30% of Ugandans' food insecure, says ministry

Thursday April 22 2021
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Some of the food items on sale at Mpanga Market in Fort Portal Town. PHOTO | ALEX ASHABA

By Tonny Abet

The Agriculture ministry yesterday revealed that up to 30 per cent of the population is facing food insecurity despite excess production in various parts of the country.

Speaking  yesterday at a high-level dialogue on food systems in Kampala, Mr Pius Wakabi, the permanent secretary in the Agriculture ministry, also revealed that the level of stunting among children as a result of malnutrition is  very high.

“Despite the government’s will in programming and [increased] investment in the agriculture sector to address food insecurity, we still have 30 per cent of our people who are food insecure.

They are consuming around 1,860 calories instead of 2,200 calories [daily] recommended by Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation,” Mr Wakabi said.

“We also have a high level of stunting rate at 29 per cent, and the rate of anaemia is 50 per cent among children under five,” he added.
Calories refer to the amount of energy released from the food one consumes at any point in time.  

Mr Wakabi  attributed the shortfalls in food security and nutrition to weaknesses in the functioning of the country’s food system –from production, processing, storage, markets, up to the consumers.

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He, however, said: “Food and nutrition security remains a priority for the government of Uganda as articulated in NDP III. The target is to increase the proportion of the population that is food secure from 69 per cent to 90 per cent.”

The National Planning Authority’s senior planner for agriculture, Mr Wanda Ollen Kahurubuka, said the country needs  Shs25 trillion to address high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in the next 10 years.

He said the funds will be obtained from taxpayers, civil society organisations, private sector and other partners.

Ms Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance, a civil society organisation, said the government should come up with clear strategies to ensure farmers get good prices and market for their produce so that they can purchase other nutritious foods they don’t produce.

“Our food system should guarantee producers sustainable income and improve their livelihood. The food system should also guarantee people in Uganda safe and nutritious food,” she said.

Currently, the country is grappling with hazardous toxins such as aflatoxins which affect grains that are not properly stored while farmers are receiving  low prices for the commodities.

 Mr Antonio Querido, the country representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation, called for the engagement of farming communities to develop new strategies that will address the disparities in food security and nutrition.

“A country like Uganda should not have any issue of food insecurity because it has all the ingredients such as good soil and water which are needed for agricultural production,” he said.  

Mr Frank Turyatunga, the deputy regional director for United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), asked the government to work on issues around governance, system strengthening and transparency to address  the gaps.

tabet@ug.nationmedia.com

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