- The project targets expectant and breastfeeding mothers and children under five years in a bid to curb malnutritional incidences such as stunting, wasting and anemia in children under five years
- According to the 2016 Uganda Demographic Health Survey UDHS, 75 per cent of children in Nebbi district are anemic, 50 per cent of children in the district are stunted while 30 per cent are wasted
By Orachwun Cox
Nebbi- Farmers, especially parents of school age going children have positively adopted vegetable growing under the Uganda Multi-sectoral Food Security and Nutritional Project UMFSNP as part of measures of addressing the high prevalent cases of malnutrition levels and promotion of food security in the area.
The Uganda Multi-sectoral Food Security and Nutrition Project (UMSFNP) is a 27.6 million US Dollar World Bank funded project aimed at promoting production and consumption of nutrient foods using primary schools as the focus and provision of nutritional services through health centers.
The project promotes the cultivation of horticultural and vegetable crops among others; watermelon, egg plants, pumpkins, amaranthus commonly known as “dodo”, okra, carrots, tomatoes, high yielding beans, sweet potatoes, cabbages and spider plants among beneficiary members.
Patrick Wanok the UMSFNP assistant project coordinator, says the project involves establishment of school demonstration gardens from where the school children are trained to practice cultivation of the project crops.
Rose Owinja, a farmer in Afere cell Nebbi municipality under the UMSFNP says four of her seven children who never used to eat some vegetables like Okra, Egg plants, Cabbages and Amaranthus, have now started eating them because of their nutritious contents.
She says she earned over Shs 500,000 in the last season from vegetables including Okra, Dodo and Sweet potatoes, adding that her children are also living a healthy life ever since she was enrolled into the project early last year.
38-year-old Roseline Anewa, a lead farmer under the UMSFNP in the same area says the project has inculcated the love for agriculture into her children who have been absorbed under the project under Afere Primary school.
Anewa admits that she bought a plot of land at Shs 1.8 million with the proceeds of sweet potatoes, cabbages and tomatoes that she planted in a borrowed 1.5acre piece of land in the last two seasons, adding that her household does not miss any green vegetable in their diet especially during rainy seasons.
“My primary school children didn’t like anything to do with agriculture, they said it’s tiresome. But now on top of being part of our daily nutritious diet, they are now okay with the vegetable produce. I also single-handedly bought a piece of land at 1.8million. We want this project to stay but our only problem is the harsh weather.”
Joyce Amaniyo, the headteacher of Afere primary school in Nebbi municipality says the retention rate of learners in the school has drastically increased while the relationship between the school and parents has also improved since the inception of project in 2016.
In Uganda, the Uganda Multi-sectoral Food Security and Nutrition Project (UMSFNP) is currently being spearheaded by the Education and sports ministry, with primary schools as the entry point.
According to project documents obtained from the ministry of education and sports, 100 schools in the districts of Nebbi and Pakwach have been selected to benefit from the project as a result of the high prevalence of cases of malnutritional especially among children.
Ms Susan Oketcho, an assistant commissioner in the Ministry of Education and Sports attributes the poor academic performance of children to the low intake of dietary rich foods, which has a direct effect on their concentration at school.
Ms Oketcho has appeals to parents of school age going children to provide dietary food for their children both at home and at school in a bid to curb cases of malnutrition, failure of which is leading to the high prevalence of anemia among the children in the district.
“Nebbi is one of the districts with the lowest dietary diversity. We want parents to work with us to see that our children feed at school and what we want to address is anemia among these school children because this disease is got because of low intake of micro-nutrients,” Ms Oketcho while speaking to journalists this morning.
Commissioner Susan Oketcho while speaking to journalists in Nebbi. Photo by Orachwun Cox
Patrick Wanok the UMSFNP assistant project coordinator says having good nutrition for school children and expectant mothers helps in cognitive development, healthy individuals and improved incomes in their adulthood.
He says this is leading to infant mortality among children under 5 years due to poor care.
“Malnutrition has become a problem here in Nebbi and the most affected are the young children. A child becomes stunted and the worse thing is that many of our children are dying due to poor feeding.”
The assistant Chief Administrative officer, Mr Gilbert Onencan, says the district developed a 5-year District Nutrition Action Plan with interventions to tackle malnutrition, with an aim of increasing access and utilization of nutrition services both at health facility and community level.
The Nebbi Resident Commissioner, Bob William Labeja, says government is committed to enabling children have nutritious food.
He appeals to expectant mothers and care takers of children under five years to embrace the UMSFNP.
“We are falling sick because we are drifting away from what govt tells us,” he said.
Joan Akeng, a private nutritional consultant in Nebbi says a normal growing school age going child under five years should be fed at least five times a day, adding that lack of proper feeding lowers the immunity of children and increases their susceptibility to illnesses.
Jennifer Apio, a mother of four in Arumkeng village Nebbi municipality says it is unfortunate that parents are drifting away from their primary roles of feeding their children.