By Alex Zizinga
Alex Zizinga is a Natural Resource Scientist and young food activist working with grass root farming communities in Nangabo sub-district leading the Community Livelihoodhood Project in Uganda to address the most significant constraints to reviving agriculture with small-scale farmers and natural resource management in schools and rural communities.
BOLD Food Fellows at a recent visit to Worldwatch. (Photo credit: Worldwatch)
In Uganda, it’s an unfortunate trend that small-scale farmers in my community will give up and begin a new career if they don’t find agriculture profitable enough to sustain their families. The Community Livelihood Project (CLP) believes that this doesn’t have to happen, though.
CLP’s central objective is to increase food security from farm to household to the community level through strategic partnerships and educational outreach. We advocate for increased food production, better availability and access to food, higher quality modeling and promotion of community-led grass root organizations, and gender-sensitive food and income options. All of this is meant to inform policy and scale up production.
“No doubt our scientists and researchers have done a lot of work to boost the sector, shaping it on the basis of modern technology; but still its benefits have not percolated to small scale farmers of the country,” a senior farmer said in Bamba.
Small-scale farmers are a critical part of the food security chain.
CLP advocates for all agricultural stakeholders (like researchers, policymakers, extension workers, development partners, scientists, donors, institutions, collaborators, etc.) to reach out and work with family farmers. Meeting farmers on their land, ready to touch the soil, brings morale, ideas, and new farm techniques to the important grass root level. We hope this type of direct partnership can boost yields and grow local communities.
This is our opportunity to supplement inefficient or collapsed agricultural extension systems. We need aggressive awareness campaigns to connect farmers to teachers; we need to educate our small-scale farmers with the newest techniques available; we need to make agricultural activities more viable and sustainable.
The following are some examples of what the Community Livelihood Project and BOLD Fellows have done to develop our small-scale agricultural communities.
An overview of food security in Uganda
Food insecurity is due to both natural and human-induced factors.
Sub-Saharan Africa will be the region most affected by climate change. Food and nutritional insecurity remain fundamental challenges for human welfare and economic growth in Uganda. According to the National Food and Nutrition Strategy paper, around 63.5 percent of Ugandans were food insecure in 2002. The current number has risen to about 68percent, and it continues to go up. Over 40 percent of children’s deaths are due to malnutrition; 38 percent of children under 5 years of age in Uganda are stunted, being significantly shorter than they should be given their age, while 22.5 percent are underweight for their age. Micronutrient deficiencies are common. Vitamin A deficiency has a prevalence rate of 5.4 percent. Iron deficiency anemia affects slightly more than 50 percent of the population, while 10 percent of Ugandan women are undernourished. The total goiter rate due to iodine deficiency is over 60 percent.
Stakeholders and small-scale farmers involved with the Community Livelihood Project believe that the escalating levels of food insecurity in rural and urban households are associated with low food production, low purchasing power, and induced sale of food. At the same time, agricultural policies, institutional impediments, and product market mechanisms have not fostered agricultural productivity or created a favourable environment for small-scale farmers.
If these food insecurity trends continue, Uganda may not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Some of these include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (MDG: 1) and ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG: 7).
Bold Leaders Visit Community Livelihood to Strengthen Food Security
BOLDLeaders from the United States, in collaboration with Environment Alert in Uganda, Kenya’s Mazingira Institute, and Support Africa Empowerment Foundation International (SAFI), are teaming up to deliver a two-year, transatlantic partnership between adult leaders of local communities and experienced food professionals and activists in our communities. This team will focus on initiatives that boost food security.
Six BOLD Food Fellows from Colorado and Wisconsin visited CLP projects to examine the specific social, political, and economic factors that contribute to the issues of food production, equitable distribution, and non-degradable environmental practices. They had time to interact with our small-scale farmers in Nangabo sub-district who have been practicing agricultural innovations that we believe can decrease poverty and hunger in the region.
Food insecurity is widespread in Uganda, and international agencies have continued to give the Ugandan food sector poor scores. In particular, the right to food is one of the critical deficiencies in our country, something that is rarely reflected in the media.
The Community Livelihood Project sees food as a health issue first and strongly argues that there is a relationship between poor nutrition and disability. Many disabilities and impairments, such as blindness, hydrocephrous, spinabafida, and others, are linked to malnutrition.
We have been experimenting with several practices that will diversify production and introduce urban and peri-urban agriculture. We are also lobbying for more aquaponic and hydroponic systems, which are useful for people with limited land for cultivation.