Farmers, food providers and consumers from Gulu, Buikwe and Kabarole Districts give their personal views on the Ugandan diet and food supply.
Known as the food basket of East Africa, Uganda supplies 72% of the region’s commodity exports. Yet, today four out of ten Ugandans are not getting their required dietary intake. In fact, 16% of households are chronically undernourished and only 4% are food secure. At the same time, the proportion of overweight adults continues to grow: 24% of women and 9% of men aged 15 to 49 are overweight or obese.
This lack of diversity in Ugandan diets stems from challenges in food production and accessibility as well as a lack of awareness of the nutritional value of food, especially indigenous and traditional foods
A photographic exhibition curated by the Sustainable Diets for All programme explored the Ugandan diet through testimonies from farmers, food providers and consumers.
The testimonies featured in the exhibition tell of the challenges farmers face in protecting their crops from pests, diseases and increasingly unpredictable climate hazards such as droughts and heavy rains. They show fluctuations in the price of agricultural produce and barriers in accessing land, capital and quality farm inputs such as seeds and pesticides, fertilisers, training and technical support. They also speak of the role the government can play in helping them overcome these challenges. Restaurant and hotel owners talk of their drive – and the barriers they too face – to offer a more diverse and healthy food choice on their menus, while consumers tell of the changes they are making to their diets in striving to lead healthier lives.
These food voices identify education, and training about the importance and nutritional value of indigenous and traditional foods, as essential to positively transforming the food system in Uganda.
Josephine Atek is a 65-year-old vendor and farmer from the Bardege Division in Gulu District, who produces her own food and sometimes buys from the market.
She would like to widen the type of crops that she sells, but is limited by lack of funding. “I cannot afford to have a variety of what I am supposed to sell and grow,” she says. “If I can get more capital, I would like to add dodo (amaranth greens) and okra to what I am selling. I would then go back to the village and utilise the land there to grow more because here in town there is limited space.”
Evelyne Flora Latabu is from Bardege Division, Gulu District. The 32-year-old’s many roles include teacher, area councillor and farmer. She grows her own food, including maize, potatoes, millet and eggplants, and also rears chickens and ducks – but would like to do even more: “Diversifying my crops, by growing simsim (sesame) for instance, is something I would like to do but limited land and natural resources make it a challenge.”
Her position in society allows her to empower more people to grow food. She says: “As a food and diet champion, I would like to transfer my knowledge to as many people in my community as possible.”