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Sven Torfinn

Uganda is known as the food basket of East Africa, supplying 72 percent of the region’s commodity exports. Yet 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.

In Uganda, SD4ALL convenes local multi-stakeholder platforms to allow marginalized groups to influence rural and urban food policy debates. We generate evidence around critical issues to inform policy advocacy at the local and national levels.

We target elected and appointed duty bearers across a wide spectrum to influence the review of current food-related policies. We work with youth, women and men, producers, farmers, consumers, food vendors, small companies and professional cooks to increase healthy, affordable and diverse food options for low-income communities in Uganda.

Uganda Food Change Lab

Hivos and IIED partnered with Ugandan NGO Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC) to set up the Uganda Food Change Lab in 2015.

The focus of the Uganda Food Change Lab is Kabarole district in western Uganda – a fertile agricultural area close to the Rwenzori Mountains which includes the regional urban centre of Fort Portal.

In the countryside, improved roads mean that more produce is being shipped out of the area, the agricultural labour force is shrinking, and rural people are increasingly buying food instead of growing it themselves. Kabarole's main urban centre, Fort Portal, is growing fast: it's expected to grow ten-fold by 2040, from 50,000 to 500,000 inhabitants. Uganda’s national planning document, Vision 2040, includes plans which will have significant implications for the food systems of the district. All of these changes provide an important context for a Change Lab.

The Lab began with evidence collection by KRC and IIED on rural food insecurity, trade and urban food provision. We convened a series of dialogues and workshops that aimed to bring together all stakeholders in the food system, including those who do not normally meet and are not normally given voice. Two parallel processes took place: regular meetings and visits of the diverse core group, and sessions with political stakeholders at higher levels.


Uganda’s first People’s Food Summit

The process culminated in Uganda's first People's Food Summit, co-hosted with the Municipal Council of Fort Portal, in April 2016. This event opened up local discussions to a much bigger audience. Participants included members from the national parliamentary forum on food security, the director of Uganda's National Planning Authority, religious leaders, district politicians, representatives of the Toro Kingdom, children, farmers, CSOs, and street vendors.

The summit included visits to the Health Inspectorate for Fort Portal municipality, to a rural farmers’ group, a farmer household, and to food processors and traders in rural trading hubs. At the close of the summit, representatives from different groups set out their commitments live on the local radio station, KRC 102 FM. Elected representatives committed to amending laws to reflect the realities of emerging food systems, to support rural households and provide better access to farm credit. Local authorities committed to supporting street food vendors by allocating space and providing infrastructure services such as water and night lights. Street food vendors committed to improving food hygiene and to comply with existing regulations.  

The second People’s Summit on Food was held in late 2017. Hosted Uganda’s Fort Portal Municipality, it brought together politicians, farmers, street vendors, civil society, church leaders, nutritionists and young people to discuss how to move the region’s food system towards more affordable and nutritious foods.


Sustaining Summit outcomes

The Summits gave rise to a range of new initiatives which aim to sustain the Summits' outcomes and to test workable solutions on a small-scale (so-called ‘prototypes’). One of these initiatives is a local self-organised multi-stakeholder platform, the Coalition of the Willing (CoW). The CoW is a group of individuals from a variety of sectors sharing common concerns and ambition to change the food system for the better.

Following their participation in the Food Change Lab and People’s Summit, informal food vendors and city law enforcement officers are now redefining their relationship, moving from conflict to coexistence and addressing key priorities such as improving food safety. This is a potential model for the rest of the country, and is also relevant to global debates on the informal food sector.

The Uganda Food Change Lab and its convening parties have two tasks for the future. Firstly, to undertake advocacy efforts to ensure that these commitments are at the centre of the agenda of the institutions that made them, and secondly, in the coming years, the Lab will continue to ask the bigger questions, broaden its coalition for change on the ground, and facilitate new solutions that work for the region’s food and farming.


Further Reading

You can read more about the food systems of Kabarole district and the work of the Uganda Food Change Lab in this report (PDF).


The Sustainable Diets for All programme also runs food labs in BoliviaIndonesia and Zambia.

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