United Nations agencies are baffled as to why hunger and undernutrition still remain a challenge in Uganda despite enormous opportunities and abundant resources in the country.
Uganda is one of the countries that were expected to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030 as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number two. But since 2015, there seems to be no progress, despite a slight increase in agricultural output, according to the UN.
Uganda boasts of almost half (47 per cent) of all the arable land in East Africa, giving it a huge agricultural competitive advantage in the region and Africa. But like much of the continent, it has not progressed, and the World Bank and UN attribute this to a lack of investment and financing to take subsistence farming to a larger scale.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) country representative in Uganda, Antonio Querido says that the country needs to review laws and policies that relate to food security and nutrition. This should cater for the right to food, food research, food distribution and food reserves among others, according to Querido, who adds that otherwise there is no reason Uganda should experience food insecurity.
“If there is one country where this mission is possible, it is here in Uganda. in fact despite the commendable effort of the government of Uganda over the last decade, food and nutrition security situation is still worrying in Uganda. We’d also like to pledge support to review the food and nutrition legislation to cater for important issues such as the right to food. The establishment of the national strategy, food reserve, food aid and distribution, food bank. We would also like to pledge our support concerning our intervention related to post-harvest handling system, food policy including legislation,” said Querido.
In 2016, Uganda’s Global Hunger Index score was 26.4 and the country stood 87th out of 118 countries and, while it improved its score to 30.6, its ranking fell to 104th out of 117 countries surveyed, meaning other countries improved much faster than Uganda. And in 2017, almost 11 million people in Uganda experienced acute food insecurity, meaning they were not sure of whether they will have the next meal, usually a meal a day.
The National Planning Authority (NPA) expects that this score has now drastically declined due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lack of adequate food and proper diet is responsible for malnutrition and stunting, which have a cost effect on the economy in terms of an unproductive population as well as health costs.
According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2016, the hungriest populations are the rural communities, who, ironically produce most of the food the country consumes and exports. But the chairperson of NPA, Pamela Mbabazi, says that Uganda now has a National Strategy Towards Zero-Hunger 2020-2030 which is expected will change the way things have been done previously.
The implementation of the strategy will involve nine ministries led by the Office of the Prime Minister and the NPA. They include agriculture, education and sports, health, trade, industry and cooperatives, gender, labour and social development, local government, finance, water and environment as well as public service.
The minister for Public Service, Wilson Muruli Mukasa says there is a need for a mindset change, including change by most of today’s policymakers and other leaders, so that they change their attitude towards production.
“Given the history that we have gone through in the 70s when things started breaking down, we were able to survive by selling just pieces of paper under the maggendo arrangement – the black market – people could survive and make money running away from production.
It became almost one of the second nature that you could actually eat comfortably without planting anything and the kind of Ugandans we have now who are in charge of things are that generation of the maggendo. We, therefore, need to work very hard when things have stabilized you can’t have food without producing anything,” said Muruli.
UN World Food Program (WFP) country director El-Khidir Daloum, questions why the good economic growth figures by both the government and the World Bank, have not led to the elimination of hunger.
“In this country, the three months before COVID, recently the World Bank, ministry of Finance published a report telling us that actually the economy is growing in the country. Even when you compare it with the East Africa community and especially to the agro-industrial related. I can stand here and count the great opportunities in this country.
This is what I can’t comprehend because I come from a semi-arid land where there is no rainy season. So when you look at that zero hunger is mission possible. I put Uganda at number one. I don’t understand why zero hunger is not realised today,” said Daloum.
© Uganda Radio Network