15 June 2019

Uganda: To Use or Not to Use Chemicals

There is a lot of debate going on about whether farmers should use manufactured agricultural chemicals or not.

Strangely it is mostly foreign funded NGOs that are urging Ugandan farmers not to use agro-chemicals in order to produce 'healthy food' and to increase profits and chances of access to both local and foreign markets.

Organic farming which is about production of crops using only organic manures and physical ways of preventing pest and diseases is considered by the proponents of the farming system as cheaper for the impoverished small holder farmers who are also deemed 'too ignorant' to safely use chemical agricultural inputs.

Some pro-agro ecology NGOs recently held a symposium in Kampala and discouraged Ugandan farmers from using agrochemicals, claiming that they are too expensive and that they destroy biodiversity.

They also linked artificial agro-inputs to 'unhealthy' food crops that cannot be easily sold locally and internationally.

Should we also resort to local herbs when we fall sick rather than go to hospitals for chemical medicine?

Our farmers ought to understand that although we are called 'too ignorant'; we are not incapable of learning. Manufactured agro inputs come with directions about their safe application.

Organic manures such as cow dung or coffee husks are not freely accessible to all farmers.

They must be delivered to the farm often using hired transport and require paid labour to apply to the crops.

Organic inputs are certainly good but often the farmer has to buy pesticides and fertilisers depending on the circumstances. Who can, for example, successfully grow crops such as tomatoes or Irish potatoes without the use of pesticides?

In October 2018 the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries rolled out the Agriculture Cluster Development Project in which the use of artificial agricultural inputs was emphasized by none other than the Minister of Agriculture, Vincent Ssempijja.

Later in Lukaya Town, Kalungu District, on November 9, 2018 he launched the E-voucher management system intended to help farmers digitally pay for the inputs.

He further highlighted the role of field extension officers it educating farmers how to use the manufactured inputs.

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