By Alice, Program Officer, Markets for Youth Program
Francis Musinguzi, Information, Research and Communication Manager, KRC
Plantation agriculture and large scale monocropping are a big deal for big investors in Uganda’s agriculture sector. The rosy picture painted by proponents of these agricultural systems is often associated with benefits accruing in terms employment opportunities for youth, industrial development, economies of scale and tradeoffs in infrastructure development and taxes to government.
On the other hand, plantation agriculture and monocropping are a big threat to biodiversity of ecosystems, diversity on farms and food available for a healthy population.
Kikuube District is one of the Districts in Bunyoro Sub Region facing this threat where sugarcane growing is changing the agriculture landscape and taking over the growing of legumes, cereals, tubers, horticulture and small ruminants.
The district that was once known for has been known for diverse production of upland rice, beans, maize just to mention a few, but sugarcane farms are rolling back this good practice.
The opportunity cost of this changing land use may not be fully measured now but long-term impacts point to increased incidences of climate change vagaries, food insecurity, child stunting and much more.
With the establishment of Hoima Sugar Industry, many smallholder farmers have taken up sugarcane growing targeting to earn a living in the sugar sector. It has been reported that by September 2020, 3,500 smallholder farmers had registered and signed out grower contacts with the sugar factory.
KRC has been at the forefront of influencing food system change through its Food System Lab and Sustainable Family Farming Development programs, building capacity of farmers in agroecology and providing direct on-farm agriculture extension support. This knowledge transfer promotes sustainable farming practices that ensure food and dietary diversity for the population.
Empowering farmers with the right information and skills is one thing, but food systems change need to be guided by policies that promote human rights to adequate food. Uganda has formulated the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP) to operationalizes the Uganda Food and Nutrition Policy, 2003. UNAP needs to be localized at the local government levels to take effect. In 2020, KRC worked alongside Kabarole District Local Government to pioneer this effort. The process began with the district developing the District Nutrition Action Plan (DNAP) and then cascading its localization to Sub County and Parish levels. Across the three levels of local government, Nutrition Coordination Committees have been formed to bring the food security and nutrition discourse on the planning agenda. Such a practice and process now need nationwide uptake with a hope to counter the spreading of unsustainable agriculture land use systems like conversion of vast arable land to sugarcane growing in Kikuube.