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The photo exhibition illustrated in this photo blog explores the Ugandan diet from the point of view of 5 men and 7 women from Gulu, Buikwe and Kabarole Districts  in Uganda. Known as the food basket of East Africa, Uganda supplies 72 percent of the region’s commodity exports. Yet, today 4 out of 10 Ugandans are not getting their required dietary intake. In fact, 16 percent of households are chronically undernourished and only 4 percent are food secure. At the same time, the proportion of overweight adults  continues to grow. 24 percent  women and 9 percent of men aged 15-49 are overweight or obese. This lack of diversity in Ugandan diets stems from challenges in food production and accessibility, as well as a lack of awareness of the nutritional value of  food especially indigenous and traditional foods.

The testimonies featured in the exhibition tell of the challenges farmers face in protecting their crops from pests, diseases, and increasingly unpredictable climate hazards such as droughts and heavy rains. They show fluctuations in the price of agricultural produce, barriers in accessing land, capital, and quality farm inputs such as seeds and pesticides, fertilizers, training and technical support, as well as the role the government can play in helping them overcome these challenges. Restaurant and hotel owners talk of their drive – and the barriers they too face – to offer a more diverse and healthy food choice on their menus, while consumers tell of the changes they are making to their diets in striving to lead healthier lives. These food voices identify education and training  about the importance and nutritional value of indigenous and traditional foods as essential to positively transforming the food system in Uganda.

Atek Josephine, Age 65,  Bardege Division, Gulu District
I am a female vendor and farmer. I produce my own food and sometimes buy it from the market. Little capital influences what I am selling. This is because I cannot afford to have a variety of what I am supposed to sell and grow. If I can get more capital, I would like to add Dodo (amaranth greens) and Okra to what I am selling. I would then go back to the village and utilise the land there to grow more because here in town there is limited space.

 

Semakula Vincent, Age 30, Fort Portal Municipality, Kabarole District
As a chef, I buy my supplies from nearby markets. Making people in the community aware of the benefits of local, indigenous foods is the first step in getting them to love them. I would like to see a change in people’s mind-sets – where they come to my restaurant and not only order a variety of vegetables, but appreciate the local foods they see on my menu.

 

Latabu Evelyne Flora, Age 32, Bardege Division, Gulu District
Among my many roles, I am a teacher, area councillor, and a farmer. I grow my own food, including maize, potatoes, millet and eggplants. I also rear chickens and ducks. Diversifying my crops, by growing simsim (sesame) for instance, is something I would like to do, but limited land and natural resources make it a challenge. My position in society allows me to empower more people to grow food. As a food and diet champion, I would like to transfer my knowledge to as many people in my community as possible.

 

Akumu Hellen Sally, Age 28, Bardege Division, Gulu District
I am a female farmer and diet champion who grows vegetables including eggplant. The main issue influencing my farming is limited land for expansion. I would love to plant beans and cowpeas because they grow faster. They are among the cereals people love to eat and it doesn't require much space to grow them. Access to good quality seeds and knowledge and training on how to improve farming could make a change.

 

Byabasaija Dan, Age 24, Fort Portal Municipality, Kabarole District
I am a street food vendor and I buy what I sell from butchers, farmers and markets like Kabundaire and Karago. Poor climate – especially during rainy season, high rental charges, and too much exposure to fire are some of the challenges I face. In the future, I would like to diversify what I sell to my customers by adding fish to my menu.

 

Lamwaka Emericana, Age 47, Bardege Division, Gulu District
I grow cow peas, beans, bananas, maize, and cassava. Controlling pests and diseases is my biggest challenge. I would also like to farm eggplants, cabbages and groundnuts, but I need access to certain resources to make this change. Fertilizers, pesticides to control the pests and diseases, as well as ensuring proper selection of quality seeds would help this.

 

Ayella Denish Oryema, Age 37, Bardege Division, Gulu District
I am a Community Development Officer for my district and I get my food from the market. In order to change my diet, I am adding more vegetables as my side dishes. This will help me to fight diet related diseases. How can we improve food production? In addition to increased production and the use of modern technology, I would suggest that measures like mulching and fertilizer application be put in place to overcome challenges like the land losing fertility.

 

Nakabuye Hawa, Age 25, Ngogwe Sub County, Buikwe District
As an hotelier and restaurant operator, I buy food from farmers. This often includes yams, pumpkins, meat, fish, nuts, cabbages, nakati, eggplant, matooke, rice, climbing yams, cassava, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, posho, and beans. Customer care is a strong pillar of my business and I see a need to improve both access to food and proper hygiene in order to make food safe from contamination. I believe this will also increase the amount of local foods that are consumed. If I had my own land, I would cultivate my own food for my restaurant.

 

Rev Welcy Acan, Age 29, Bardege Division, Gulu District
I am a religious leader in my district. Most of my food comes from the market or my garden. Greens are really important, and something I’m trying to add to my diet, because they help the body fight nutritional diseases. I would like to see people growing food for their own consumption, rather than selling it, as they also need a good diet.

 

Ssemwezi Sulait, Age 45, Ssi Sub County, Buikwe District
I make decisions about what I will plant based on environmental conservation, income generation, good diet and nutrition. Drought, weeds, and limited access to quality seeds also influences what I grow. I’m currently farming coffee, vegetables, bananas, pawpaws, cassava, coco yams, climbing yams, passion fruits, jack fruits, potatoes, sugarcane and avocados. I would like to add cocoa and black pepper. The prices of agricultural products should be increased so that farmers can get money to buy more land and agricultural inputs. The government should also address the issue of land grabbing to ensure the safety of farmers.

 

Byamukama Wilber, Age 28, Kasenda Sub County, Kabarole District
I am an entrepreneur and a farmer, and the food I eat comes from what I grow. Adding more vegetables to my diet is a priority. I would like for my fellow farmers and I to receive training so we can adapt what we grow and how we grow it to the changing climate.

 

Akena Simon, Age 18, Bungatira Sub County, Gulu District
Ground nuts, cassava and sweet potatoes are the main things I grow, both to eat at home and to sell. My main challenges as a farmer are heavy rainfall, pests and diseases, and prolonged drought. As I don’t want to use any chemical pesticides, I’m planning to make my own pesticides from local plants. This means that I will also save the money I would have used to purchase them. I would like to gain more knowledge about farming and entrepreneurship. For now, I’m saving money from my farm produce to buy land where I can plant millet and sorghum.

The Sustainable Diets for All (SD4All) programme in Uganda curated this exhibition. In Uganda the programme is being implemented together with Slow Food Uganda, Food Rights Alliance, Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO) and Kabarole Resource and Research Centre.

 

All photos were taken by Joseph Muhumuza.