Energetic men and boys are fleeing villages for paid work in urban centres, leaving women and children to suffer food insecurity and malnutrition.
Hon. Lawrence Bategeka, the former MP of Hoima Municipality, said as land becomes less productive for food production, men have run away. Women and children have consequently become victims of food insecurity. Bategeka was giving a keynote address at the Gender Forum on Food and Nutrition Security organised by the Economic Policy Research Centre in collaboration with Michigan State University (MSU) under the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy, Research, Capacity, and Influence (PRCI).The discussion took place at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
“We’re witnessing the fact that [things that traditionally ensured food security and nutrition] like wild honey, medicines, wild fruits etcetera have disappeared, thanks to climate change and increased population,” Bategeka said, addressing the theme, Prioritising Gender in Food and Nutrition Security amidst Climate Change Risks in Uganda.
“There is nothing to gather in villages [anymore],” he added. “Useful men moved to towns for paid work… leaving majority of women and children suffering malnutrition and hunger.”
Dr. Bategeka’s assertions rhyme with concerns raised by the World Food Programme Uganda at the same forum. Dr. Nancy Chawawa, the UN WFP Climate Change and Resilience Consultant, said even in situations where men stay in their homes, “when food is not adequate, women are forced to eat last or not eat at all, affecting their health and that of their children in cases where they’re pregnant and breastfeeding.”
Protecting the environment, she said, is the first step in ensuring that we protect our source of food to ease the load of looking for food environmentally for women.
In her remarks, Dr. Sarah N. Ssewanyana, EPRC Executive Director, said food security in Uganda was highly linked to the performance of the agriculture sector – a sector dominated by women. “Women ensure food availability, access, and utilisation of their household members. But crop agriculture is heavily rain-fed – this can boost or disrupt food availability and access.”
“The challenge is how to sustainably manage [through policy, practice, legal frameworks, politics] the interconnectedness between gender, climate change and FNS to transform the livelihoods of our population that depends on crop agriculture,” Dr. Ssewanyana said in a speech read on her behalf by the EPRC Director of Research Dr. Ibrahim Kasirye.
Dr. Margaret Kabahenda, a senior lecturer at Makerere University school of Food and Nutrition, said nutrition concerns moved beyond households to schools.
She said there was “need to mainstream nutrition education in all curricula [in schools]”, noting that the university has been trying to engage the Ministry of Education and the Curriculum Development Centre to emphasize nutrition in schools.
“We have developed materials that are supposed to help teachers of Primary One, Primary Two, Primary three, showing how to integrate nutrition into school curriculum.”
Discussions on food and nutrition security come at a time when the issues of climate variability, affecting food production and nutrition, are high on the public discourse. The Uganda Nutrition Situation Report for 2019/2020 shows that a quarter of the children under five years are stunted, some 3.2 percent are wasted meaning they have insufficient food intake or a high incidence of infectious diseases.
This underlines the need for more nutritious food awareness and intake. Dr. Ssewanyana underlined EPRC’s intention to focus on climate change and food systems research: “Allow me to inform you that this Forum is informed by the Centre’s 2022-27 Strategic Plan. Food systems and climate change are among the prioritized thematic research areas with gender as a cross-cutting area.”
Read our policy brief: Does Uganda’s food policy environment respond to the food safety needs of the population?