How Agroecology is benefiting farmers, communities In Kaliro

Historically, Ugandans have had a great regard for nature. Living in a symbiotic relationship with nature is stressed and cultural totems amongst the Ugandan peoples have meant that Ugandans grow up relating to their role within the natural order of things. This has contributed to their predisposition toward the practices of organic agriculture (OA).

However organic agriculture has grown outside public support and in some cases despite government opposition. The major organic products include dried and fresh fruits, cotton, and coffee, vanilla, cocoa, shea butter, black pepper, dried herbs, coffee, sorghum, cassava, soybeans, and bananas among others. These crops are either grown with backing from the farmers group or individually.

Production is still very low to meet increasing export and local demand for organic products. Policy implications results from various studies show that organic agriculture has great potential to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers in Uganda. Organic production allows access to new markets for farmers to obtain premium prices for their produce (export and domestic) but also to use extra incomes for extra foodstuffs, education or healthcare.

Furthermore, evidence shows that organic agriculture can build up natural resources, strengthen communities, and improve human capacity. Thus, OA has great potential in improving food security by addressing many different causal factors simultaneously.

Therefore agriculture in Uganda is given the highest degree of attention in National development planning. As far as organic farming is concerned, it is believed that Uganda is an organic country. However there are no policies specifically related to agroecology within the current national agriculture and climate change policy arena, even though there are some closely related frameworks with a further factor limiting scaling up and out of agroecological approaches is low awareness about their resilience potential.

Mohammed Lukungu, a professional agribusiness expert, social worker and Marketer with a bachelor’s degree of commerce from Makerere University class of 2011. And now fully in commercial agriculture with a mixed farm called Nana Agric Supplies at Kaliro district. The farm encompasses all organic ecological agribusiness practices.

The Nana farm located at Kaliro Town council Bugabwe village along kibaale road. The following projects of growing oranges , tangerines (Mangada), pomegranates (Mukoma-mawanga), original sweet banana’s, Gonja, Mangoes, all varieties of Matooke, Cut fish, G-fowls ,Geese, soft sugarcanes, Rabbits soursop, Jackfruits, like lemons among others ..

“From 2008 to date and I don’t see myself gaming at any point, passion and family background drives the zeal of creativity” Lukungu said. 

On his benefits from practicing mixed farming/agroecology practices

It may sound surprising, but even agriculture has negative impacts on the environment, and if we do not take proper measures, the damage can be more than expected. Without implementing excellent agricultural practices, the balance of the ecosystem will be affected.

Lukungu says the reason he decided to go organic. It hasn’t been hard to practice organic farming. He has navigated challenges through trial and error because of the growth of organic agriculture.

Lukungu at his farm.

“Like we generate manure from our turkeys, local chicken, goats, rabbits and geese droppings,” he says. One thing you should pay attention to regardless of the type of animal and birds it comes from is whether the manure has been aged or composted. Aged manure has simply been piled up; over time the nitrogen turns to a gaseous form and leaves the manure. This will turn a “hot” manure one that would burn your plants roots if applied fresh to a “cool” manure that is safe for your garden. All manures except those from cattle need to be aged at least six months before use to be properly cooled.

“Once you manage to acquire manure, you still need to be careful about how you handle it and when you use it in your garden.  Manure can contain harmful parasites and bacteria if it is not fully composted and Make sure your own animals are healthy before you use their manure as a source of fertilizer for your garden.  Also, make sure to ask about the health of the animals if you get manure from someone else” he added.

According to Lukungu rabbit poop wins the prize as the most concentrated herbivore manure. Rabbits don’t produce poop in the quantity of larger animals, so considers it a special commodity and he uses it sparingly on vegetable seedlings as a nitrogen boost. Soak rabbit poop in water for 48 hours and apply as a dilute liquid fertilizer.

He also explains how they generate manure from poultry

Birds poop and pee in one package, making their manure slimy, stinky and very high in nutrients. Chicken, pigeon, duck, turkey and other poultry manures need composting before they are used: mix them with straw at a 1-to-4 ratio for a well-balanced compost pile.

Poultry manures, especially from chickens, are higher in phosphorus than other manures, which is the most important nutrient for flower and fruit development. Use the compost as a nutrient boost for your flower beds or turn it into a liquid fertilizer and apply it to fruiting plants just before they start to flower.

“Chicken manure is much more acidic than most manures, making it a good choice for crops that need acidic soil like sweet potatoes” he added.

At his farm he also uses foliar organic fertilizers called liquid comfrey for spraying crops like oranges, mangoes composed of natural seaweed and crippling plants, sea/water weed is like water hyacinth and wandering Jew. Others have been tree or neem tree seeds crushed, soaked for six hours and sieved.

“This is how we end up with the solution, collect the leaves/bark/seeds crush them with a machine or mortar to powder form, remember they have to be dried, sieve the composition after mixing with water to get the concentrated mixture, we sieve to void blocking the pressure pump with big particles in the mixture, mix the concentrated mixture of 5 liters with 15-20 liters of water. Pour the final solution in the pump and spray on the plants like any other insecticides directly. Clean the pump after usage and wait for positive results after spraying”.

He believes natural fertilizers improve the soil structure, because of the organic matter present in organic fertilizer, soil structure is improved and as a result the soil’s ability to hold onto water and nutrients increases.

But not everyone agrees. While some farmers believe that going back to traditional practices, indigenous materials and non-chemical approaches may not always deliver the best results, and that pesticides may be needed at times, not least when critical crop yields are threatened. Lukungu thinks otherwise.

Synthetic/artificial fertilizers runoff into our waterways harming marine life and water quality. Organic fertilizers do not run off as easily (if at all) and are associated with soil structure. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic fertilizer also increases species biodiversity by 25%-35% compared with synthetic fertilizer.

Lukungu reaps big from organic farming

 “We have continuous cash flow on a daily basis because of the different projects at the farm and have expanded our customer base since we always have what to offer to them” he says. While he has been able to expand the farm to several acres from the proceeds.

“We have also been able to share the beauty of mixed farming online (nanaagricsupplies on Facebook and other online platforms). We have been able to share agribusiness knowledge to several areas of the country in the form of remote and urban training” .

About the challenges he is facing as a farmer in these times of climate change

Kaliro’s climate is generally hot and dry while the soils have low fertility.

“Drought is one of the biggest issues we farmers face in the area because of us being situated in a tropical environment. It would be different if we had an up-to-date irrigation system” he pointed out.

Uganda has the potential to produce much more organic foods but a number of factors hinder the prospects, of which climate change plays a major role. Current changes in climatic conditions are an increasing threat to food crops growing in the country. This would lead to a significant loss in incomes. Prices of inputs have always made operations hard in such times and the farmers have been hit hard by erratic weather patterns caused by climate change.

According to the UN environment, poor post-harvest handling and insufficient agricultural facilities contributes to loss of food enough to feed 48 million people in Africa annually.

According to the 2019 IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems, food wastage contributed to between 8-10% of the global emissions between 2010 to 2016.

“A large share of produced food is lost in developing countries due to poor infrastructure, while a large share of produced food is wasted in developed countries. Changing consumer behavior to reduce per capita overconsumption offers substantial potential to improve food security by avoiding related health burdens and reducing emissions associated with the extra food,” the report said.

His advice to his fellow farmers who are yet to embrace using natural fertilizers and practicing agroecology

“Farmers should avoid artificial fertilizers for health reasons and to save our environment”. Uganda farmers need a movement towards agro-ecological farming systems. Adopting the principles of agroecology will ensure that farm productivity increases, the environment remains healthy, and the farmers as well as the nation will reduce their reliance on petroleum based external farm inputs.

This also means that agroecology has the potential to not only ensure food security in the country, but food sovereignty as well. It therefore requires a landscape approach (how agricultural production and environmental conservation can best be integrated) to ensure that the farmers are exploiting the full potential of agroecological farming systems.

“Organic food is clearly labelled and provides a guarantee that your products have been produced to some of the highest environmental standards”.

One practical solution at the local level is shifting to Ecological Agriculture also known as agroecology, is not a new practice; it combines local farmers’ knowledge with the most recent scientific research to increase yields without negatively impacting the environment. It is a farming system where farmers harness their traditional knowledge about water, soil, and pest control and use it to improve their farmlands and produce. Ecological Agriculture allows farmers to develop their own farm inputs, such as organic manure and indigenous seeds that are resilient to changing climate conditions.

However, to achieve an agroecological future, everybody farmers, caterers, shops and citizens need to support a new way of thinking about food, farming and the environment.

With the support of the organic community, Government, so policymakers should understand the opportunities it offers for climate, nature and our health, their empowerment and advice for farmers, so they are able to explore how they can transition to agroecology.

The following policy recommendations should be put forward where the government and partners should facilitate organic farming by providing a wide range of training along the supply chain, ensure access to certification services at proximity and affordable to and by organic producers, recognize that properly implemented OA can increase productivity and protect the environment by fostering soil health, human health and reduce environmental degradation, access to technical know-how extension services to promote OA not only because it is one of the sustainable agricultural practices but also because OA produce has special niche market at local and international market.


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