The fact that Uganda, a country once aptly described as the “pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, can have sections of the population that is food insecure warrants close examination.
I visited Masaka villages about a decade ago as part of a monitoring team for a DANIDA project on household agricultural support. We found an old lady who told us her household would die of hunger if government did not come in to their rescue. They did not have food, so she said.
On further probing, we discovered that she had a shamba of sweet potatoes but they were rotting in the garden as no one wanted to eat potatoes and there was no market for them in the area. To her, food was matooke, a crop that no longer yielded well in the area.
To address food insecurity concretely and in a sustainable way, there is a clear need to address mindsets. Local leadership have a critical role to play here. Unfortunately, most of the local/community leaders (faith, cultural, civic, political) are all obsessed with hard politics (symbols, colours, slogans etc.)
Their mindsets about leadership also need to change. For the policymakers, there is a huge mindset or call it paradigm challenge. We have heard experts argue that food security is in the pocket and not in the garden. Farmers (or are they ‘diggers’) are encouraged to grow for the market and have money in their pockets to buy whatever they want.
This idea may have good economic thought in its DNA but I am not sure if it was anchored in the realities of most peasant farmers that characterise our agricultural architecture. There is a challenge of cognitive dissonance here. Peasants grow food for direct consumption.
Transforming that mindset into growing for the market can only serve to increase food insecurity and poor nutrition status as the ‘traditional’ perception about the use of money is that it is for purchase of items that a household cannot produce on its own.
One may wish to cite Bushenyi here. A food basket (milk, matooke, etc., in plenty) but with the worst nutrition indicators in the country. So, it all points to three important factors: 1. Mindset 2.Mindset 3. Mindset
By Mubarak Mabuya, in reaction and comment to Comrade Norah A. Owaraga’s blog post titled: “Uganda’s food scarcity is superficial,” which was published on 27th July 2014. Be that as it may, sixteen years later, Mabuya’s wisdom remains relevant.