Every October 16, the world marks World Food Day. This year’s theme - ‘social protection and agriculture, breaking the cycle for rural poverty’ - requires us to recognise the importance of food security and income enhancement. It means empowering rural-based farmers through strong social security systems and safety nets for sustainable food security. This should be our focus in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food and nutrition security, wise use and effective (sustainable) management of natural resources, protecting our environment thus achieving sustainable development, particularly in rural areas.
Small-holder farming in rural areas is inextricably linked to food security both in developing and developed countries. It is the most predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector, including all household-based agricultural activities. It is also linked to several areas of rural development and income enhancement to improve livelihoods at the household level. Our challenge is to build Uganda’s agricultural capacity by shifting from feeding people to helping them feed themselves, increase the quality and quantity of their produce and significantly improve their household incomes.
The Government of Uganda and other stakeholders should focus more on training small-holder farmers in critical skills such as post-harvest handling, proper storage, preservation and agribusiness. This can go along with increasing investments in productive infrastructure such as roads, markets, agro-processing industries, modern stores or warehouses. If this is implemented, many rural farmers will be able to meet their basic food and nutritional needs and increase their household incomes, especially the surplus producing rural small-holder farmers.
As a result, Uganda will become less vulnerable to hunger and poverty. The Operation Wealth Creation should also focus on promoting public-private sector partnership in building the necessary infrastructure for value addition to reduce post-harvest food losses at the household level.
Despite overall progress, marked differences across regions persist. Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with modest progress in recent years. Most households in rural areas unusually depend on remittances from family members in towns /cities or homesteads as the main form of social protection. Remittances, which have globally become three times larger than official development assistance, have significant impacts on poverty and food security. Remittances can help to reduce poverty at household level and given appropriate policies, can increase on-farm investments by different families.
Long-term commitment to mainstreaming food and nutrition security in public policies is key to hunger reduction, especially when it is accompanied by sustainable management of land as a natural capital in building low carbon and resilient communities through effective participation and involvement of all families.
Keeping food security and rural agriculture high on the development agenda through comprehensive reforms, improvement in investment climate, land reforms, supported by sustained social protection, is crucial in achieving major reductions in poverty and undernourishment. However, these policies should be accompanied by strategic capacity building and knowledge enhancement to enforce practicability of the desired levels.
Mr Majwala is the president of Sustainable World Initiative-East Africa.