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"A good food system does not compromise with the environment, the vegetation or the biodiversity"

Published: 24 June 2024

Samuel Nyanzi, Executive Director at Rural Community in Development (RUCID), Uganda, gives his view of a sustainable and safer food system.

1. How does your ideal sustainable food system look like in the context of your country/region of expertise?

An ideal food system is one which will provide food most desired by communities and people within that locality. The food system which makes communities and people to start using and consuming foods from other localities with different food preferences will not provide a desired food system in place. For example, if you look at the food which was eaten by the ancestors, it was selected according to the known benefits and values which greatly influenced their culture and behaviour. It is common knowledge that food is part of people’s culture. It is always said that a person's culture is determined by food and language. That is why I strongly believe that the food system should be taking in account the indigenous food, the locally adapted food.

I also look at the foods which support the natural and social environment, the system that tries to adapt to its social and natural systems and the food system which does not compromise with the environment, vegetation, and with the biodiversity. I think that would be the best food system.


2. Can you share with us your experience of supporting changes/ transitions towards sustainable food systems in a country/region? 

Over the 30 years we have worked with farmers, extension workers and students we have actually worked very hard to see that farmers starting using the locally adopted system, for example encouraging crop diversity and intercropping. People have actually taken the act of intercropping, but also tried to do it in a systematic way. They now know which crop can grow together, which tree-cover should be planted or encouraged to be used in farming, but they are also looking at different crops which have other benefits such as medicinal benefits.

Such diversity in cropping has attracted a lot of attention, and many farmers are practising it since we started promoting it. For example, they have seen that some of the intercrops are very good at controlling pests and diseases in different crops, and in many times when they intercrop; they find that certain diseases disappear.

So, the best food system is the farming system and other methods which uses intercropping and mixed social, cultural and economic systems with the ability to support each other. It has also been shown that the productivity per area increases when people use intercropping but also mixed natural and social systems. In terms of resilience, if people do intercropping, when one crop fails the other crop will have higher chances of producing, and therefore it becomes a bit safer to use the intercropping system.


3. In your view, what are the key triggers and success factors for change to happen? 

Now people are more concerned about the food they eat, as they have found out that the current food systems which has been introduced is producing foods that do not seem to be very safe.

For example, in Uganda today a lot of people are suffering from various lifestyle diseases, such as cancer, but also obesity. Probably this is due to the different foods they consume, which is a result of the current food systems which are being employed. It is also observed in Uganda where people have retained their original arming system including farming, food preparation and storage, their way of eating they are not suffering from many of these opportunistic diseases. This has actually triggered people to really try to look for a more sustainable, but also a safer food system to practice.

This interview was made by Rodrigo Luna, ICRA Colombia, at the Science Policy Lab in Malmö on June 18-19, 2024.


Samuel Nyanzi is Executive Director at Rural Community in Development (RUCID) in Uganda. RUCID’s primary aim is to work with small holder farmers so that they can improve and sustain their agricultural production, household income, environmental protection, health issues, nutrition, and women in development.