“We feed Sudan, so it is absurd that we still have malnutrition in Fort Portal.”
These words, spoken by Prime-Minister Bernard of the Fort Portal Tooro Kingdom, in Kabarole District in western Uganda, neatly sums up the main issue addressed by the first People’s Summit on Food on 20 and 21 April, 2016. The summit, hosted by the Fort Portal Municipality, in cooperation with Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC), IIED and Hivos brought together politicians, farmers, street vendors, technical experts, civil society, church leaders and youth. They met to discuss how to change the region’s food system so it can provide affordable and nutritious food, create sustainable jobs and drive green and inclusive growth.
During the summit, participants were invited for a “learning journey”, a field trip to different sites to meet with people working in the various phases of the food system. Participants of diverse backgrounds teamed up to visit the sites, bringing different perspectives to lively discussions. The experience increased participants’ understanding of the food system and inspired them in taking action. “The citizen-led People’s Summit provided a vibrant and unique space for different groups to come together and create a vision for the food systems for Fort Portal and the surrounding region,” said Christopher Busiinge, Head of the Kabarole Research and Resource Centre’s Information Unit.
The summit concluded with firm commitments from all groups present to tackle the deepening problems in the region’s food systems. The different actors from policy and practice presented their commitments live on KRC’s radio programme The Farmers’ Voice (KRC 102 FM). They include the following:
- Elected officials committed to providing street vendors with suitable space and infrastructure – such as water points – to operate effectively. They also pledged to enact a bylaw to ensure that the 1935 Public Health act outlawing street food vending is amended to reflect the new realities of emerging food system.
- The National Planning Authority committed to ensuring that the Nutrition Action Plan being developed by the NPA is adjusted to the local context and realities highlighted by the Peoples’ Summit. Kabarole District will provide a case study of how to integrate the food system within the planning system.
- Street vendors pledged to improve hygiene when using plates, cutlery and other food handling equipment in efforts to improve consumer confidence and increase business.
- Local authorities agreed to improve working conditions for street vendors, such as the provision of lighting, water points and toilets.
- Farmers agreed to work closely together to tackle problems of fluctuating market prices and low added-value to the region’s agricultural production. They agreed to share information on prices and agricultural technologies and encourage the government to form farmer-friendly policies such as accessing credit and planting materials.
- Civil society organisations committed to sharing best practices, lessons learnt and information on relevant technologies, while ensuring all stakeholder voices are included in the evolving debate around food.
- Church leaders pledged to raise awareness around the importance of food and nutrition as part of their mission.
You can download the full list of commitments from the documents box in the right sidebar.
To follow up on commitments made, representatives of all groups created a coalition of the willing. They will drive the commitments forward and take concrete actions in order to reach the goal of sustainable diets in Fort Portal and its hinterland.
The summit was a result of the Food Change Lab in Uganda and highlighted some of the evidence gathered by KRC, IIED and Hivos on the interplay between agriculture, economic development, growing urbanisation, nutrition and sustainable food choices. The Food Change Lab is also part of Hivos’ broader Sustainable Diets for All programme, a five-year strategic partnership with the Dutch government to transform the global food system and promote diets that are healthier and more diverse, respectful of ecosystems, culturally acceptable, and economically fair and affordable.
Parts of this article originally published by IIED.