- A bunch of matooke costs between Shs15,000 to Shs 20,000. A basin of Irish potatoes goes for between Shs 34,000 to Shs 38,000. A sack of sweet potatoes costs between Shs 80,000 to Shs 100,000, including an average increase in vegetables
- The long dry spell has had direct devastating effects on farmers and households across Nebbi district, such as the decrease in both food supply and closure of food stores in the district because of the ongoing food scarcity
- According to the 2003 Uganda Food and nutrition policy, 86 per cent of Ugandan population who live in remote areas are the most and depend on subsistence agriculture are the most affected by hunger and acute food crisis
By Orachwun Ronald
Nebbi- In the past decades, granaries usually do not run out of food.
The food stored in the granaries take months to get finished. And by the time, it is running dry, the season for planting starts.
There were abundant rainfall and people work hard to ensure they have enough to store. Famine outbreak wasn’t common.
After 40 minutes of boda boda ride, West Nile Press Online reached Olyeko cell, Nebbi municipality where a mother of five children is living in misery.
At the entrance of their home, there a cry by a five-month old baby girl. Apparently, her crying was because she was hungry.
The mother of the five months old baby, Apio Livia, who is currently single handedly fending for the family says she is faced with financial constraints and cannot adequately take care of the family, after the father of her children mysteriously disappeared from the home in December last year, because he was fearing responsibility over the family.
The notable increase in prices of food crops during this dry spell has rendered most households such as Apio Livia’s family with barely enough to feed on due to the high prices of these products.
Angered with the limited food stuff to rely on, Apio says she has lost interest in agriculture because of the intermittent rainfall, with a possibility of embarking on other small-scale businesses to sustain her family.
“I totally have no food here. Life is hard because we have not eaten for the past two days and I fear that my other older children may come out of school, even my baby who is currently breastfeeding does not enough milk, we only hope for good Samaritans to come to our rescue.”
But now, government through the Uganda National Meterological Authority (UNMA) is appealing to Ugandan farming households to use their remaining food supplies sparingly, as the dry season continues to bite hard in parts of the country including parts of Nebbi district in West Nile region.
According to reports from UNMA, a government agency charged with weather and climate under the Ministry of Water and Environment, the dry spell conditions being experienced in most parts of Uganda are due to the tropical cyclone named IDAI which has been over the Mozambique channel.
IDAI has been associated with heavy rains and winds of up to 170km/h, such as the heavy rains in parts of the South African region especially in Mozambique which left at least 700 people dead and displaced more than 140,000 people on 14 March 2019.
In a one-page dossier to journalists that West Nile press online has seen, Dr. Festus Luboyera, the Executive Director Uganda National Meterological Authority says this has led to the current long dry spell and has also disrupted the onset of the March to May 2019 seasonal rainfall.
Patrick Wanok, the assistant project coordinator Uganda Multi-sectoral Food Security and Nutritional Project under the ministry of education and sports says the dry spell has affected all year-round production in many parts of the district.
“On top of pests like Aphids, parts of Erussi, Parombo, Nebbi, Nyaravur, Akworo Sub Counties and most parts of Pakwach district had no production since the dry spell started in late November last year. Of course, there is little food to rely on,” he says.
Wanok says half of Nebbi district depends on rain fed agriculture, adding that many of the local farmers are financially incapacitated to devise alternative means of practicing agriculture such as simple drip irrigation.
The Secretary Production, Natalia Drateru buying some of the food products. Photo by Felix
According to the latest 2019 Food and Agricultural Organisation FAO report, more than 113 million people across 53 countries experienced “acute hunger” last year.
Dominique Bourgeon, the Food and Agricultural Organisation emergencies director says close to 72 million people in Africa were also affected in the food crisis last year.
“In countries on the verge of famine, up to 80 per cent depend on agriculture. They need both emergency humanitarian aid for food and measures to help boost agriculture”, Mr. Bourgeon said in the report.
The November 2018 Twaweza East Africa’s report shows evidence of acute presence of hunger and food crisis in Uganda.
The data shows that 75 per cent of Ugandan households were worried that they would run out of food, 62% of households ate less than the recommended three meals a day, while 61% of households reportedly skipped a meal due to food scarcity.
According to the November 2018 Twaweza East Africa’s report titled, “More food, less money, Ugandans’ experiences and opinions on poverty and livelihood”, 62 per cent of Ugandan households were hungry and did not have what to eat.
According to recent snapshot survey by West Nile press online of agriculture prices at Nebbi central market, prices of most agricultural products have drastically increased as the dry spell continues.
Byron Rwothomio, a primary five pupil at Nebbi primary school is currently failing to concentrate in class due to lack if feeding materials.
“I am finding challenges of concentrating in class because of issues of food. My mother does not give us food, sometimes we go the whole day without food, if we are lucky, we can have one meal a day. Times are there I miss school for three days even a week because of food,” he said.
“I have been cultivating maize, beans, sorghum, irish potatoes. I have thought of doing small scale businesses of selling pancakes because I have given up farming. I can’t continue making my family suffer like this.”
The United Nations estimates that nearly one billion people worldwide are malnourished, 2 billion people are over malnourished while one in five people die globally due to poor nutrition.
Geoffrey Thorwinyo-wa the district councilor representing Nebbi municipality appeals to government to employ more extension workers to guide rural farmers on best agricultural practices to mitigate food insecurity especially during the dry spells.
Levy Nyakuni from the production office Nebbi district advises farming households in the district to use their remaining little feeding materials sparingly in order to mitigate the effects of the prolonged dry season in the area.
“We are already getting our first sign of rains, but you should use the remaining foods sparingly to cater for this ongoing food scarcity,” Nyakuni said while speaking to journalists this afternoon.