07 June 2016

Support a farmer: Why you need to buy locally grown food

Various fruits on sale at different market stalls. Buying from local farmers’ markets have several benefits. FILE PHOTOS 

You have probably been told many times that you should buy locally grown food. You have been hearing the campaign “Buy local, buy Ugandan” many times. And, you have also probably seen local farmers’ markets sprout up around your neighborhood or even the local produce being sold in the supermarkets.
Uganda is witnessing an unprecedented growth of supermarkets, and this can be partly attributed to the country’s favourable investment climate.
Another key factor for this growth is the rise in urbanisation and a growing middle-class. But why should you buy local? What is the benefit to you, your community and the environment?

More nutritious
Local food tends to taste better. By buying local, you are receiving fresh produce, picked just hours before delivery to your local market or store.
Produce that travels long distances is days older. Sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality and flavour.

When you buy locally, you know you are buying fresh food for yourself and family.
Local food is more nutritious. Once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients.
Since local produce is sold right after it is picked, it retains more nutrients. A good example is the fruits and vegetables, which have a high nutritious level when still fresh.
Many local foods preserve genetic diversity. Large commercial farms that tend to export food, grow a relatively small number of hybrid foods for example, fruits and vegetables because they can tolerate the rigours of harvesting, packing, shipping and storage.

This leaves little genetic diversity in the food supply. Small holder farms or local farms, on the other hand, grow a huge number of varieties to extend their growing season, provide eye-catching colours and great flavour.
Local food uses less packaging material. Buying produce from a farmers’ market or from a farm itself is a less costly process that involves less packaging.
Buying local food helps in supporting our farmers. By buying locally, the middleman disappears and the farmer gets full retail price, in turn helping farmers continue to farm.

Buying the local food also makes a lot of economic sense. When you buy fresh produce at your local market, your food shillings go directly to the pockets of the community.
The money stays in the local economy, helping to keep our communities stay vibrant and strong.
Keeping the money also in turn means greater job security for everyone as money circulates in the community.
By buying local food, it helps in building the community around you. By getting to know the farmers who grow your food, you build understanding, trust and a connection to your neighbours and your environment.

The weather, the seasons and the science of growing food offer great lessons in nature and agriculture.
When you buy from the farm, the visiting of the local farms with your friends and your family brings that education and appreciation.
Local food is in most cases GMO-free. Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialise GM fruits and vegetables, they are licensing them only to large factory-style farms.
Local farmers do not have access to GM seed, and most of them would not use it even if they could. Local food in a way also supports the environment and benefits wildlife.

Many smallholder farmers in Uganda tend to be good stewards of the land – they respect and value fertile soil and clean water.
And their farms provide the fields, meadows, forests, ponds and buildings that are the habitat for many our beloved and important species of wildlife.
In addition, buying local also reduces the use of fossil fuels and in turn helps to protect the environment from harmful exhaust fumes.

So, let us go out there and support our local farmers by buying their produce. The government should also come out to put restrictive policies on some market outlets so that they can reduce on the importation of foreign foodstuffs into the country.

The author is a senior consultant-BDS, FIT Uganda Ltd.



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