In conversation with smallholder farmers at COP21

By Alessia Valentini
What’s your name, country of origin and what type of farm do you work in?
My name is Julie Nakalanda Matovu, I’m the East African Convenor for INOFO, the Intercontinental Network for Organic Farmers' Organizations. I come from the central part of Uganda, and I am an organic vegetable farmer. I cultivate fresh vegetables and do direct marketing. Where I come from, there are different groups working in different parts of the city autonomously that deliver vegetables to communities on a weekly basis, with door to door deliveries. Right now these deliveries are done with my small car, based on the little time I have available, so we are working on organizing monthly deliveries that should start in April this year. All the members of my community are actively involved in this job as we want to guarantee to the public real, organic food. Participation is a key aspect in this kind of arrangement as we are working in a growing market. Our first target is of 100 households, but we aim to later reach out to the near clusters. However, working out the logistics is not easy.

What are the impacts of climate change in your country?
The impacts of climate change are very visible in Uganda. First of all, let me say that I’ve studied agriculture and years ago we used to have a weather pattern that was very clear. Today, instead, this is no longer the case. For example, we should be preparing for the end of the rainy season now, but we are experiencing long rains and we are not sure when they are going to end. Of course, this is an advantage for us as we grow vegetables but we still do not have the technology to face this much rain. Another impact of climate change is the drastic change in the temperatures, which leads to crop failure. We try to mitigate and cope with the effects of climate change but this is not easy. Agriculture is one of the main forms of living for people in Uganda as we grow pretty much everything in our homes. We all have little gardens where we grow our own food and encourage practices that will help us minimize the loses that come with climate change.

What are the outcomes you would like to see from COP21? 
First of all, I want my government to realize that they have a role to play. I’ve learnt a lot from these meetings at COP, as they are bringing a lot of information to people that is going to be helpful. Unfortunately, this information is not always put at good use. For example, back home we have many projects ongoing, such as one in Lake Victoria, where trees, that play a key role in the survival of nature, are being cut down to start palm oil projects even though we know that this is not the best type of oil for us. This is bringing indigenous people to leave the area with negative repercussions on the lake, which is a very important natural asset to our country. What makes me sad is that when you look at our paper work on the projects, everything looks fine, but that’s not real in practice. Secondly, I would like my government to consider inclusion towards the people that are affected by climate change. We should set up programmes that reach out to women and children that are part of the process, to make it more sustainable and make them feel included. Lastly, we need more commitment in farming to invest in the appropriate technology that will make farming easier and more fun for the people and, therefore, more productive so that farmers can enjoy doing the work and feed the world.

How can IFAD support you in achieving what you need?
What we need is capacity building and more support for appropriate technologies. I think IFAD has already given us some support and we really appreciate that. However, we need further capacity building so that we are able to build a resilient system of governance and bring down the activities to our communities. In my opinion, funds should be invested in projects that provide farmers with the right knowledge and tools that will help them become more resilient to climate change. We shouldn’t depend so much on first aid, but rather understand how to manage and respond to the impacts of climate change. If this were true and people knew what cutting down trees meant, they wouldn’t do it. But if they don’t know, they are hungry, and their only source of income is to cut down a tree, they will. This is the reason why we should really think about an inclusive system of development.