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Opportunities for organic agriculture in Uganda

Under the "Kansen voor Morgen" program of LNV, Wageningen Environmental Research conducted a study on the opportunities for organic agriculture in Uganda. The aim of the study was to find entry points for leveraging initiatives around organic agriculture in the country.

The study started at a time where Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) announced its desire grow the contribution of organic agriculture to 50% of the agricultural GDP, and to increase organic agriculture's productivity by more than 50% in 2020-2025. While the country is relatively well-positioned due to its historically low use of external inputs, the current area under organic agriculture consists of only 1.8% of the total agricultural land (GIZ, 2021) and largely constitutes a niche for export of certified organic products. While the use of chemical pesticides is increasing and results in food safety and environmental concerns, the use of fertilizers is generally very limited with soil fertility depletion as a consequence.

Certainly, this calls for a transition to farming systems that are more sustainable. Yet, the extent by which external inputs and organic farming practices may play a role, differs based on the relevant context. In the study, the focus was therefore largely on localized initiatives that could contribute to enhanced sustainability of agricultural production, without aiming to produce entirely organic and certified.

The study resulted in two reports: a first report containing a scoping study of existing initiatives around organic agriculture in Uganda, from producers of biopesticides and biofertilizers to umbrella organizations and platforms. The report also synthesises challenges and opportunities, and offers recommendations including enhanced knowledge provision for farmers, identification of business cases for organic agriculture, enhanced regulation and quality control, systematic studies documenting effectiveness and (economic) feasibility of organic agriculture practices, and increased consumer awareness to drive the demand for safely produced food.

The second report zoomed in on pesticide use in the horticultural sector, a sector which has a relatively high pesticide use resulting in health and environmental concerns. The report presents an assessment of pesticide residues on three different crops, sampled from six markets across Uganda. Findings included a relatively high occurrence of pesticide residues on tomato, and an exceedance of maximum pesticide residue levels for a total of nine samples out of 60. Recommendations include better information in local languages, government funding for regulation enforcement and capacity building, public-private partnerships for export compliance, clear product labeling, further research with a larger sample size, and linkages to existing (organic) pest management initiatives.
The results were discussed with relevant government organizations and platforms in Uganda. With the dissemination of the results and recommendations from both studies, we aim to raise attention for sustainable agriculture and food safety as emerging topics of concern in Uganda, both for export and the domestic market.

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