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Demand For Organic Foods Goes Up

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Ibrahim Ruhweza

The demand for organic foods on the market has shot up, farmers and experts have said.

This is attributed to their (organic foods) effectiveness and safety.

Experts add that as more consumers become aware of the potential health risks associated with chemicals and pesticides, their tastes and preferences have shifted to organic foods in recent years.

Dr. Christopher Kyeswa, the chairperson of PELUM Uganda, described organic foods as nutritious and healthy, offering greater human security and social ability. 

He noted that indigenous and traditional food systems have served as major sources of healthy diets amongst local communities.

Kyeswa made remarks at the ongoing National Agroecology Week for Action 2023 at Hotel Africana.

He acknowledged that organic foods and farming, respectively, preserve a rich biodiversity and often play a wider role in environmental conservation compared to foods that are processed in factories.

Kyeswa said the traditional food and seed system contributes to the well-being of consumers but also improves financial situations and combats hidden hunger caused by micronutrient deficiencies (vitamin and mineral deficiencies).

A new study has revealed that the consumption of organic products in Uganda has rapidly increased to over 10%, despite the continued gap in domestic production. The demand for organic products outside of Uganda also increased.

The study done by the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU) during the COVID-19 lockdown revealed that among the key consumer considerations behind the increase in consumption of organic products were price, health concerns, nutritional value, and environmental protection.

The study showed that domestic demand is increasing, but domestic production of organic crops is not keeping pace. Accordingly, it is a result of a lack of knowledge and information about organic agriculture and foods among value-chain actors from production to consumption.

All of the aforementioned benefits have seen a skyrocketing demand for organic foods, said Elizabeth Kabakoyo, an organic farmer from Glowish Agro Solutions and the World Food Forum national chapter in Uganda.

Fresh foods are processed by organic farming methods, grown without the use of synthetic chemicals such as human-made pesticides or fertilizers, and do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Organic foods include fresh produce, meats, and dairy products, as well as processed foods such as crackers.

“We find that we have chemicals on the market that are too toxic, not even safe for ourselves when using them, and also that the seeds that we use as farmers most of the time do not germinate,” she said.

She observed that chemicals and other factors supportive of farming have led to climate change. She explained that it is caused by chemicals that kill the microorganisms that help improve agricultural productivity.

Josephine Akia Luyimbazi, the country coordinator for Pellum Uganda, said the use of artificial pesticides is due to the population increase and the demand for healthy foods.

Luyimbazi said that population growth calls for more land to settle, and in the end, it takes land that would have been for agriculture.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) Globally, there are 8 billion lives; in Africa, it is 1.46 billion; and Uganda has a total population of over 45 million. Research shows a large number consider organic foods as their first priority.

Luyimbazi explained that this is the reason why some farmers have resorted to using boosters such as artificial fertilizers, leading to other challenges such as cancer.

More challenges

Ben Akure, the program coordinator for Uganda Humundi, asked the government to walk the talk and ban the importation of pesticides and also operationalize the food organic policy, which would protect real farmers from dishonest ones.

Bob George Sunday, the national focal person for ecological organic agriculture from the Ministry of Agriculture, said the policy has been disseminated in all parts of the country. He stated that only the ministry needs to create more time for awareness so that farmers can understand the message. 

PHOTO CAPTION: Christopher Kyeswa (left) the board chairperson Participatory Ecological Land Use Management chats with Bob George Sunday the Senior Agricultural Officer for Food Ministry of Agriculture and Josephine Akia the Country Coordinator Participatory Ecological Land Use Management at a press launch of the Agroecology Week of Action at Hotel Africana on October 23, 2023. Photo by Nicholas Oneal

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