By DailyNewsUG Regional News Correspondent,
Pandemic-related restrictions mean there’s interest in boosting local food initiatives in the country and the COVID-19 pandemic is cause for new initiatives to increase its local food supply.
Food insecurity is a critical problem affecting about 6.3% of the households in Uganda, with about 21% of the remaining households on the brink of becoming food insecure due to poverty, inequality and drought-related extreme weather events.
Until recently, studies have shown that the semi-arid areas of Uganda experience food insecurity more than other parts of the country. Although wetlands significantly contribute to food security, over 80% of the households inhabiting wetland adjacent areas in Uganda are perceived to be food insecure. In Buikwe District food insecurity as a result of monopolistic agriculture in Buikwe will soon be history following the coming into effect of the Bye Law on food production.
Buikwe District is one of the 28 districts of Uganda that were created under the local Government Act 1 of 1997. It has a current population estimated at around 600,000, majority of the locals were indigenous farmers, with the climbing yams (baluggu) being the staple food. Buikwe has until recent been a known food basket in central Uganda until the onset of sugarcane growing that begun to spell doom causing untold food insecurity among the households.
Slow Food Uganda, a local based organisation with support from Hivos and IIED started shaping the center stage for food security in the region.
In June 2018, Slow Food Uganda’s capacity was tremendously strengthened in delivering outcomes, building external networks, management and administration, developing focus, taking decisions, act on long term plan and reporting for the organizational actions.
Slow Food Uganda is among the other partners implementing the Food Systems Solution Platform project under the SD4All programme funded by Hivos East Africa.
Slow Food Uganda has through this support engaged policy makers, CSOs, Food Communities, women and youth groups, religious and cultural leaders as well as schools and institutions in deliberating on issues of food and nutrition security in the district.
Slow Food Uganda is part of Slow Food international, an association founded in 1989 that pursues cultural, environmental and social objectives that develop around the central role that food plays in lives, facilitating and promoting the creation of a network of local food communities. Slow Food Uganda promotes the right for Ugandans to food that is good, clean, and fair for everyone.
Their activities are aimed at protecting local food biodiversity, sustainable agriculture and raising awareness among consumers about the importance of local healthy food consumption. Through the Food Systems Solution Platform (FSSP), Slow Food Uganda influenced the SD4All agenda by working to convene different stakeholders from both rural and urban areas to deliberate on and meaningfully input into their local food system.
Hivos, the funders behind the SD4Al program is a global platform that seeks new and creative solutions to persistent global problems; solutions created by people.
Hivos has been instrumental in helping citizens take their lives into their own hands. They offer a positive counterbalancing force against discrimination, inequality, abuse of power and the unsustainable use of our planet’s resources. Hivos mission is to innovate for social change, with smart projects in the right places, they work towards more open and green societies.
Speaking about the new ordinance, Dauda Mugalu, a farmer in Buikwe says the issue of food insecurity in households in Buikwe will be sorted.
Mugalu said through the engagements with Slow Food Uganda, he was taught skills in promoting indigenous seed varieties. “We were mobilized as farmers to come with at least one seed variety which at the end was shared with for planting in their communities,” he said.
Mugalu is a member of the Nakatyeba Twekembe Farmers Group located in Buikwe Sub County in Buikwe district. The 30 member group grows the climbing yams, locally known as baluggu.
“I have learnt a lot from the Food Parliament. As farmers we have been in position to air our views as one voice. We have been able to harmonise our issues as farmers in Buikwe and have them addressed by the District Local Government,” said Mugalu.
He said they sat as farmers and passed byelaws that have been channeled from Local Council 1- III to the district level.
“I am particularly happy with one of the clauses that demands that any household with less than 5 acres of land should not grow sugarcane, but where he/she can’t avoid, he can only use 3 acres for growing subsistence food for home use and utilise the remaining 2 acres for sugarcane growing,” he said.
He said Slow Food Uganda through the initiative of the Food Parliament has enabled many farmers to engage in leadership and learn leadership skills.
“Many of us have been elected either as chairpersons, vice chairpersons, General secretaries, Treasurers or Publicity secretaries. Through serving in these positions, we have learnt a lot as leaders,” he said.
Mugalu noted that Slow Food enabled them through the exchange visits to network with other farmers, politicians and policy makers from across the country.
He said that following the engagements, many farmers are beginning to diversify. “They are learning that it makes no sense to grow sugarcane and end up buying food in the market. It is like washing clothes and spreading them on the ground, “said Mugalu.
He says farmers are now also appreciating the value of eating balanced food and especially vegetables.
“We have learnt how to develop and manage seed banks, thanks to Hivos and Slow Food Uganda,” he said.
Buikwe District Chairperson Mathias Kigongo said the ordinance will play a great role in ensuring food security in the district. “Slow Food and Hivos have been so instrumental in shaping the discussion of food security in the district. As a district we appreciate their efforts,” he said.