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Small-scale farmers call for the use of less harmful inputs to restore ecosystem functionality

(Last Updated On: 9 June 2023)

Gulu, June 9, 2023: With an estimated 600 million cases of foodborne infections each year, unsafe food presents a risk to human health, economy, suffering-vulnerable and marginalized people disproportionately.

The most affected are women and children, populations affected by conflict, and migrants.

Globally, an estimated 420,000 people every year die as a result of eating tainted food, and 125,000 of those deaths, or 40 per cent, include children under the age of five. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), around 600 million people, or nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide get sick after eating contaminated food.

In an attempt to deal with the situation, small-scale farmers under their forum, the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) has called upon farmers in Uganda to embrace the use of less harmful inputs to enhance and restore the ecosystem’s functionality and ensure food and nutrition security among Ugandans.

In an interview with TND News, Margret Masudio, the Publicity Secretary of ESAFF Uganda disclosed that through improving the relationship between plants, animals, soil, people, and the environment, agroecology emerges as the most sustainable approach to production.

She further noted that by encouraging the use of less harmful inputs, it enhances and restores the ecosystem’s functionality, ensuring food and nutrition security.

Masudio noted that unsafe food intake is a growing public health concern in Uganda and is having an adverse effect on infants, expectant mothers, the elderly, young children, and those with underlying medical conditions.

According to ESAFF-Uganda, the country has made strides in ensuring a safer environment for food safety and lowering the burden of foodborne illness, but there is much work to be done.

The organization further noted that poor food management throughout manufacturing, processing, storage, transportation, and retailing is a major contributor to the load and agriculture has changed as a result of the increased push for economic viability. These changes have come with significant negative effects on human health and the environment.

ESAFF-Uganda, however, reveals that farmers have opted for single-crop agriculture, which puts human and environmental health at risk while requiring production resources and techniques to optimize yields. It added that pesticides and synthetic fertilizer components that directly affect human and environmental health as a result of agricultural toxins pose a number of health dangers to farm producers and consumers.

Peter Enyetu, Vice Chairperson of ESAFF Uganda told TND News the entire cycle of food production, distribution, and consumption is often contaminated. Food safety is a responsibility that extends beyond producers and extends to consumers as well, he said.

He further disclosed that everyone must cooperate to uphold established food safety standards if there is need to ensure food safety, emphasizing that everyone has a responsibility since everyone has a right to a healthy diet.

Enyetu noted that small-scale farmers have worked extremely hard to boost productivity while implementing safety precautions. Nevertheless, lack of infrastructure still makes it difficult to guarantee food safety along the whole supply chain.

“Small-scale farmers still struggle to access proper roads for product transportation and storage facilities that guarantee food safety, ranging from roads to storage and electricity supply. Due to inadequate infrastructure, over one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted,” he added.

In order to ensure the security and safety of food, ESAFF Uganda noted that it is essential that there is adequate road network, storage facilities and power supplies. Improved infrastructure will lessen post-harvest carelessness that results in tainted food.

Nancy Walimbwa Mugimba, National Coordinator of ESAFF-Uganda told this publication that by decreasing external inputs and integrating renewable or natural alternatives, agroecology combines biodiversity and ecological processes in food production, guaranteeing the delivery of healthy, nourishing, and inexpensive food.

“Agroecology helps to create a solid system for food safety, which is crucial for promoting public health,” added Mugimba.

Mugimba disclosed that governments are in charge of making sure that the foods that are readily available are safe for consumption by people because food safety is a public utility.

“By adopting agroecology, small-scale farmers are able to produce food that is safe while utilizing synthetic inputs and the protection of food products’ nutritional value and commercial viability depends on safe food production and distribution,” noted Mugimba.

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Small-scale farmers should demand that the government ensure that the food supply is fit for consumption by people by passing the appropriate food laws and setting up the required systems including inspections, lab testing, and training to support their implementation, according to her.

To realize the full potential of agroecology and reform the food system, ESAFF Uganda recommends that the government needs to involve a variety of stakeholders, adopt agroecological practices in extension services to spread awareness of potential threats to the health of people and the environment.

The organization believes that the recommendations will safeguard both consumers and farmers from consuming harmful food.

They noted that the government should establish specialized institutions such as farmers’ cooperative banks to offer funding to small-scale farmers as well as strengthening other institutions in charge of infrastructure development such as roads, water coverage, power supply, and storage facilities.

Other issues are that they want the government and different stakeholders to promote better personal hygiene, including the washing of hands before and after handling food, adding that a robust food control system is necessary to ensure that the gaps that now exist are filled.

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