Posts tagged as: food

Africa:Is Uganda Still Africa’s Bread-Basket?

By Sella Oneko

Uganda has always been known as the bread basket of Africa and for the most part that’s still true. But both the lack of rainfall in the northeast and the large number of refugees have posed a challenge to the country.

Driving up to Arua district in northern Uganda, there’s green everywhere. It’s been raining intermittently since June. From the looks of it, one would not guess that this region is experiencing a strain on it resources and that it hosts the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Every day 300 to 500 new arrivals cross the border, mainly from South Sudan, where ongoing fighting has driven the people away. Uganda currently hosts over 1.3 million refugees. Unlike most countries, Uganda hasn’t built camps. Instead it has given each family a piece of land to build a home and farm on. The idea is to help refugees to become self-reliant.

“I think the government is making a big effort and they have a national plan in which they also put the issue of food security high on their agenda,” explained Andrea Padberg from the German NGO Welthungerhilfe. “Due to a lot of things, like, the large influx of refugees, their resources are very strained.”

The sheer number of new arrivals is overwhelming. In June this year, Uganda held a solidarity summit, where the EU and other members pledged their support. The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) still has a funding gap of 62 million euros ($75 million). There’s enough money to supply food until the end of November. After that, says Uganda’s WFP country director, El-Khidir Daloum, it’s back to begging for funds. “We would like to have flexibility. We would like to have funding ahead of time to enable us to make financial plans and have the rations ready for distribution,” Daloum explained.

A growing market

If we look past the refugee situation, Uganda is usually able to feed itself. Especially in the southwest of the country, the staples of maize, cassava and plantain grow well. And cash crops like coffee, of which Uganda is the second biggest exporter in Africa, also strengthen Uganda’s export market.

More recently Uganda’s dairy sector has seen a fair amount of growth. In this sector, Uganda competes with and exports to Kenya, which has a strong dairy industry of its own. “In the southwest, which is the main driver for growth, dairy farming requires extensive grazing,” explains Rinus van Klinken, a project manager with the Dutch NGO SNV. “There are farms of 80 acres, 200 acres, with large landholdings, there is good rainfall, there are good breeds and therefore, with fairly limited input, you get a fairly high output.”

In neighboring Kenya, he says, you have the opposite: the milk is produced by small holders who sell to the dairy companies. They have small pieces of land and zero grazing. They have to grow the feed and they need a shed and much more intensive care for the livestock.” So the comparative advantage for Uganda is the low production cost and therefore it can compete.”

Additionally, he says, Uganda’s climate and soils are favorable for farming and that while the government has had a few short-falls, for instance, in farmer education or promoting the growth of cooperatives, it has done a relatively good job in regulating and managing the agricultural sector.

Regional differences

But according to van Klinken, the dairy sector also shows the large discrepancies in the country. “Karamoja (in the northeast) is a unique case because of the pastoralist dynamic. There is not much trading. The pastoralist society mainly produces milk for household consumption,” he says.

In general the Karamoja region has largely had to depend on food aid, cash benefts or other means support from the Ugandan government and international organizations. In 2016 and early 2017 Karamoja was also the only region in Uganda that was badly hit by the regional drought.

The problems that have affected over 34 percent of people across the country, such as Uganda’s high malnutrition and stunting rates, are particularly accentuated in Karamoja.

“We see that Uganda has made improvements in the last ten years in many parts. But we also still see high levels of children showing signs of chronic malnutrition. the fact that they chronically do not have enough food is still very alarming,” says Padberg from Welthungerhilfe. “We have different areas where this is particularly evident, like in Karamoja and the refugee settlements,” she adds.

In general the issue of malnutrition and food security in Uganda is largely connected to the fact that around 70 percent of the population depends on subsistence farming and are therefore still very dependent on rainfall and climatic conditions. If these fail, or if communities only grow certain crops, many people then simply lack the means to buy the food, even if it is available on the market.

The reliance on rainfall, both for the small-holder farmers and the pastoralists is unlikely to change in the near future, says Padberg. That, she says, will remain a challenge for Uganda. “We will surely see a situation where drought prone phases will occur more and more often and that does pose general questions in regard to the livelhoods of the pastoralists,” she explains. “We need to work with them and to give them more drought resistant alternatives to cope with these changing climate issues.”

Angola:Cassava Production Project Launched in Lunda Norte

Luanda — Two cassava stem multiplication and vegetable growing micro-projects were launched in northeastern Lunda Norte province, under the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Tele-food campaign.

The initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry aims to develop large-scale production of cassava, vegetables and cassava flour in the municipality of Lóvua (Lunda Norte) to secure food security in rural communities.

According to Ermelinda Caliengue, director of the Food Security Office, the micro-projects are aimed at rural families and the community of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) based in Angola’s Lunda Norte province.

Speaking to Angop, the official explained that the micro- projects are expected to produce 250 tons of cassava and 248 tons of flour.

Currently, Angola is self-sufficient in the production of some vegetables and tubers such as sweet potato, cassava and others.


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South Africa:Life Esidimeni – Some Patients Were Walking Around Naked

The first relative to testify at the Life Esidimeni hearings said her father’s last wish before he died was that someone look after her mentally ill brother.

An emotional Sandra de Villiers testified how her brother, Jaco Stols, who was a patient at the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC) for more than 18 years, was one of the patients moved to one of the unlicensed NGOs.

He was moved to Siyabadinga, where De Villiers felt the staff weren’t properly trained to look after mental health patients.

De Villiers told the alternative dispute resolution hearings that after visiting her brother she felt disappointed and powerless in the way her brother and other patients were treated.

“If you look after those sorts of patients, you need to have a passion for your work,” she said. “They need lots of care and attention.”

De Villiers said she often arrived in the winter at Siyabadinga, also in Cullinan, to visit her brother, only to find some of the patients walking around naked.

“He was very scared… Jaco was always hungry when I went to visit him. I would take him a pair of slippers, and the next time I went to visit him, they would be gone,” she said.

“He wore thin clothes. It made me think; was he sleeping on the floor? Was he sleeping only on a mattress? Did he have a blanket over him? All these thoughts crossed my mind when I went to visit him,” De Villiers said.

She testified that during one visit she questioned the staff about his condition and was told not to get emotional.

“I was very upset. He was my brother. How can I not get emotional?” she said.

Deteriorating condition

Stols was eventually placed back at CCRC, but when his sister went to visit him, she found him in a deteriorating condition. She found him hungry and dehydrated to the extent where he nearly ate the napkin she brought him with his food.

She said a few days later, she phoned the facility and at first, staff said there was no patient by his name.

De Villiers said she thought the staff could sense she was getting upset. Someone then phoned her back telling her that Stols was walking around and no longer in a wheelchair, and that he was eating.

“I was very relieved,” she said.

“A couple of hours later, they phoned me and said they were taking him to Mamelodi Hospital, [because] he was very sick.”

“When I got there, he was very dehydrated. He was badly underfed,” she said.

She was told her brother should actually be in ICU, but there was no space.

Less than two weeks later, she got a phone call from one of the nurses who told her Stols passed away.

Arbitration hearing chair, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke told De Villiers that he was “quite saddened” to hear her story, as he worked most of his life helping those who wanted a just and fair society.

He said her story didn’t reflect the constitutional ideals he worked for.

Source: News24

Are GMOs the Silver Bullet to End Hunger in Uganda?

opinionBy Herman Tuhairwe

Last week, Parliament passed the Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill into law. The law had been on the shelves of Parliament for nearly five years partly because of a tug-of-war between the voices in support and those opposed to it.

The former comprised mainly of scientists who argued that biotechnology is essential if Uganda is to transform its food and agriculture sector from small scale rudimentary to large scale and purposeful production, able to solve the persistent challenges of hunger and malnutrition, among others, that continue to plague the populace in Uganda.

The facts are indeed bare and sundry for all to see. Changing weather patterns coupled with resistant pests and diseases have indeed led to low yields in various parts of the country. Given the percentage of people in our nation that is reliant on agriculture, this argument does not need to be bellowed.

However, the Biotechnology and Biosafety Act has been heavily criticised, especially by civil society organisations and the academia. Most of the opponents of the Act have always acknowledged that indeed in the 21st Century, one cannot deny the importance of biotechnology in all spheres of life, especially in regards to agriculture.

In specific regards to agriculture, however, the production of food from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been the most contentious. The gist of the opponents’ argument is that biotechnology is not the silver bullet that will end hunger in Uganda, and all the third world countries. Indeed, hunger in Uganda is not only as a result of the lack of biotechnology to influence the poor and low quality yields. Take, for example, the fact that Uganda has an estimated 20 per cent of its area covered by open water bodies of fresh water, most farmers still rely only on rain.

In many areas where rivers go through, the only visible efforts are sand mining and brick laying by the locals. The farmers have since decided to grow crops in swampy areas since they are better irrigated. As to whether the farmers are aware that most of these swamps are actually catchment areas is to be answered another day.

Take another example of rudimentary tools. Many of the farmers rely on basic and rudimentary tools like the hand-hoe to farm. You do not need to be a genius to understand that someone using a hoe does not have the same productivity as another using a tractor.

Granted, the hilly terrain of various areas in Uganda makes it impossible to use machines like tractors, but there are other ways of ensuring productivity. Another factor is the poor transport network. Analysts have argued that part of the reason Uganda is facing food shortages is due to its poor transport network.

As such, even when yields are high, most of the perishable food does not move from the remotest areas of the country in time to markets. Will all GMO food be non-perishable? I highly doubt.

At the risk of being criticised as pedestrian, I also posit that Uganda’s population trends are contributing to hunger. Why pedestrian? The argument on the other side has always been that an increase in population implies an increased work force and better market for products, the reason why some of our milk farmers are seeking markets in China.

But that is only when one is working under the assumption that the work force has land to till, available implements to effectively do so, and has the “purchasing power”. Can this be said of Uganda’s youthful population, which comprises millions of unemployed graduates without practical skills? I highly doubt.

All these factors, coupled with experiences from other countries where multi-national corporations have used laws similar to ours to take corporate control of the food sector since their only aim is profit maximisation.

Without doubt, biotechnology has advantages. Refusal to acknowledge technological developments is like hiding your head in a sand dune while a storm gathers. But it remains to be seen if it will be the silver bullet to eradicating hunger in Uganda.

Tuhairwe Herman is a lawyer

The Hut – Raising the Steaks

opinionBy Jefferson Rumanyika

Steakhouses have become a recent trend in Rwanda’s hospitality industry.

The Hut, one of the latest entrants to the scene, is raising the steaks quite literally. It is located in Kimihurura behind the Kigali Convention Centre. It was built as a boutique hotel with a pool and restaurant.

A lot of thought seems to have gone into the interior design and ambience of the restaurant. It is housed under a large hut with creative use of kitenge fabric for the décor; from the table mats, menu to the curtains.

The restaurant also overlooks Mount Rebero, a mountain that played a strategic role in the liberation of Rwanda. Some politicians who were killed by the genocidal regime have been buried at Mount Rebero.

At The Hut, the meat on the grill seemed to welcome me as I entered the restaurant.

The attendants accorded me a gracious welcome. They were keen to explain their various offerings. After assessing the menu, I settled for a Tandoori Chicken Burger. The options of meat come with curry of you choosing.

My food was served after a short while. The Tandoori Chicken Burger is made of chargrilled tandoori spiced chicken breast, stacked with lettuce, tomatoes, warm spiced ginger, mango relish, fried onions and mint yoghurt sauce.

It is served with sides of carbohydrates of your choosing like chips, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, grilled green plantains, steamed white rice, stir fried rice, naan, stir fried noodles, potato harra or couscous.

Meat dishes also come with veggies; you can choose from butter sautéed vegetables, oven roasted vegetables, firecracker green beans and mushrooms, roasted nutty stuffed eggplant with buttermilk dressing, sautéed dodo (local spinach) or Chinese stir fried vegetables.

I opted for the naan and roasted nutty stuffed eggplant with buttermilk dressing and butter sautéed vegetables with peanut sauce.

The sesame crusted buns were large, and tasted like they were fresh out of the oven. The naan was a good accompaniment for the peanut sauce, which was served in rather small portions.

The vegetables tasted like they were prepared fresh off the farm. The executive chef outdid himself with the diverse offerings of meat on their menu — chicken, pork, goat lamb and beef.

The restaurant also offers soups, pasta, pizza, salads, hot appetisers and desserts.

However, the Wi-Fi was slow and the computer geek in me could hardly get anything done while I was there.

Food prices range from Rwf6000 ($9.50) to Rwf38,000 ($45) clearly targeting higher-end clientele. The restaurant can accommodate about 100 people, and has parking space for about 20 cars.

Use of the swimming pool is Rwf4,000 ($4.8) for adults and Rwf2,000($2.4) for children. There is mid-week (10am to 4pm) deal for Rwf5,000 ($6) that includes pool access, a glass of wine or beer, and a pizza.

Vivian – I Survived on Sh500 a Month Yet I Was a Celebrity

Photo: Daily Nation

Musician Vivian Wambui on stage.

By Hilary Kimuyu

Musician Vivian Wambui hit the limelight after she collaborated with Starehe MP Charles Njagua aka Jaguar for the song Dream in 2015.

But her life was never rosy as people might think.

In a candid confession on Facebook, the Teren Teren singer said her life was a struggle before she released the hit song.

“At that time I used to earn Sh4,000 from my Karaoke gig, after deducting the rent, transport, I would survive on less than 500 for a whole month,” Vivian wrote.


“I couldn’t afford good clothing worth public appearances. I vividly remember there is a concert I was invited to perform but the promoter refused me to get on stage due to my dressing.”

According to Vivian, she was told she looked ghetto which broke her heart.

In her post, she thanks one Tamina for donating clothes to her and fellow musician DK Kwenye Beat for sharing his food.

“Sometimes I slept hungry. Yes, I was a celebrity but sleeping hungry. My songs were playing everywhere but deep inside I was in agony,” she adds.


She also had no seats in her house

The musician, who was earlier this year proposed to live on air by her manager Sam West, says she now lives in God’s abundance.

“A good big house, a good car and enough for my fill!”

Vivian has done collabos with mega music star’s like Dr Jose Chameleone, Redsan, among others.


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Africa:Obesity Medical Bill Could "Reach $1.2 Trillion" a Year By 2025

By Alex Whiting | @alexwhi | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Rome — At least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese

Obesity worldwide is escalating and without urgent action to prevent and treat it, the annual medical bill for dealing with its consequences could reach $1.2 trillion by 2025, the World Obesity Federation said ahead of World Obesity Day on Wednesday.

Here are some facts about the rising problem:

* Obesity worldwide has doubled between 1980 and 2014, and most people live in countries where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight

* At least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese

* Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, says the World Health Organization (WHO)

* More than 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2014, and 600 million were obese. That translates to 39 percent of adults being overweight, and 13 percent obese

* The increase is caused by people eating more foods that are high in calories and fat, and being less physically active. They are more likely to have a sedentary job, live in cities, and use transport that involves little physical activity

* They are at greater risk of heart disease and strokes – the leading causes of death in 2012 – and diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some cancers

* The annual cost of treating these diseases – as well as damage to joints which may result in hip and knee replacements and back pain – could reach $1.2 trillion by 2025

* Undernutrition and obesity can exist within the same country, the same community and the same household

* In 2014, about 41 million children under five years old were overweight or obese. In Africa, the number nearly doubled to 10.6 million in 2014, up from 5.4 million in 1990

* The food industry can promote healthy diets by reducing fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods, ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers, restricting marketing of foods high in sugars, salt and fats, says WHO

* Individuals can change their diets and increase exercise levels

* Governments and all those involved in care need to invest more in preventing obesity, and treating it, campaigners say

Sources: World Health Organization, World Obesity Federation

(Reporting by Alex Whiting @Alexwhi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit

Importers Will Soon Pay More for Farm Produce

By James Anyanzwa

Kenya is seeking to raise inspection and permit fees for imported agricultural produce to fund the operations of its loss-making Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis).

The agency’s revenue collections have been shrinking while its expenditure has been expanding, with general expenses and staffing costs taking the lion’s share.

Last year, the agency’s losses widened to Ksh129.17 million ($1.29 million) from Ksh32.52 million ($325,200) in 2015.

According to the Kephis Act 2012, the agency relies heavily on funding from the exchequer, donations, loans, and statutory fees on the services it offers.

Kephis is responsible for ensuring the quality of agricultural inputs and produce imported into the country, to prevent an adverse impact on the economy, the environment and human health.

The EastAfrican has learnt the agency plans to increase import permit fees for each type of agricultural produce by Ksh400 ($4) to bolster its earnings.

For example, the permit fee for importing cereals — maize, wheat, rice, barley, sorghum and millet — is expected to rise to Ksh1,000 ($10), from Ksh600 ($6).

Kephis managing director Esther Kimani, told The EastAfrican that the changes had been informed by the high cost of living in the country.

She added that consultations with the stakeholders on the proposed price reviews are still ongoing.

Kenya’s overall inflation for August increased to 8.04 per cent from 7.47 per cent in July on account of increased cost of food and fuel.

The agency has also proposed new inspection fee for agricultural imports. The fee, last reviewed in 2009, currently stands at a fixed rate of 50 cents ($0.005) per kilogramme on all quantities of agricultural imports.

Inspection fee

In the proposed guidelines, the fee for quantities ranging from 0 to 20,000 kilogrammes stays at 50 cents per kilogramme. Bulk importers with consignments more than 1,000 tonnes will pay Ksh0.03 ($0.0003) per kilogramme.

Imports weighing 20,001 kilogrammes to 400,000 kilogrammes will attract an inspection fee of 25 cents ($0.0025) per kilogramme while those from 400,001 kilogrammes to 1,000 tonnes will attract 15 cents (Ksh0.15, $0.0015) per kilogramme.

Kephis organised meetings with stakeholders including importers and exporters starting October 1, to deliberate on the proposals.

Last year Kenya’s maize and wheat production declined to 37.1 million bags and 222,400 tonnes respectively from 42.5 million bags and 238,600 tonnes in 2015.

Meanwhile, the East African Community member states are expected to harmonise their import and export documents and procedures in a move aimed at facilitating trade in food and agricultural commodities within the region.

Inspection, certification

The inspection and certification procedures of plant and animal products are under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures. Implementation of the SPS agreement is also expected to improve mitigation of risks arising from pests, diseases and food safety concerns.

At a bilateral meeting in Dar es Salaam in September, Kenya and Tanzania agreed that countries in the region that have not ratified the SPS measures should do so for the agreement to take effect. Only Tanzania and Burundi are yet to ratify the treaty.

State Sets Aside Sh6 Billion to Buy Maize

By Brian Moseti

The government will buy maize offered by farmers for sale and it has also contracted experts to help control the army worm pest that has ravaged farms in some parts of the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the maize bought from farmers will go to the strategic food reserve to improve food security in the country.

“To boost our food security and sustain affordable price for maize flour, the government will buy under the Strategic Food Reserve, all the maize offered for sale by our farmers during this 2017/18 season. For this purpose, we have programmed to spend Sh6 billion,” he said.


He was speaking when he officially opened the Nairobi International Trade Fair, which started Monday and will come to a close on Saturday.

President Kenyatta said the government will spend Sh300 million to facilitate the team of contracted experts to address the fall army worm menace, which has destroyed crops across the country.

He noted that while diseases and the drought, which has lasted two years in some parts of the country have impacted negatively on food security, the government has come up with measures to cushion farmers.


Some of the things measures he mentioned were subsidised commodities, access to credit, and insurance to farmers.

In access to credit for instance, he said the government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Equity Bank, where the State will underwrite loans worth Sh300 million.

Under the agreement, the bank will issue loans to farmers at 12 per cent interest per annum to a tune of Sh20 billion.


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Kenya: Kenyatta – Govt to Use Sh6 Billion to Buy Harvested Maize This Season

Nairobi — The government will spend Sh6 billion to subsidize maize to make the staple food affordable to Kenyans, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

He said the money will be used to buy all the maize offered for sale by farmers this season under the government’s strategic food reserve programme to boost food security and sustain affordable price for maize flour.

“To boost our food security and sustain affordable price for maize flour, the Government will buy under the Strategic Food Reserve, all the maize offered for sale by our farmers during this 2017/18 season. For this purpose, we have programmed to spend Sh6 billion,” President Kenyatta said.

Speaking when he officially opened this year’s Nairobi International Trade Fair at the Jamhuri Park Showground on Wednesday, the President also assured that his administration will not waiver in its effort to cushion consumers against high food prices.

“As a caring administration, we had to take steps to cushion consumers against the high food prices. In this regard, we instituted and successfully implemented a subsidized maize flour programme that lowered the price of a 2kg packet of maize flour from Sh150 to Sh90,” President Kenyatta said.

He underscored his administration’s commitment to boost the country’s food security by transforming agriculture from subsistence to commercial, market oriented farming.

He said in the current Financial Year, the Government has allocated Sh30 billion to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to finance implementation of programmes that will enhance agricultural production and ensure food security.

As part of the Jubilee administration’s agenda to ensure Kenyans have access to food at affordable prices, he said measures have been put in place to improve accessibility of fertilizer to farmers at a reasonable cost.

“In 2016/2017 financial year, as an example, the government procured and distributed a total of 177,100MT of various types of fertilizers at a cost of Sh5.9 billion. The subsidized fertilizer is retailing at Sh1,800 per 50 kg,” President Kenyatta said.

To further cushion farmers against rising cost of inputs, President Kenyatta said the Government has reduced the price of planting fertilizer to Sh1,200 per 50kg for the next season.

To fight the emergence of a new pest known as “fall army worm” that has affected the cereal sub-sector, the President said the Government has constituted a multi-institutional technical team of experts and provided Sh300 million towards containing this pest.

Other government efforts to boost agricultural productivity include the provision of livestock and crop insurance programmes, facilitating farmers to access affordable credit and expanding markets for the country’s exports mainly tea, coffee and horticultural produce.


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