Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Eating Organic Equals Eating Health

by Joshua Kato
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Mubango village, about 2km away from Wakiso town, 25km from Kampala city, is beautifully green.

“Organic is the source of life,” says Elizabeth Joy Ewinyu. Her home in Mubango is not just green, but green with a purpose. Her farm is called Yoga Yoga Farm. Organic farming is described as a system that uses natural methods to solve challenges that affect crops and animals.

Ewinyu keeps the plants under a strict organic system. “We do not use any artificial fertilizers or pesticides,” she says. She is one of the over 500,000 organic farmers in Uganda.

“Most of the plants you see here have a purpose,” she says. The plants include passion fruits, mujaaja, aloevera and katunkuma. There also are jackfruits, avocado and mangoes, among others.

Ewinyu regularly harvests these products and then dries them up, before pounding them into powder for human consumption. The products include powdered katunkuma, powdered pumpkin leaves, powdered silver fish (mukene), peanut butter etc.

Ewinyu received organic farming knowledge from the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) and she is also a member of Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture In Eastern Africa (KHEA).

“Eating organic is eating health,” she says, before encouraging other Ugandans to take up organic farming.

What is organic farming?

Prof. Charles Ssekyewa, the African Continental Chairman for the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative who is a trainer and researcher In Organic Agriculture And Promoter Of Agro-Ecology, says organic agriculture is a production management system which avoids the use of synthetic and harmful pesticides, fertilisers, growth regulation and livestock feed additives to reach a long-term goal of sustainable production of crops and animals.

“The system relies mainly on alternative farming methods such as crop rotation, mechanical cultivation; use of animal and green manure and integrated pest management to maintain health soil; grow healthy plants and control pests and weeds,” he says.

The figures

According to Alex Lwakuba, the commissioner for crop production at the agriculture ministry, as of 2019, Uganda had over 210, 352 internationally certified organic farmers, the first and second largest certified farmers in Africa and world over respectively. The highest number is found in India. Uganda had the world’s 13th-largest land area under organic agriculture production and the most in Africa.

In 2019, Uganda had around 262,282 hectares of land under organic farming covering more than 2 percent of agricultural land.  “Uganda is second after Tanzania who have 262, 282 hectares,” Lwakuba said, but pointing out that there is potential for Uganda to be the best.  There were over 50 certified export companies.

“Our potential can put about 500,000 hectares under organic and 500,000 farmers certified internationally,” he said. He further explained that if this is done, the volume of organic produce will increase from the current 115,02MT to 210,000MT.

Member organizations are over 500 in Uganda and outside the country. The value of trade less organic turnover is currently over US$50 million per annum. The demand for organic products from Uganda is high about US$600 million.

Lwakuba said that products grown organically and sourced from Uganda include cotton (lint, yarn and finished garments), coffee (Arabica and Robusta), sesame (simsim), dried fruit (pineapples, apple bananas, mangoes, jack-fruit), fresh fruits (pineapple, apple bananas, passion fruits, avocadoes, papaya (pawpaw), ginger), jack-fruit, , vanilla, cocoa, fish, shea butter and shea nuts, bird eyed chilies, dried hibiscus, honey and bark cloth.

These products are exported to Europe, USA, Asia and other parts of Africa among others. The numbers of organic exporters in Uganda has been growing and are fully certified or in conversion, from internationally accredited certifying bodies operating in Uganda.

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