to advocate for policies supporting organic farming, agroecology, and seed conservation. Seek partnerships for funding from various sources to enhance sustainability initiatives.