Nearly a year ago, on 21st June 2021, I published a blog post containing an advisory titled: “Improve diets not to eat food for self-esteem” from a student of public health, Emmanuel Olupot and in which I prayed to fellow Ugandans to: “Join me in calling on the President, the newly sworn in Cabinet and the 11th Parliament to prioritize public health and human nutrition matters over and above other misdirected priorities in which we engage in as a nation. This we surely can manage. Thank you.”
I find thus the President’s advice to elitist Ugandans, the minority ‘fake middle class of Uganda’, to eat cassava if they cannot afford to buy bread, justifies Olupot’s concern.
“We need to improve on our dieting not to consume certain foods because of self-esteem. It only backfires when one gets a complicated illness that even their money cannot help. “Emmanuel Olupot
Consumption in Uganda of bread and other wheat-based products – cakes and all is significantly perceived as an elevation of the consumer’s social status and therefore self-esteem. The bulk consumption being white wheat – the one which is stripped of many of its natural nutrients. In which case, the President’s recommendation to substitute with cassava makes sense – from one low in natural essential nutrients to another similarly low in natural essential nutrients.
A preferred route not taken by the President would have been instructing that a Uganda food sovereignty policy be developed and implemented. Within such a policy would be a presidential directive identifying indigenous substitute food items that are high in essential nutrients; accompanied with a strategy on how to promote their production and to ensure their increased consumption by Ugandans; while at the same time making it very expensive for Ugandans to import and to consume wheat. If Ugandan grown wheat be among the protected substitutes then so be it.
If the preferred route would be taken, as a start, let a clear message come from State House on the whole ‘rolex’ economy which primarily benefits wheat farmers in other parts of the world over Ugandan farmers. A classic case of the current administration’s tendency to prioritize food security that compromises food sovereignty and hence the current mess we are in on account of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Truly, the NRM Administration is wanting for its inability to think longer-term and to develop policy that is cognisant of the multiple facets of nation-state administration. Planning piecemeal – crisis by crisis, as is its norm, is the reason why things ain’t good. The Russia-Ukraine war is just an excuse to cover up already existing debacles.
Photo credit @ CPAR Uganda beneficiary farmer in Lango in Northern Uganda