How Tooro locals are fighting malnutrition

Resident inspect a kitchen garden in Busoma Village, Fort Portal City, last Tuesday. PHOTO | ALEX ASHABA

What you need to know:

  • According to the latest statistics, 40.6 percent of children below five years in the sub-region are stunted.

An increasing number of households in Fort Portal City and Kabarole District has embraced the concept of kitchen gardening to combat malnutrition, which has become a big burden to many households.
The residents are planting a variety of food crops, particularly vegetables, in their compounds after health experts expressed concern over the high prevalence of malnutrition among children under the age of 5 in Tooro Sub-region.
According to the latest Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, 40.6 percent of children below five years in the sub-region are stunted, 2.4 percent suffer from wasting, and 10.3 percent are born with a low birth weight of below 2.5kg. 
Additionally, anaemia affects 45 percent of children below five years and 29.4 percent of women of reproductive age.
To address the malnutrition crisis, nutritionists have recommended the cultivation of vegetables, which are rich sources of essential minerals such as calcium, iron and vitamins, which are crucial for children’s growth.
In North Division, Fort Portal City, and other sub-counties in Kabarole, households have been establishing kitchen gardens since last year. 
In the gardens, they grow Sukuma wiki, eggplants, cabbages, peas, groundnuts, tomatoes and onions, among others.
Ms Ester Kamalha, a resident of Busoma B Village in North Division, Fort Portal City, is among those who mobilised mothers from different villages to establish kitchen gardens in their homes.
“In 2022, after seeing many cases of malnutrition, we started a group, Busoma Young Mothers Organic Farmers, to address malnutrition and hidden hunger in our homes. We later partnered with Thrive for Good, an organisation from Kenya, which helped us with training in nutrition excellence,” Ms Kamalha said last week.
She said a total of 37 farmers have since received training and have been instrumental in assisting other households in establishing kitchen gardens.

“Many mothers no longer need to rely solely on markets for their food because they have gardens in their compounds, enabling them to have better control over their diets,” she said. 
“Thrive for Good has supported families with seedlings and established community seedbed gardens to ensure that everyone has access to resources needed for kitchen gardening,” Ms Kamalha added.
Ms Jane Kabugho from Kyakora Village said kitchen gardens have changed people’s perceptions that vegetables and greens were food for the less privileged.
“I am pleased that our families have now embraced farming practices and have learned to incorporate vegetables and greens into our diets,” she said.
Mr Rauben Kikora Iswanga, a community facilitator on kitchen gardening, highlighted that community sensitisation is helping many households to eradicate malnutrition.
“Some families have started earning from kitchen gardens, and people’s compounds are no longer empty; they are filled with vegetables,” he said.
The communities are currently seeking funding to acquire an irrigation kit worth Shs2.25 million to ensure continuous water supply for their kitchen gardens.
Mr Banard Bwambale, a nutritionist from Kabarole Research and Resource Centre Uganda, said besides kitchen gardens, parents should prioritise proper child feeding and ensuring that pregnant mothers receive adequate nutrition.

Next step
“We now want people to also learn good cooking habits and food preservation methods. Some people dry food in unsanitary conditions, which is dangerous to their health,” Mr Bwambale said.
He added that all those owning kitchen gardens need to seek knowledge about the safe use of chemicals such as pesticides, practice agro-ecology farming practices, and handle food properly to address malnutrition comprehensively.