“Responding to the Challenge of Feeding Africa”
THE INTERNATIONAL FARMERS’ DIALOGUE KAMPALA, UGANDA 5TH – 9TH MAY 2010
Farmers’ Dialogue - a programme of Initiatives of Change (IofC) - brings farmers and other stakeholders together, sharing their concerns and searching for lasting solutions as they pursue the task of feeding humanity. 264 participants from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Rwanda, DR. Congo, Sudan, Namibia, Austria, UK, and France attended the conference. The topics included: background of Farmers’ Dialogue, Africa’s potential, the role of NGOs in food security, farming in educational institutions, climate change and its effects, empowering farmers, the importance of trees, energy-saving technologies, organic farming, the role of village saving and loan associations, marketing.
Jamil Ssebalu, President of the African Farmers’ Dialogue welcomed participants, focussing on the theme of one of the workshops. He outlined to participants why he believed Africa could feed itself and has a role to play in feeding the world. He highlighted the issues Africans must face: increasing population, worldwide effects of climate change, expanding land desertification, the inter-country, inter-religious and inter-tribal divisions that cause violent conflict and political disunity. He suggested ways of addressing these issues: Africans must have the will to feed themselves and the world, programmes that reach every farmer, investment in research, making new technology available to farmers and developing clean energy. He explained that the role of Farmers’ Dialogue was to bring people together to talk about the issues that affect them, identifying practical solutions and developing action points.
Andrew Mukhwana, conference secretary and a school head masterr described Initiatives of Change (IofC), as a worldwide network of people committed to a transformation in society based on change in individuals, starting with themselves in light of four absolute moral standards of absolute honesty, love, purity and unselfishness.
Ben Mwasam from Kenya highlighted an exhibition of farm products, implements and services organized to complement the conference. He explained how the eleven exhibitors contributed to the theme of the conference. For farmers to be empowered he believes there is a need to see what other farmers are doing, and what is happening in other regions and countries and to share these experiences.
Hajji Hassan Nakabaale speaking on behalf the Vice President of Uganda, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, told participants the Vice President’s office has been working closely with Farmers’ Dialogue and will continue to do so. The office looked at the objectives and understood what was being addressed. He talked of South Africa where farming is concentrated on small farms. He called upon farmers to elect people into leadership who have farming experience.
Percy Misika from Namibia, FAO Country Representative in Uganda, officially opened the conference by saying the theme of the conference resonated well with FAO’s global mission of ‘Helping to build a world without hunger for present and future generations.’ He expressed his hope that the deliberations would help relieve Africa of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. ‘I hope that we will not only feed Africa but help the rest of the world. The theme for this workshop is very timely: I see you are looking at the potential for food sufficiency in Africa.’
Jim Wigan, international coordinator of Farmers’ Dialogue, presented a brief background of the organization. He felt farmers are at an important moment in history when the decisions made will have a profound effect on the world that future generations will inherit. Farmers' Dialogue has grown out of the commitment of farmers to renew their calling to feed the world. It has developed informally: one farmer meets another farmer, as they exchange ideas and visit each other’s farms they discover they have colleagues committed to the same aim in life that brings a growing empowerment. When these visits take place between farmers in different countries the result is a better understanding of world agriculture. Later in a presentation on climate change and other key issues he said, ‘To feed the world population in 2050 governments now need to make food production a priority in their policies. This will encourage farmers and put resources where they are really needed. Each one of us has a part to play.’
Resident District Commissioner Byabakama shared his experiences as a farmer and stressed that Africans should not forget their background. He said that his family is surviving more on farming than his salary. He also made the very relevant point for a world often divided, drawn from his experience,, that unity is learnt in the family.
Hajat Takia Nsubuga is Resident District Commissioner for Mpigi District, growing trees and passion fruits. She has become a very effective mobiliser of women and leads a large group. She said their major problem was lack of markets. She was advised that as a way forward participants should form a community-based organization. She was in contact with the Uganda Industrial Research body that helps farmers to process and market their products, putting emphasis on farming and encouraging the youth and women, and teaching people how to run their own businesses.
Rosemary Namatsi is Senior Lecturer at Manor House Agricultural Centre in Western Kenya. Her mission is to promote sustainable livelihoods, through bio-intensive agriculture among Kenyan communities, through training, research, extension and partnerships. She talked of bio-intensive being environmentally friendly farming for small-scale farmers, using locally-available resources, focusing on production per unit of resources for sustainable household food security and income. If correctly practiced this has the potential to increase crop yields 2-3 times per unit of land more than in conventional agriculture. She gave examples of land preparation (double digging), close spacing and mulching, crop diversity and non-chemical pest and disease management. To do all this there is a resource centre for the community and research by training people around the world in sustainable organic farming methods.
Juliana Swai from Tanzaniaspoke of her work with farmers’ groups in Tanzania. Some groups consist of single women, often alone and poverty stricken, their children not in school, with inadequate food and without access to health care. She encouraged women whose husbands had run away from home because of poverty, teaching them to keep cows and raise money for school fees and to build homes. When the mother started to become successful the husband sometimes came back home in a humble way, and there was peace in the family. Juliana said, ‘Poor women are an example of the spirit of ‘I can do’.
Peter Mugaga of Private Sector Promotion Centre, shared his views on the role of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), which is a savings-based approach based on a self-selected group of people (usually unregistered) who pool their money into a fund from which members can borrow. This money is paid back with interest enabling the fund to grow. This maintains self-respect and the social capital amongst women who form 70% of the membership.
Anthony Mugenyi, the National Agricultural Advisory Delivery Services representative (NAADS), spoke about empowering farmers. ‘NAADS empowers the small farmer entrepreneurs for agricultural commercialisation and poverty reduction. Farmers should contribute in groups and pool resources, go for training and implement what they learn.’
George Kiiru Kamau of Kenya, known locally as Miti Mingi (Many Trees) because of his work in forestry, gained an understanding of the role of trees in stabilizing the climate and preventing soil erosion. He has developed his one-acre farm as an example for others, and encouraged farmers to demonstrate imaginative methods of soil conservation and storing water in underground tanks to prevent evaporation.
Joseph Lukyamuzi, a Ugandan working with the European parliament for 20 years, said that he was born on a farm and his father who did not attended school, educated him with money raised through farming. He said he was impressed by Farmers’ Dialogue because most of the recommendations that had been made were implemented. For example having the structure and having an active website. He further said that one couldn’t talk about farming without talking about the culture of people living in the different countries. He proposed that Farmers’ Dialogue should be established at national level because many of the things farmers need to do are already available and only require the right contact. He advised participants to convince people to stay on their farms as he believes African farmers have something to offer the world.
Participants visited a mixed farm at Namilyango and Bishop Bamwoze’s Farm at Nakakabala in Kamuli District consisting of fish ponds of tilapia and catfish. A retired lawyer, Mr Sendege runs the second farm visited: he started farming 20 years ago and now has a herd of 40 dairy cows, he practices zero grazing with a large proportion of the food being silage. He has a bio-gas installation and uses the gas to pasteurise his milk which is made into yoghurt, and spoke with great conviction about the quality of the manure that the bio digester produced.
Okasai Opolot, representing the Minister of Agriculture, officially closed the conference. Farmers face a challenge to feed everyone, he said, and what was being discussed in this conference was very important. He informed participants that the Ministry of Agriculture had been reflecting on how the challenges faced in Africa can be turned to feeding Africa. In so doing, Uganda has just signed the Comprehensive Compact, the second country to do so after Rwanda.
WE LEARNED during the Dialogue that farming can be undertaken in a spiritual way, building sound character and trust, and that change starts with an individual and action starts today. We developed a greater understanding that food is a source of power, and that those who produce and market it have a responsibility to consumers - to accept modern methods of agriculture, and develop the skills to implement them. Africa has the potential to feed her population.
For a more detailed 14 page report in PDF on the Uganda Farmers' Dialogue please click here.
A network of farmers committed to produce the food needed, to care for natural resources and to be a responsible partner in the policy-decision processes about the future of agriculture.
Exchanges of experiences between farmers - Farm visits and Dialogues - Mobilisation of an international network of grassroots farmers.
The world relies on Agriculture to be fed, to eradicate poverty and to protect environment. Farmers can create hope and vision, bring solutions and act on the changes needed personally and globally.