The current rise in food prices is a problem which we are capable of solving ourselves especially if all the stakeholders are committed to the cause. The food crisis problems go well beyond the Uganda borders as it is also a marginal problem even here in the UK where i live such that I have registered with several supermarkets online to help me compare prices before I do my home shopping.But with fertile Uganda soils, surely we can do better with the support of the current government.
The causes of the sharp price rises in 2007 and 2008 seem to be almost the same as those in 2010: increased global demand, rising fuel prices, biofuels production, export restrictions, crop failures, financial speculation and dwindling stockpiles. Biofuels, for instance, has been adopted by several governments as a way of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and cut greenhouse emissions by providing subsidies for crops used in biofuels. Some of these governments include: Brazil’s use of sugar for ethanol, Europe’s use of oilseeds for biodiesel and increased US production of corn-based ethanol since the 2005 Energy Policy Act.As a result, the bill for global food imports will top $1,000bn this year according to the United Nations figures.
With China and India now trying to live a standardised western life, the consumption of meat has increased tremendously worldwide considering that both countries have got more than 2 billion people to feed. International figures show that about eight kg of feed is required to produce 1kg of beef and 2kg for every 1kg chicken. This diverts grains from human consumption and forces up prices. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that using an acre of land to raise cattle produces 20 pounds of protein, compared with 356 pounds for one sowed with soybeans. So, one can imagine how the farmers doing cattle rearing in areas like western Uganda balance up food production with animal keeping at the same time.
The Chinese and Indian populations alone consume more food than the whole of Africa. A global conference on food security in Rome a couple of years ago noted that China had been a net exporter of cereals since the late 1990s, and India a net importer only during one year in the same period. Both countries have increased imports of oilseeds, meat and oil in large numbers. So their populations are basically starving the rest of the world. So I hope the government does not give away our land to the Chinese and Indians when they come knocking on our borders whatever the deal they bring to us because we also gonna need that land with a higher population growth in our country.
The problem in Uganda is that many youths have moved into cities because farming is being looked at as a non- starter. So there is a lot of idle land in rural areas, and I think the government needs to do what fidero Castro did during Cuba’s oil and food crisis. The Cuban government facilitated all families with seeds and also set up markets where people can sell their produce. Farming became more paying or profitable than even a job in the president’s office. Food was grown everywhere including the home gardens. Farmers all of a sudden became the rich men and women of Cuba. The government provided credit, research, and extension for low-input agriculture to a well organized rural population.
The government should not to be attempted to starve off Small farmers from their land in an attempt to solve this crisis. Before the 1959 revolution in Cuba, only 8% of landowners were controlling more than 70% of the land, with U.S. owners controlling 25% of all Cuban land. But the revolution changed all this and when the food crisis set in, Castro was never attempted to reverse this process. He instead empowered the small land owners and facilitated them in areas such as provision of fossil fuels, fertilizers, and pesticides. So basically, subsistence farming is not the problem here, after all, Subsistence farmers make up 75% of the world’s poor and they often gain less from price increases than they lose to increases in the price of inputs and other costs of production.
The UN calculates that 22 people can be fed per hectare of potatoes, 19 per ha of rice, and just one or two for beef or lamb raised on 1ha. So what I suggest is that those with idle big land in Uganda should get into some form of temporary agreements with the landless to allow them to grow food. Such agreements can be administered by LCs and other local leaders to save time. For example, when the 2008 food crisis set in, rising food imports cost Cuba over $1 billion. In response, Cuba’s National Assembly of Popular Power enacted Decree Law 259, which authorizes municipal Agricultural Commissions to distribute idle lands to state entities, cooperatives, and any individual Cuban citizen physically fit for agricultural labor. Landless individuals can now request and receive up to 33 acres of land, while those who already participate in agricultural production in some form can receive up to 99 acres. An Associated Press report ( 13 August 2010) cites major progress made as it relates to Cuba’s cutting of agricultural imports: having spent $710 million in U.S. food imports in 2008, this figure was reduced to $528 million in 2009 (a 26% reduction) and for the first half of 2010 this figure has been reduced to $220 million (a 28% reduction if it stays on course).
Obviously, the Cuba government has also spent a lot in agricultural scientific research institutions to produce those admired results. But our government is not so much bothered about this area such that one of my younger brothers who graduated with a first class degree in Agricultural science at Makerere university- a couple of years ago, is now doing network marketing with some company in Kampala because he reckons he could make better money there.I unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to go for his postgraduate studies and i have given up.
Anyway, because of the above policies, Cuba has become one of the few countries with the capacity to implement food sovereignty despite experiencing three catastrophic hurricanes in 2008 alone, and the persistent U.S. hostility towards its national interests.
So unless the government stops wasting money in stuff such as aircraft jets and presidential pledges, and diverts most of this money to agriculture and education, we have not seen the end of this problem. If the government does not address the food shortage in the country urgently, we are likely to see the start of food rebellions in sub Sahara Africa. For instance, violent protests broke out in many countries in 2008, resulting in nearly 200 deaths and helping to unseat governments in Haiti and Mauritania. Families should also be encouraged to produce fewer kids. Why should a man with no house or land produce more than 2 kids when still in that situation? With due respect to polygamists, men with no money should not attempt to marry more than one woman or women who want more kids if they have already got some.
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba