Saturday Series: An Interview with Aturinde Emmanuel

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By Molly Redfield

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Name: Aturinde Emmanuel

Affiliation: Hunger Fighters Uganda

Aturinde Emmanuel is the Executive Director of Hunger Fighters Uganda (Photo credit: Umuseke.com)

Bio: Aturinde Emmanuel is the Executive Director of Hunger Fighters Uganda (HF-UG). Before he worked at HF-UG, he worked as a Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant for the United Nations World Food Programme in Uganda. Emmanuel graduated from Duisburg-Essen University in Germany with a master’s degree in development and governance and from Makerere University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science. His research focuses on agriculture, development policy, and food and nutrition security with a special focus on development innovation.

In 2008, participants of a UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Continuing Agriculture Education Center (CAEC) course dubbed ‘Hunger in the 21st Century’ established Hunger Fighters Uganda.

What roles did the WFP and the CAEC play in the organization’s founding?

The most important thing about the WFP and CAEC course was that it focused on the causes, effects, and possible responses to hunger. By looking to address these issues, the course connected many of its participants. After the course training, myself and some of my classmates and instructors were able to initiate Hunger Fighters Uganda. We started out by monitoring the food that is given to refugees in Uganda. The WFP and CAEC course sparked the idea for HFU, but we’ve been able to do what we do because of our staff. This is especially true in regard to capacity building and having other resources to do our work. Our staff now includes people beyond the initial few who participated in the WFP and CAEC course.

What is the hunger situation in Uganda?

Hunger in Uganda affects over 8 million people. Many Ugandans face something referred to as hidden hunger, a deficiency in micronutrients. The lack of micronutrients, especially of vitamins, iron, and iodine, is referred to as ‘hidden’ because it does not show up immediately. It is only clear later when a person’s immune system is compromised and other opportunistic diseases manifest. So we focus on hidden hunger, most notably in the northern and northeastern parts of the country. These regions experience the highest level of malnutrition.

HFU takes a multidimensional approach to fighting hunger. Can you expand upon this?

Our approach is multidisciplinary: we have environmentalists, nutritionists, and others all working together to eliminate hunger. The fruit trees we help people to plant exemplify our multifaceted approach. The trees provide people with both food and a source of income, which help to break the cycle of poverty. The owners of fruit trees might, for example, invest some of their income in healthcare or education. The trees also benefit the environment and promote natural resource conservation.

Why is a multidimensional approach to hunger necessary?

Hunger manifests itself in diverse ways. If we are to develop a sustainable solution, we can’t use only one approach. We must bring numerous approaches together to address hunger in all of its manifestations. We are, in fact, able to use different approaches that complement one another in an attempt to generate a comprehensive solution to hunger. At HFU, we’re working in teams from different departments. This way, we can minimize the deficiencies that may be present in one field. We are then able to implement programs that deal with the social and environmental components of hunger.

Another important aspect of our approach is that it is direct and on the ground. We promote advocacy in our work. At HFU, we help inform citizens about their rights and responsibilities. These citizens are then, in what we call an interface meeting, directly involved in creating an action plan for eliminating hunger. With Citizen Voice we aim to create goals and take actions with inputs from various stakeholders. In our work, stakeholders come together, the community is empowered, and citizen engagement is enabled.

What kind of impact has HFU had in the lives of poor Ugandans?

In the first year, we implemented a food monitoring program for Ugandan refugees. Since then, over 16,544 beneficiaries have been able to get the vitamins they need to have a healthy diet. Additionally, these beneficiaries have come to appreciate the importance of receiving aid.  We used to have only one office, in Krampala, but now have established offices in other parts of Uganda. Most notably, we have offices in the Karamojo region, which is most affected by hunger and poor nutrition. Another aspect of our work that we see as an achievement is the coalition of youth NGOs that we host. This coalition, made up of 17 different agencies, increases focus on the children impacted by food insecurity.

Where must efforts be directed in the future if we hope to eliminate hunger in Uganda and other countries around the world?

We are working to expand our activities beyond Uganda’s borders. We think we’ll be able to initiate a program in the eastern part of Africa in the near future. It depends on the way opportunities come to us. We have a big volunteer base—having them help to increase our engagement outside of Uganda is important.

Investing more in innovations is also important for the future. Furthermore, making sure that these innovations are tailored to the existing resources of a community is crucial. People have a lot of potential. When solutions are created within a community setting, people are able to act on their potential.

Lastly, we need to get youth back into the agricultural sector. Too many of our youth are leaving their family farms to look for work elsewhere. We must seriously invest in agriculture if we wish to eliminate hunger in Uganda.

Molly Redfield is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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