By Michael J Ssali
Despite the relatively fertile soil and high food production potential in Uganda hunger and malnutrition are real problems in the country with dire consequences on health and economic development. According to a book – “Food and Nutrition in Uganda”– by Namutebi, Muyonga, and Tumuhimbise, malnutrition is linked to loss of productivity, retarded mental and physical growth in children, and poor health
“In Uganda approximately half of all the deaths in children are attributed to malnutrition,” says the book.
About 200 million of children under five years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa are stunted as a result of inadequate diet, according to an essay by Diran Makinde titled: “African Orphan Crops Consortium: a NEPAD-led Initiative” and published in a small Cambridge edited book — “Africa’s Future – can biosciences help?”
For a long time our political leaders, several NGOs and agricultural extension workers have focused on eliminating poverty and food production with little emphasis on nutrition. As long as big volumes of food are produced it is assumed that food security is achieved. But food security actually includes good nutrition and not just filling the stomach. When farmers and members of their households suffer from malnutrition their capability to engage in physical work reduces and general agricultural production and economic advancement decline.
Extension workers ought to be equipped with the knowledge about which food crops contain what nutrients in order to teach the farmers what food varieties to grow and to eat. We have farmers who concentrate on massive production of food crops like banana or maize without caring about providing their families with fruits, vegetables, beans and groundnuts.
“Food must provide a source of micronutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fats including minerals, such as iron and zinc, and vitamins A, C and D,” writes Dr Adrian Dubock, Executive Secretary of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, Philippines.
It is the reason that organisations such as Harvest-Plus are promoting the growing and consumption of bio-fortified orange fleshed sweet potato and beans enhanced with such nutrients as iron, zinc, and vitamin A which the World Health Organisation (WHO) categorises as the most essential for healthy living. Ugandans have a right to sufficient, safe, affordable, and nutritious food.