In a move to curtail food insecurity and reduce the level of personal incomes that go to daily food buying and other issues related to lack of food, authorities in Bundibugyo District have resolved to revive the defunct food security task force.
This came after a multi-stakeholder meeting which disseminated findings of a study by Swiss Contact on the food security situation in Bundibugyo. The report revealed that much of the land is devoted to cocoa farming yet the rest is either vacant or used for food crops, which compete with coffee and palm oil.
It reads, in part, “while an estimated 92 per cent is customarily owned, about 83 per cent households have access to land at an average land size of three acres against national average of 5.5 acres. However, land utilisation decision-making is dominated by husbands at 91 per cent. Food provision to households is left for women while incomes from cocoa sales are dictated by men.”
Food availability is the first pillar of food security, and is achieved when sufficient quantities of food are consistently available. But, according to the study, food availability at household level is lacking and immediate intervention is needed.
Revamping task force
A similar taskforce was formed three years ago but operated for a short period because it lacked a sustainability plan and the funder (Swiss Contact) pulled out. Lead by Jolly Tibemanya, LC5 chairman, the revived taskforce comprises seven other members including representatives from the four major cocoa companies. It will look at food security issues and mobilise communities to tackle the challenges.
Edmund Bishaka, the production officer, points out that last fiscal year, about Shs90b worth of cocoa was traded in Bundibugyo, making cocoa a lucrative activity in this western district that borders DR Congo.
“Because cocoa fetches more money, communities have abandoned food production. That’s why food is very expensive yet we have good climate and fertile soils,” Bishaka explained.
“The land devoted to food crops is minimal. Therefore, much of the income from cocoa is allocated to food purchases. All the food is brought in from Kabarole and DR Congo.”
To coumpound the issue, households are slightly bigger at an average of nine persons per family, which is above the national average of six to seven persons. This entails higher food consumption within the household.
Among the 15 sub-counties in the district, food insecurity prevalence is high in Bukukwanga, Kasitu, Ntotoro, Mirambi, Busaru, and Bubandi as well as Bundibugyo and Nyahuka Town Councils.
While 62 per cent of the households buy food every week, access to clean water and sanitation at 50 per cent is below the national average of 65 percent.
Bishop Hanington Bahemuka of the Charismatic Episcopal Church notes that February- March and July-September are the typical periods for food shortages. He adds, “This is absurd. Now we have to deal with malnutrition, domestic violence, theft of food and other petty crimes on the rise including ‘silent’ prostitution driven by the cocoa boom. I think our people need to be guided because all the money from cocoa is diverted to buying food. We need to balance between money making and food production.”
Caroline Asiimwe, Swiss Contact project officer, observes, “The issue of food security in Bundibugyo is made worse by the increasing population, when you move around you do not see food crops but cocoa. This was not the case a few years ago.”