Mixing More Voices Into Food Policy

Reesa Forrester

Does mixing more voices into the food policy discussions increase the opportunity for each voice to be heard or does it just increase the noise as each voice clamors to be heard above the rest? With the increased commercialization and export, the rural communities in Uganda are having a harder time making a sustainable livelihood. The constraints of climate change and lack of land and water security and lack of agricultural diversity only increase the strain on rural Ugandan households.

The article raises important issues by showcasing the inequities in Governance mechanisms and Policy formation. It pinpoints the main flaws of Vision 2040 as an unsustainable model of development which mainly focuses on economic development and moving towards large scale commercial agriculture while minimizing the impact of social and environmental aspects unique to subsistence farming. The ‘soft infrastructure’ is just as important as the ‘hard infrastructure’ but the bias and negative connotations that governing bodies, the main actors in governance, have towards the other actors such as the food producers and informal distributors impedes proper communication. The municipal governing bodies’ view of the informal food system as unhygienic, nutrition poor, causing traffic and not contributing to taxes, places the vendors and traders within the food system at odds with the authorities in a combative structure.

The food safety and food nutrition concerns are valid. The ethical issues of the sale of food which is unhealthy, whether because of improper sanitation and storage or imbalanced nutritional content, are notable because the rural households are disproportionately affected. Disclosure on genetically modified organisms (G.M.O) or even the labour practices on the farms and in markets needs to be encouraged.

Open and honest communication is necessary to build trust among the actors and in this respect the Food Change Lab does a good job of ameliorating the inherent distrust. The use of the actors themselves as data collectors certainly engenders trust since collecting data in the first person means each individual contributes to the outcome of the group and feels more invested. The emphasis on proper training in the use of the technologies due to the range of education and literacy introduces a variable that could reduce the reliability of the data.

The initiative of a Food Change Lab as a way to increase the stakeholder participation and interaction is a step in the right direction. More equity in representation has already shown positive impacts. From the initial pilot in Fort Portal in Kabarole District to the formation of the Agahikaine coalition the process has served as an example of the benefits of engagement of stakeholders at all levels and has spread to Kampala, Indonesia, Zambia and Bolivia.

The article leads with the idea that diversity in the voices of the people is just as imperative as diversity in agriculture yet neglects to showcase diversity within the actors themselves. The images show mostly women so in the process of seeking proportional representation, where is the emphasis on Gender Equity? What percentage of the voices are women and what systems are in place to ensure that these voices are heard? With increased inclusivity the advocates must be careful that the already vulnerable groups are not further disenfranchised. We must ensure that with more voices there is not a cacophony but a symphony and harmony.

 

 

 

References

Kabunga, Nassul, Shibani Ghosh, and Jeffrey K. Griffiths. “Can Smallholder Fruit And Vegetable Production Systems Improve Household Food Security And Nutritional Status Of Women? Evidence From Rural Uganda”. SSRN Electronic Journal n. pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Kikulwe, Enoch M. et al. “A Latent Class Approach To Investigating Demand For Genetically Modified Banana In Uganda”. Agricultural Economics 42.5 (2011): 547-560. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

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