Better policies – a critical element of food safety, and food security in East and Sub-Saharan Africa

(Last Updated On: 22 March 2023)

Representatives drawn from governments, the private sector, civil society, academia; regional bodies, and agricultural value chain associations from East Africa have converged at Nairobi, Kenya in their first Conference on Agroecology.

The various stakeholders have made a loud call for governments to put in place better policies that promote the use of agroecology to improve the broken food systems in the region.

TND News’ Marko Taibot who has been part of this conference in Nairobi reports that the conference which attracted more than 500 delegates from Eastern and Southern Africa was organized under the theme: “Transforming Food Systems for Responsible Production, Consumption, and Social Well-being” by strengthening “Resilience and Sustainability in food systems for Environmental and Social Economic Development”.

Speaking during the conference as a chief guest, Mr. Fred Bwino Kyakulaga the Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry And Fisheries of the Republic of Uganda said the successful promotion of Agroecology calls for resolute supportive government policy and regulatory action developed in close collaboration with all key stakeholders.

“Formidable public-private partnerships, effective sharing, and networking are vital in implementing the identified strategies geared towards entrenching and scaling up Agroecology among our farming communities,” Bwino said.

Bwino stated that in Uganda, like in most of the African and EAC countries, Agriculture is still pivotal in spurring socio-economic transformation.

“In Uganda Agriculture contributes 24 percent of Uganda’s GDP, employs 68 percent of the population – largely smallholder farmers 73 percent of whom are women.” 

He added that in 2019, the government of Uganda approved the National Organic Agriculture Policy (NOAP) aimed at Harnessing the Country’s Organic Agriculture Potential by ensuring a regulated sub-sector that contributes to national development.

He also noted that Uganda has a comparative advantage to promote agroecology because its agricultural production is by default organic due to the minimal use of external inputs like inorganic fertilizers and pesticides since time immemorial. 

“Our culture is organic agriculture and by extension it is agro-ecology,” he added

Bwino also confirmed that the number of certified organic farmers in Uganda has increased from 211,584 in 2018 to 404,246 in 2021, adding that the certified area under organic has increased from 264,480Ha in 2018 to 505,308 in 2021.

“The value of organic exports increased from USD 50.0 million in 2015/16 to USD 159.80 million in 2021. The organic share of agricultural exports was 8% in 2018 but is projected to reach 12% by the end of 2023.”

He revealed that Uganda is also one of the countries in Africa that included updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that were submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ahead of the previous Conference of Parties (COP 27) held in Egypt. 

NDCs, he said is part of Uganda’s commitments to enhance our efforts toward building climate resilience and mitigation within the Agriculture, Forestry, and Land Use (AFOLU) sectors. 

Some of the delegates at the Nairobi Food Conference. Photo by Marko Taibot/TND News.

Dr. Emma Siliprandi, Agricultural Officer-Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) at FAO said food safety is at the heart of FAO, supporting the achievements of better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.

Siliprandi noted that to accelerate the transition to resilience and diversified sustainable agriculture and food systems through agroecology, there is a need for responsible governance coherent policies and institutional framework.

The approval of the 10 elements of Agroecology that has been approved by the Committee of Food Security and Nutrition of the United Nations in 2019 is one of the achievements and eventually the approval of tools for agroecology performance evaluation is a success towards safe food.

“Food safety is a shared responsibility that calls for all governments through investments in knowledge, policy support that promotes the 10 elements of agroecology, and investments in the market,” Siliprandi said

Dr. Hans R. Herren, President and CEO of Millennium Institute, Co-Founder and President Biovision Foundation, Recipient of the World Food Prize, Recipient of the Alternative Nobel Prize, Washington, DC., while presenting on pathways to Food Systems Transformation towards Resilience and Sustainability in Africa, noted there is a need to understand the obstacles to lead to a breakdown in the food systems.

He noted that there need to strengthen knowledge and evidence, strengthening and developing a new marketing structure and value chain for agroecological products.

According to FAO, in Africa, over 90 million people fall ill, while nearly 137,000 die each year due to food-borne diseases.

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