Panelists: Africa  requires serious  organic food basket

Panelists: Africa requires serious organic food basket

AFRICA Regional Steering Committee that focuses on ecological organic agriculture recently met in Dar es Salaam with the aim of making sure member states mainstream the farming and produce enough food that sustains the continent’s food basket.

Making the revelation in the city, Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) Regional Chairperson, Hakim Baliraine, who is also Uganda National Chairperson, said the meeting followed a declaration made by Africa Union (AU) Heads of State way back in 2011 in Malawi, to give agriculture priority through the Ministries of Agriculture the capability to feed their nationals with safe and healthy food.

“The high level meeting led Ecological Organic Agriculture-Initiative (EOAI) draws together a pool of smallholder farmers and civil society leaders from Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia considered as in East Africa Community to make sure Africa, let alone individual nations, produce sustainable food and enjoy organic trade.

As in West Africa led by ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the regional steering committee ensures that member states fully understand the concept of organic agriculture and strengthen the policy advocacy capacities of unions, associations and intermediary organisations, which represent the interests of smallholder farmers.

It supports civil society organisations like Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM) in Tanzania to coordinate and promote the development of organic farming among farmers, distributors and consumers through networking and information distribution.

It is tasked to make sure farmers produce certified organic products and regulated by individual government’s bureaus and as well build an advocacy movement that engages vigorously in the agricultural policy-making processes in Africa. Without stronger civil society participation and particularly the engagement of smallholder farmers, Africa is not likely to achieve its vision of sustainable and equitable agriculture.

We need to promote research, communication and extension (training), publishing and build capacity of farmers in the grassroots to produce enough organically raised agriculture.

This must entail holding national/regional dialogue and policy campaigns to promote ecological agriculture to enable farmers grow uncontaminated foodstuffs, because ecological agriculture protects the ecology, biodiversity and supports the growth of climatically resilient crops.

As in Uganda, the ecological organic agriculture core of the Kulika’s Community Development Programme, is aimed at training of farmers in sustainable organic agriculture, which focuses on experiential learning, practical work, on farm experimentation and demonstrations to improve the skills of farmers in the following areas and grow crops, which are climatically resilient to any weather situation” he pointed out.

On his part, Biovision Africa Trust Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr David Amudavi based in Kenya noted that for African farmers to excel in raising organic agriculture growth, they must accept research findings suggested by organizations like ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology- that carries out research and training in sustainable management of insects (arthropods) for improving comprehensive health and agricultural productivity in the tropics ), KALRO (Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Organization) and FIBL based in Switzerland “Their findings require less or no use of heavy chemicals, which affects people’s heath, because evidence shows a lot of diseases like cancer is currently on the rise in human population as a result of modern foodstuffs traced to chemicals used to support their growth.

“We should go to the systems used by our ancestors to grow food that increased and maintained soil fertility and health, increased food supply, maintained soil microorganisms and supported great and diverse range of crops and livestock to thrive naturally,” he added.

“We must raise farmers’ awareness to implement identified research findings through radios programs, writing success stories like what Mkulima Mbunifu is publishing in Tanzania. This must also entail organizing trainings to farmers to get skills on value chain and organize themselves as participatory groups, while products are identified and given certificates to sell blessed organic food that fetches good prices.

“The list should also include creating a platform with a big database supported by various organisatins as a One Stop Centre for our farmers to be educated on soil management, market among others to help farmers and if possible individual government to allocate 10 per cent of its budget going for organic farming. Commenting, Rwanda Organic Agriculture Movement (ROAM), Chief Executive Officer, Lise Dusabe noted that it is time every government focused on building the capacity of value chain actors and share information to help farmers grow safe and secure food in the continent.

“As led by the University of Rwanda with funds from the UNDP, we have evidence in Rwanda on the status of some wetlands, which have been wasted by chemicals as a result of farmers’ activities releasing toxics to the soil, and something must be done, because it is an alarm that it is only ecological organic agriculture that requires no chemicals should be promoted.

“We have had cases… where bees are disappearing, which means that pollination will not be there, but since we started using heavy chemicals to produce food, have we achieved food security?” she posed.

She further said Rwanda producing organic seeds of pyrethrum and exporting to Ghana is a clear testimony that organic farming can still be marketable to farmers if they are fully supported by their governments.

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