Uganda does not store food for use in emergencies and the land tenure system, while recently improved, is undermining the country's agricultural potential.
These are some of the findings of a ground-breaking independent review of hunger conducted over the last 11 months in Uganda. The review was commissioned by the National Planning Authority (NPA) with support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to assess Uganda's readiness to end hunger - and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 of Zero Hunger by 2030.
"A large majority of school children enter class on an empty stomach and only one in three children gets to eat a meal at school," NPA Chairperson Dr. Kisamba Mugerwa said today as the findings of the review were launched in Kampala.
Dr Mugerwa said that although data shows that rates of stunting, which leads to reduced physical and mental development, had reduced from 33 percent to 29 in the last six years, Uganda is not moving fast enough to meet the Zero Hunger target by 2030. As such, he said, the futures of hundreds of thousands of children in Uganda are under threat.
Diets of Ugandans in general have improved in the last seven years. However, Ugandans consume an average of 1,860 kilocalories per person per day compared to the minimum daily requirement of 2,200 kilocalories. People heavily depend on staple carbohydrates for calories while these staples are being produced in reduced quantities.
Uganda was found to have few food reserves, most of them being grain silos owned by private entities. Unlike its neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, the review states, Uganda has limited policy options to address sudden food shortages.
Only one in five land holdings in Uganda has a formal title, with a small share of those holdings being registered in the names of women. This, the review found, is just one of many land tenure challenges that contribute to low farm yields, food shortages and high food prices.
"Only 4 percent of households in Uganda were food secure over the last six years," said Dr. Mugerwa, attributing food shortages and poor diets also to droughts, erratic rains and other impacts of climate change, as well as rapid population growth and urbanization, inconsistent application of Ugandan policies and poor public financing.
Fixing public financing structures, establishing a comprehensive school feeding policy, and high political commitment to land reform are some of the recommendations of the review, as well as fast-tracking pending Parliamentary bills relevant to ending hunger.
Other recommendations include effective early warning systems, the establishment of food reserves, support to irrigation and water-harvesting in dry areas, mass production of staples and conservation of Uganda's lands and plant and animal species.
The national review was conducted by Makerere University's Economic Policy Research Centre guided by experts from NPA, seven government ministries, UN and specialist agencies, private sector, civil society organizations, Parliamentary fora and farmers' organizations.
Titled Toward Zero Hunger: A Strategic Review of Sustainable Development Goal 2 in Uganda, the review focused on the four targets of SDG 2, which are: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.