News / Africa

Remarkable Partnership Helps Uganda Solve Food Security Issues

Team members check on their aquaculture venture where the community raises such fish as tilapia and catfish, in Naminya, Uganda, December 2011.
Team members check on their aquaculture venture where the community raises such fish as tilapia and catfish, in Naminya, Uganda, December 2011.
Ivan Broadhead

Uganda has experienced steady economic growth compared to many other African nations. 
But the country is experiencing something of a twofold, evolving food security crisis. A remarkable partnership between one Ugandan community and a young American nurse is helping to overcome local food security problems.

Like many people around the world, Ugandans are finding it increasingly difficult to afford a balanced diet. On the supply side, farmers in the north have seen harvests affected by the drought that has decimated the Horn of Africa, while crops in the east have been destroyed by torrential rains.

There also is strong regional demand for those crops that Uganda does bring to market, both from newly-independent South Sudan, and from Kenya as it attempts to feed the 500,000 Somalis living in refugee camps on its northern border.

Women rise to challenge

Frederick Kawooya of the anti-poverty agency Action Aid International says the result is inflation in food prices that has exceeded 20 percent this year alone. The agency estimates that 8 million Ugandans are now not able to afford a balanced diet.

“The solution is not rocket science. We need to empower women because women in Uganda, and I think in Africa in general, are the custodians of food. Empowering a woman is empowering a household, is empowering a nation,” said Kawooya.

That is the theory. But pick up a Ugandan newspaper on any given day, and chances are you will come across a story about the marginalization of women in Ugandan society - whether domestic violence, or a mother struggling to support children in a household where the father spends the food budget on alcohol.

Pioneering project


In Naminya village, however, in eastern Uganda, local women are involved in a pioneering project where they help control food production, as well as its distribution, and the use of the profits from their labor.

At 10:00 a.m., under a blazing sun, five women are digging into the rich, heavy earth with spades and pickaxes. It is backbreaking work. As they toil, the women keep watch over their babies and toddlers, sitting and playing on the mounds of fresh earth the women have already excavated.

Women farmers take a break with their children in the village where they are part of a pioneering project to help control food production, as well as its distribution, and the use of the profits from their labor, in Naminya, Uganda, December 2011.
Women farmers take a break with their children in the village where they are part of a pioneering project to help control food production, as well as its distribution, and the use of the profits from their labor, in Naminya, Uganda, December 2011.

The group is putting the finishing touches to a pond, one of four they have dug over the last year as part of a community fish-farming business.

Esther Basita, a mother of five, will help manage the pond and the precious stocks of tilapia and catfish it soon will contain.

“With the price of food so high, we want to be able to feed our families. From the fish ponds, we make money and get food. I manage the profit myself. I use it to pay for other foods, school fees and also solving things like family health problems," explained Basita. "We women are working equally with the men on this aquaculture business. We are just as strong, and nothing will defeat us!”

The aquaculture venture is the inspiration of an American nurse Brooke Stern, 25, from Suffern, New York. Stern visited the area after graduating from college three years ago and realized that with time, effort and seed money, she could make a significant contribution to the local community.

Fundraising with the support of family and friends back home, Stern set up an NGO (non-governmental organization) - Supporting Opportunities for Ugandans to Learn, or SOUL.

SOUL venture cuts wide swath

In two years, on the most modest of budgets, SOUL has developed an entire range of grassroots initiatives spanning health, food security, education and women’s empowerment.

A team of people in the community puts the finishing touches on a pond, one of four they have dug over the last year as part of a community fish-farming business, in Naminya, Uganda, December 2011.
A team of people in the community puts the finishing touches on a pond, one of four they have dug over the last year as part of a community fish-farming business, in Naminya, Uganda, December 2011.

We meet at the SOUL Shack - SOUL’s tiny headquarters and home to the SOUL Community Pre-School, where 80 vibrant kids are preparing for the day’s classes.

“We thought it was really important for the women to be involved - it is proved that 90 percent of a woman’s profit does go back to her children - so we work with them and teach them and motivate them in the importance of it being their project. We try to step out after our financial aid and let them lead the way,” explained Stern.

Digging complete, the community next stocks the pond with 1,000 fingerlings. In six months, with the right care and attention, these baby fish will grow large enough to provide food for the 750-member community, with the surplus going to market.

“We’re expecting two harvests a year; about 25,000 fish per harvest, one harvest to average around $12,000 [profit]. So it’s providing employment, education, profit and income, as well as food security for the local community,” said Stern.

Reaping benefits

Peterson Kyebenza, a cooperative member, said the local men have quickly seen the benefits of empowering their wives, mothers and sisters.

“We were poor. Ladies and men, working together, they earn more profit. Definitely, it has changed our lives,” said Kyebenza.

Working in partnership, the men and women of Naminya, and a young American nurse, have shown that Uganda’s food security problems can indeed be tackled.

As for their next project? After installing solar lighting at the local midwife’s house, Stern said she and the villagers may open Uganda’s first sustainable fish and chips shop in the nearby tourist town of Jinja.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More