photo: Sven Torfinn

Food Change Lab Fort Portal

In Uganda the target policy is the national Vision 2040 – launched in April 2013 -- and its local implementation. Vision 2040 calls for “a transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years”. In other words for a shift from peasant agriculture to commerce, much of it urban. Planning for urbanisation is often framed as hard infrastructure rather than soft systems of food provision.

Kabarole Research and Resource Center (KRC), a well-established NGO in western Uganda houses the Food Lab hubs.  The focus is on ensuring a positive link between rapid urbanisation, food and nutrition security, and the economy and ecology of the rural hinterland. On the urban side, the Lab will look at urban food vending, which offers self-employment to many young entrepreneurial people, mainly women and provides affordable inexpensive food to the low-income consumer of Fort Portal. But the sort of urban growth planned under Vision 2040, brings a high risk of relocation of vendors away from low-income consumers. On the rural side, the Lab will address the greater participation of households in the cash economy, and ways to reverse the cycle of exporting nutritious food at the expense of soil fertility and nutrition insecurity.

Initial results of the 2015 Food Change Labs

Research and mapping of local food producers, vendors and consumers clearly indicated present and future food insecurity. Based on this data collection, Fort Portal municipality recognized green and clean food in their long term governmental planning as an important issue. Now, the municipality is open to citizen’s suggestions: ranging from concerns for improved lighting to sanitation in the urban area. The Food lab in Fort-Portal has so far brought the subject of inclusive food security on the planners’ agenda. The local government recognizes the need to provide better services in a designated place for  food vendors and consumers.

In the rural area of Kabarole District, villagers started fireplace conversations and listeners groups discussing KRC radio shows on food security. Topics included the blind adoption of cash crops like maize, where traditional grown food crops like millets prove to be more nutritious and yet being neglected. Based on observations of elderly people that children’s length in some hinterland areas decreased, they discussed the possible implications for future generations. The food lab in Fort-portal invited the groups to make plans to grow more nutritious food. Another issue identified so far is the ageing population in the rural hinterlands. Quite a few young people migrate to the urban area to find piece meal work. Already, implications for the food production in the agricultural sector become visible. The Food Labs invited the planning authorities to come up with appropriate interventions.

photo: Sven Torfinn.

People’s Summit on Food

“We feed Sudan, so it is absurd that we still have malnutrition in Fort Portal.”

These words, spoken by Prime-Minister Bernard of the Fort Portal Tooro Kingdom, in Kabarole District in western Uganda, neatly sums up the main issue addressed by the first People’s Summit on Food on 20 and 21 April, 2016. The summit, hosted by the Fort Portal Municipality, in cooperation with Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC), IIED and Hivos brought together politicians, farmers, street vendors, technical experts, civil society, church leaders and youth. They met to discuss how to change the region’s food system so it can provide affordable and nutritious food, create sustainable jobs and drive green and inclusive growth.

During the summit, participants were invited for a “learning journey”, a field trip to different sites to meet with people working in the various phases of the food system. Participants of diverse backgrounds teamed up to visit the sites, bringing different perspectives to lively discussions.  The experience increased participants’ understanding of the food system and inspired them in taking action. “The citizen-led People’s Summit provided a vibrant and unique space for different groups to come together and create a vision for the food systems for Fort Portal and the surrounding region,” said Christopher Busiinge, Head of the Kabarole Research and Resource Centre's Information Unit.

The summit concluded with firm commitments from all groups present to tackle the deepening problems in the region’s food systems. The different actors from policy and practice presented their commitments live on KRC’s radio programmeThe Farmers’ Voice (KRC 102 FM). They include the following:

  • Elected officials committed to providing street vendors with suitable space and infrastructure – such as water points - to operate effectively. They also pledged to enact a bylaw to ensure that the 1935 Public Health act outlawing street food vending is amended to reflect the new realities of emerging food system.
  • The National Planning Authority committed to ensuring that the Nutrition Action Plan being developed by the NPA is adjusted to the local context and realities highlighted by the Peoples’ Summit. Kabarole District will provide a case study of how to integrate the food system within the planning system.
  • Street vendors pledged to improve hygiene when using plates, cutlery and other food handling equipment in efforts to improve consumer confidence and increase business.
  • Local authorities agreed to improve working conditions for street vendors, such as the provision of lighting, water points and toilets.
  • Farmers agreed to work closely together to tackle problems of fluctuating market prices and low added-value to the region’s agricultural production. They agreed to share information on prices and agricultural technologies and encourage the government to form farmer-friendly policies such as accessing credit and planting materials.
  • Civil society organisations committed to sharing best practices, lessons learnt and information on relevant technologies, while ensuring all stakeholder voices are included in the evolving debate around food.
  • Church leaders pledged to raise awareness around the importance of food and nutrition as part of their mission.

To follow up on commitments made, representatives of all groups created a coalition of the willing. They will drive the commitments forward and take concrete actions in order to reach the goal of sustainable diets in Fort Portal and its hinterland.