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How To Curb Malnutrition Among Women In Agrifood Systems 

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Ritah Mukasa

Hunger and malnutrition affect many women and girls yet they play a critical role in ensuring food security and good nutrition for all.

Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the former commissioner for rural economy and agriculture at the African Union Commission says, Uganda has achieved remarkable results in reducing poverty over the past decades, mainly driven by the agriculture sector. However, malnutrition remains a major challenge.

Also, women contribute over 70% of Uganda’s agricultural labour force. As processors, they prepare and preserve food. As marketers, they connect food producers with consumers. As caregivers, they help children and families to have access to nutritious foods.

However, despite their contribution, women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger and malnutrition and rates are higher among women of reproductive age.

Tumusiime says, investing in women unlocks their potential to transform food systems. This in the end will give everyone access to safe, high quality and healthy diets hence eradicating hunger and malnutrition.

“Homes should grow and eat vegetables and other nutritious foods such as the orange sweet potatoes and iron rich beans,” she says.

When it comes to children, UNICEF warns that malnutrition threatens to destroy a generation of children in Uganda. More than one-third of all young children, about 2.4 million are stunted and the damage caused by stunting is irreversible. Also, one-quarter of child-bearing-age women are anemic.

Tumusiime says, no progress has been made towards reducing anemia among women of reproductive age, with 32.8% of women aged 15 to 49 years now affected.

Other drivers of malnutrition include poor infant and young child feeding practices. 

“The factors causing this are multifaceted, which are exacerbated by gender inequality,” she says.

Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance (FRA) advocates securing women’s land rights and giving them access to resources.

Women should also have equal access to finances, education and technology according to Tumusiime.  She is quick to add that women often have less decision-making power within households, limiting their ability to access nutritious food. 

The burden of unpaid care work also largely falls on women, limiting their time and potential.

“If women have the resources and opportunities they need, they can significantly improve food security and nutrition for their families and communities,” she says.

Studies show that investing in women farmers can increase agricultural yields by 20-30% and raise total agricultural output by 2.5–4%3.

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