Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Food security: challenges, Solutions and Good Practices

(Extracted from Ahabwe Mugerwa Michael's Presentation at the Jane Addams Hull house Museum- University of Illinois Chicago on October 11, 2011)


Achieving food security continues to be a challenge not only for the developing nations, but also for the developed world. The difference lies n the magnitude of the problem in terms of its severity and proportion of the population affected. Food security has major three aspects: food availability, food access and food adequacy.

Food security is a situation in which all people at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life. Food security is affected by a complexity of factors; these include, unstable social and political environments that preclude sustainable economic growth, war and civil strife, macroeconomic imbalances in trade, natural resource constraints, poor human resource base, gender inequality, inadequate education, poor health, natural disasters such as floods and locust infestations and the absence of good governance. All these factors contribute to either insufficient national food security availability or insufficient access to food by households and individuals.

While the rest of the world has made significant progress towards food security and poverty alleviation, Sub Saharan Africa, Uganda in particular continues to lag behind. Many factors have contributed to this including the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, civil war, strive and poor governance, frequent drought and famine, and agricultural dependency on the climate and environment. ( Uganda is currently experiencing famine and food shortages in Eastern and Northern Uganda and Its estimated that the country looses approximately $245,666,666 due to malnutrition. Source; Uganda national Academy of Science report). Despite the reoccurring famine cases in the country, government has not taken major policy changes that target all people in the agriculture sector.

Challenges to food security in rural Uganda.

1. Underdeveloped Agricultural Sector.

Over reliance on primary agriculture, environmental degradation, significant food crop loss due to post -harvest and minimal value addition are some of the major challenges to agriculture in Africa. Over 99% of the food in Uganda is grown under rain-fed agriculture, which makes food production vulnerable to adverse weather conditions.

2. Barriers to market Access

Access to markets is another huddle that smallholder farmers face. There is poor infrastructure and barriers in penetrating the market caused by limited resources, lack of information, lack of or inadequate support institutions and poor policies among others.

3. Disease and Infection.

Disease and infections continue to plague entire African continent. Disease like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS not only reduce the man-hours available to agriculture and household food acquisition, but also increase the burden of households in acquiring food. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO), estimates that by 2020 the epidemic will claim the lives of 20% or more of the population working in agriculture in many Southern African Countries . NB: Agriculture contributes to 79.6% of the total labor force in Uganda.

How food security can be achieved.

1. Nutritional interventions for the poor to reduce effects of malnutrition’s on the poor and sick. NB: food production makes nutritious food available.

2. Facilitating market access: there is need to remove the barriers to trade for African economies so that the people can benefit.

3. Rural off-farm opportunities. These can include industries engaging in value addition, providing credit, market facilitation. These will increase opportunities for the poor when they are no their farmers and reduce rural-urban migration making farm labor available. NB: Uganda’s agriculture addition growth is estimated at only 5.11% and farm tractor use at 0.7%

4. Capacity building: free access to education, research and development, access to capital and infrastructure so that communities can be empowered to produce enough food.

5. Gender sensitive development. Policy makers should work to address gender issues in agriculture and build women’s capacity to make decisions that affect them. E.g Women contribute approximately 80% of agriculture labor force and control less than 10% of resources at household level. According to a 2000 International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) study, agriculture is the main source of income for rural households in Uganda. It is also the main occupation of women. Nationwide, 72% of all employed women and 90% of all rural women work in agriculture.

6. Demonstration sites / technology development site. These offer onsite training to farmers, are avenues for research and provide an opportunity for a farmers-learn by doing approach which is very important in empowering rural farming communities.

7. Good governance. All strategies work in a secure and corruption free environment. Governments should delink political interests to the needs of the people like access to adequate and nutritious food.

ICOD Action Network and Project Focus’s approach to build a sustainable community food systems.

1. Permaculture training. This project trains rural farmers to consciously design and maintain agriculture productive ecosystems. The project integrates environment and people, energy, shelter and other material and non material farmer needs in a sustainable way. 137 farmers have been so far been trained in permaculture.

2. Increasing farmer’s access to agricultural information. We opened a solar powered information center, which is being used to implement an information-sharing project through information technology. Under this project, 5 community groups are taking part information sharing project. Trained farmers engage communities in discussion about key agricultural issues and them look for information from the Internet which they post in their respective communities so that they can be accessed by all community members. Information about agriculture, good farming methods, weather, markets, pests and disease is now easily shared among communities.

3. Training. This is a key component in all our agriculture and food security projects.

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