Dubbed the bread basket of East Africa, Uganda produces more food than it consumes. Yet, poverty still limits people’s access to nutritious food, especially in the north and east of the country.
While the poverty rate declined from 31 percent (2005/2006) to 19.7 percent (2012/2013), impetuous population growth has meant that the absolute number of poor people has not decreased.
On average, Ugandans consume 400 kilocalories less than they need every day. One in three school children have no food to eat during the school day.
Inadequate diets are at the roots of persisting nutritional problems which undermine the health, growth and development of Ugandan children. Stunting affects more than one quarter – 27 percent – of children under 5, with rates climbing up to 40 percent in certain areas and among refugees. Anaemia rates stand at 58 percent at the national level, with much higher peaks – up to 70 per cent – in poorer regions and in the refugee population.
Agriculture accounts for 25 percent of the country’s GDP and employs 77 percent of the adult population. However, productivity for smallholder farmers remains low due to lack of access to services such as credit and insurance and reliance on traditional farming methods – including rain-fed agriculture. Storage facilities are often inadequate to protect harvested crops from pests, moisture and mould, which results in losses of up to 30 percent. In the northern and eastern regions, and particularly in Karamoja, rain scarcity can exacerbate food insecurity, forcing families to sell off their assets, take their children out of school or resort to environmentally harming practices to secure food.
Sitting in a volatile and conflict-ridden region, Uganda hosts the world’s third largest refugee population, including people who fled from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. The Government gives refugees plots of land to cultivate, to encourage their self-sufficiency. However, as the number of refugees – especially from South Sudan – grows, these plots become gradually smaller. Much like Ugandan smallholder farmers, refugees lack farming skills, handling techniques and proper post-harvest storage facilities.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Uganda
WFP provides cash and food assistance to people in need, including over one million refugees. In the Karamoja region, children under 5 and pregnant and nursing women receive specialized nutritious foods, supplementary feeding and nutrition counselling. WFP also provides other humanitarian agencies with supply chain services and expertise in order to support their operations in Uganda and the region.
WFP’s cash/food-for-work programme ensures access to food during lean seasons, and helps communities build assets — such as tree farms, orchards, irrigation schemes, water ponds and dams — to improve their resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate-related shocks.
School children, including adolescent girls, receive two nutritious meals daily in all schools in the Karamoja region to meet their basic food and nutrition needs while being encouraged to enrol and stay in school. WFP is also providing technical assistance to the Government to establish a national school feeding policy and a sustainable home-grown school feeding programme. The school meals programme, which receives a cereals contribution from the government, reaches 109,000 children monthly.
Support to smallholder farmers
Working with the Ministry of Agriculture and NGO partners, WFP trains smallholder farmers on ways to increase productivity, diversify crops to enhance nutrition, control quality and access markets. To curb post-harvest losses, WFP provides families with subsidized modern storage equipment and builds community warehouses.
In Karamoja and among refugees and host communities, WFP provides specialized nutritious foods for pregnant and breast-feeding women and children under 2. By focusing the first 1,000 days from conception to the child’s second birthday, WFP assists to prevent stunting or chronic hunger. WFP provides the food through government health centres, where nutrition counselling for care-givers and child health services are offered.
WFP is promoting coordination among Government agencies and other humanitarian partners involved in crisis response, including through the creation of a single registry detailing who is receiving what kind of assistance, why and when, in Karamoja. WFP also provides support at the national and subnational level to improve the coordination and efficiency of emergency response.