The call for the revival of indigenous traditional foods dominated the World Food Day celebrations in Kabarole district, Uganda.
The celebrations, organised by Hivos and Kabarole Research and Resource Centre, were held under the theme ‘Reviving the production and consumption of traditional and indigenous food varieties for better health, food security and rural development’.
Local leaders and residents who attended the celebrations held at the green belt in Fort Portal town noted that most traditional food varieties, such as yams, mushrooms, cassava, sweet potatoes and millet, have disappeared from Ugandans’ current diet. They have been replaced by western types of food, which has negatively affected nutrition.
Rev. Willy Kintu Muhanga, the Mayor of Fort Portal Municipality, acknowledged that in the past, traditional food crops played a role in enhancing food security in homes. He noted that the Tooro region is endowed with the traditional foods, but they are not consumed.
“The traditional foods should always be on the menu in homes. We should not abandon them – they are nutritious,” Muhanga said.
Charles Mugisa, chairperson of the Kabarole District Farmers Association, also spoke at the forum and added that traditional foods are key for rural transformation because they can withstand harsh weather conditions, pests and diseases and require minimal efforts to grow. “Furthermore, traditional foods are safe and nutritious for consumers. Uganda is naturally endowed with a unique and diverse food culture,” he said.
He also said that the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 is a threat to traditional food because it promotes genetically-modified foods, totally ignoring policies to support local foods.
Aggrey Gwaita, a dietician at Fort Portal Referral Hospital, says that traditional foods are safe and nutritious for consumers. He explains that there is limited access to information on the importance of nutritious foods, which could be one of the reasons why cases of malnutrition are high in the district.
According to records from the district health department, 55 percent of children under the age of seven in Kabarole district are malnourished.
The celebrations included a food fest that displayed dishes and food from different culinary cultures in eastern, western and northern Uganda. A nutrition clinic was also established to create nutrition awareness, educate the public, and measure children’s weight and height.
Five food ambassadors were appointed, who will promote the cultivation and consumption of traditional foods among households. Among them are Richard Rwabuhinga, the Kabarole District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Reverend Willy Kintu Muhanga, the Mayor of Fort Portal Municipality and Herbert Mugisa, the Local Council 3 Chairperson South Division. Others ambassadors are the hoteliers Tom Mboijana and Robinah Bwita.
Hivos East Africa is implementing the Sustainable Diets for All programme in Uganda in partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The programme works to influence policy and practices of markets, government actors and international institutions through citizen action for the promotion of sustainable diets for all. Kabarole Research and Resource Centre and Slow Food Uganda are partners in this programme.