On Sunday, October 23, Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Food Day, with the theme ‘ Leave No One Behind ‘.
Word Food Day focused on the need of creating awareness about prevailing hunger and malnutrition so that everyone has access to enough nutritious food.
Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) discussed the day with New Vision.
How do the current priorities of MAAIF fit into the theme of World Food Day?
The government is certainly fighting to make sure that there is enough food on every Ugandan’s plate.
Food is largely a security issue and aspect of food security is the first line of defence for each head of a home. Incidents of hunger have, however, come up due to the growth in the population which has affected land usage.
In Uganda, agriculture is largely practised by private people both small and large. The government comes in to offer support in infrastructure development, for example, research and create an enabling environment for farmers to practice effectively.
Government is not only working to improve but also sustain production, government has over the recent years carried out innovations, and infrastructure interventions that are changing the various farm practices.
We are currently constructing food security roads in some parts of the country aimed at ensuring that produce reaches the markets.
Through various research institutions, better seeds and other technologies have been introduced.
These are aimed at improving production and in the long run reducing hunger. In the dairy sector, while milk was mainly sold raw or kept in pots, it is now collected and stored in modern milk coolers located around the cattle corridor.
Many of these have been handed out by the government. Farmers have learnt that selling raw milk is not enough and are now processing this milk into products like yoghurt, cheese, butter and ice cream.
In addition to infrastructure, the government is giving our tractors and other equipment to improve production and productivity across the country. And overall, reports indicate that there is improved access to food across the country.
Whereas the theme says ‘Leave no one behind’, there is the nagging food insecurity challenge in Karamoja. How can the Karamoja food conundrum be solved?
Karamoja has so many aspects and these cannot be looked at in isolation if the food challenge is to be solved. There is the issue of rampant insecurity. No serious agriculture can be carried out in Karamoja as long as rustlers are raiding and stealing cattle.
Security is a government concern and over the last few years, the government has worked hard to try and solve this. Then there is a lack of enough water for production. Farmers have to move for long distances to try and get water for their animals.
Government is working with other stakeholders to improve the availability of water in the farming areas of Karamoja. There are old water dams which are being renovated and new water dams and valley tanks that are being constructed.
Alongside water, better and fast-growing pastures are also being planted across Karamoja so that livestock has food even at the peak of the dry seasons.
How can farmers ensure that they have food to eat and for sale?
We have been encouraging farmers to grow food with a calculator (ekibalo) in one hand.
Farmers should practice good enterprise selection because this is very important if they are to earn consistently. We encourage farmers to diversify their production.
If a farmer has 200 acres and he is using all of it to keep 100 cattle, let him release 100 acres for other enterprises. Among these may include fish farming for example, especially if part of the land is a swamp.
You can even grow coffee because it gives you a steady annual income, you can also grow maize for ease of feeding your animals, but in all this, make sure that you have got your calculations (ekibalo) right. At the end of the day, you will have food to eat and for sale.
But still, some of the common foods grown in Uganda are not nutritious enough, how can a Ugandan farmer ensure that his daily meal has useful foods?
Beyond encouraging farmers to grow food for sale, we have found out that growing food for home consumption also improves nutrition.
This can be practised by both rural and urban dwellers. Vegetables are a big source of nutrients and these do not require large spaces to grow. Even sacks, old bottles, tins etc can be used. I encourage Ugandans to innovate to improve their nutrition.