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August 16, 2011

NGO: East Africa Should Emphasize Household Food Security

by Douglas Mpuga

East Africa's worst drought in 60 years is putting 11 million lives at risk in the Horn of Africa.

In Uganda, the prolonged drought and severe water shortage have caused severe food shortages, resulting in high prices. But now, there is hope, as rains have started.

The situation in Uganda is beginning to improve because “we have received rain,” said Morrison Rwakakamba, the country manager of Twaweza Project, a regional NGO.

He said the rains are intermittent, and because of the change in weather patterns the farmers didn’t expect them at this time.

Farmers are expecting to get a bumper harvest, he said, “because although the rains have caused floods in some areas, they have been peaceful in most areas.”

The food situation should stabilize, said Rwakakamba, if the government implements the strategies it has talked about. Among them are drip irrigation systems and fertilizer subsidies. Linking small holder farmers to technologies would allow them to do better post-harvest with handling services and value addition.

He noted that his organization “has consistently encouraged government to move food from areas of plenty to areas of deprivation” and build cereal vaults that would allow stabilization of food prices. “That is the only way you can have food across the country.”

“The idea is breaking the bottlenecks on the supply side,” Rwakakamba said, citing the linkage of production to the market by improving the infrastructure.

The food policy, he added, “needs to be codified so as to guide both the central government and local governments to engage in food projections and building food vaults to allow communities to be food sufficient.”

Rwakakamba said actors in the agricultural sector encouraged income as opposed to food security (market-led food production).

The policy emphasis, he added, has now shifted to ensuring household food security ahead of commercialization.