By Lise Chantal Dusabe
Rwanda is a locked East African Country with an estimated population of 11,953,672 where ninety per cent (90%) of this population relies on subsistence farming, mostly on very small land. In Rwanda, as in many other African countries, food security is an issue of great and growing concern.
The researchers believe that to overcome this issue, organic agriculture is a relatively untapped resource for food production. According to IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and health of the people (producers and consumers).
Therefore this is a sustainable production system for small growers’ families because organic agriculture can increase productivity and can raise incomes with low costs, locally available and appropriate technologies without causing environmental damage. In addition to this, organic agriculture enhances resilience of agricultural systems against the effects of climate change. (IFOAM, 2013: Productivity and profitability of organic agriculture systems in East Africa).
Nowadays, the world is facing serious food issues in terms of quantity and quality. It has been demonstrated that an unhealthy diet is one of the key risk factors for many diseases (e.g.: NCDs: Non communicable diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes and several cancers).
Therefore, consuming organic food remains the only option for a healthy diet since organic food is grown and processed without the use of synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
In Rwanda, according to a study done by IFOAM in 2013, “Consumer Survey of Attitudes and Preferences towards Organic Products in East Africa”, it has been reported that, the lack of awareness about organic products was very high. Fifty two per cent (52%) of Rwandans were not sure or didn’t know about organic. This is a great barrier regarding the development of organic agriculture in Rwanda.
Regarding to the very low awareness on organic agriculture in Rwanda, it is high time consumers, policymakers, cooperation and development partners in Rwanda be the agents of change, move their understanding and have a new look to this promising organic agricultural production system.
This shall influence consumer awareness, attitudes and skills around organic healthy food since a recent study indicates that consumer awareness is the first step in developing demand for organic products. (Gold, 2007; Holden, 2000; Huber, Rembialkowska, Srednicka, Bügel & Van de Vijwver, 2011; Oliveira et al., 2013) and consequently, if the organic food consumption demand increases, there is no doubt that organic agricultural production will increase too.
This will help the country to enhance food security with more cash incomes for farmers and having access to local, regional and international organic markets.
The author is the Administrative and Communication Officer at POSADA Limited