“I am a social scientist by training. My passion is changing lives. Since 2006, I work for PELUM Uganda, a network of NGO’s working on improving the livelihoods of the poor. We are part of the PELUM Association, a network of over 200 civil society organizations in ten African countries that promotes food security, natural resources management and use of indigenous knowledge. We give practical support to smallholder farmers through our member organisations. This is mainly through training and capacity building for example through mentorships where staff of member organizations stay in an organization for about one month. Some members are very good ‒ we show their best practices by organizing learning visits and mentor-ships.
The main issue in sustainable agriculture is market access. Only if organic products are certified, market access becomes viable. But certification is expensive, and small farmers don’t have the money. They produce small quantities in varying qualities, and don’t add any value, so they earn very little.
I am talking about remote areas, areas without electricity, milling machines, access to credit or market information. What these areas do have are heavy rains and many losses in yields. So, agricultural banks consider small farmers too risky for loans. And the farmers depend on middlemen who exploit them. We share market information through the local radio to get the farmers in a better position to negotiate.
Most of the support for farmers comes from NGO’s. The Ugandan government spends only 3% GNP on agriculture. It plans to increase that to 5%, although promises were about 10%. Even from this small allocation, most of the money goes to administration. Very little money trickles down to the farmers. Governments are not in favor of smallholder agriculture; they prefer large-scale agriculture. But what we have seen with foreign companies entering countries for large investments, is eviction of inhabitants and deforestation. People lose their livelihoods. We do campaigns on that, and try to protect farmers’ rights on their land. But our approach to governments is more cooperation than direct attack. In Uganda, we participate in working groups of the government.”
Participatory Ecological Land Use Management – Uganda (PELUM-Uganda): www.pelumuganda.org