Ugandans are faced with food insecurity, officials blame it on past drought

The population of food-stressed Ugandans has increased to 26.5 percent from the 16 percent reported in July 2016, according to a report from the Office of the Prime Minister.

This new report, presented by the State Minister for Karamoja Moses Kizige to the cabinet, followed a National Food Security Assessment Report for January 2017 which highlighted a rise in the number of food-insecure Ugandans to 11.4 million from 1.3 million people in November 2016.

Thirty districts were assessed for food and nutrition security. They include Arua, Maracha, Nebbi, Yumbe, Iganga, Kiryandongo, Namutumba, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Bushenyi, Kasese, Kabale, and Kyenjojo among others.

In many of these, a big percentage of the population can only access one to two meals a day while 4.5 percent of the country’s population does not have any food stocks and are classified are being in a food crisis.

The Office of the Prime Minister attributes this current food security to prolonged dry spells resulting in crop/pasture failure and livestock deaths, crop and animal pests like fall army worm and foot and mouth disease as well as inadequate knowledge on water harvesting, storage and use of water for irrigation.

Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja also said that the fall army worm had adversely affected the food security of the country but that government had embarked on a nationwide awareness campaign on recognition, management and effective insecticides to kill the worm.

“In the medium term, the ministry through the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) is screening natural agents that can kill the army worm.” said Ssempijja.

He added that his ministry was also engaging manufacturers of pesticides to set base in the country as they in a long run develop a bio control agents and breeding for resistance.





Persistent drought dries up Dam in Gulu

Two large dams supplying water to Gulu town have finally dried up completely following the persistent drought in Northern Uganda. The dams are Oyitino I constructed in the late 1960s and Oyitino II built in 2016, all in Bungatira Sub County in Aswa County.

Torrential rainfall that fell briefly in March and April failed to refill the two dams. In its latest weather forecast, the National Meteorological Authority said northern Uganda would receive near normal rainfall in its first season falling between February and June.

But with barely a month left to the end of the season, proper adaptation is critical for the estimated 200,000 people living in this sprawling city. Every day, long queues form around few boreholes in Gulu town as desperate residents collect the little water they can fetch from swamps, spring wells and piped water sources.

At Uhuru spring well in Bank Lane, women gather as early as 5am to find water. Agnes Naroso, a resident of Kony Paco village was among those collecting water from the piped water source. She told URN the dilemma of women living in Gulu town.

Another woman who spoke on condition of anonymity told URN that some residents come to the borehole with more than 10 Jerrycans to last few days from localities as distant as 5Kilometers out of town.

37-year-old David Oryema, a resident of Kasubi Central ward in Bar Dege Division, says he travels an average of 5Km on a motorbike to fetch six jerrycans of water for his family from a borehole within Oyitino pumping site in Bungatira Sub County.

The crisis has lasted for at least six months. In March, the Gulu court and magistrate courts suspended trial proceedings to cope with the deteriorating sanitation crisis that also affected Gulu regional and teaching hospital.

To mitigate the unfolding crisis, National Water and Sewerage Corporation has stationed a response team in Gulu town to ensure that temporal solutions are found for the problem. They are being headed Francis Owot, the director of Finance and Accounts, National Water and Sewerage Corporation.

Owot told URN that they are desperately scouring areas in the North, South, East and West of Gulu town for large underground water reserves to restore supply to residents in the northern Uganda business hub. He says so far, their hunt has resulted into three mini pumping sites where very deep boreholes have been sunk around the town.

The three boreholes in Unyama, Onang and Mican villages can collectively generate 900,000 liters of water every day.

With nothing from the two dams reaching the 6,235 cubic meter storage facilities in Boma, Pece, Army barracks, Customs Corner and Lacor, the figure being produced from the three boreholes is just a drop in sinks and latrines, as institutions such as Gulu Hospital take up to 14,000 liters daily.

In the meantime, underground search has identified five new sites in Aworanga, Bungatira and Bank Lane, behind Hotel Kakanyero in the heart of Gulu Town. The corporation hopes they can yield enough quantity to meet the estimated 15 million liters of daily demands.

National Water and Sewerage Corporation has embarked on enlarging Oyitino II to store plenty of storm water for the worst of time. Owot says the World Bank has also joined the battle against the worst water crisis in decades by committing to sink a third large dam near Oyitino I and II.

The project is at consultancy stage after passing an environmental impact assessment test.

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Gulu LC V chairperson says a long term adaptation project will draw water from Nile River, located some 74Kilometers on Gulu – Kampala highway.

Francis Owot says the Karuma water works will also supply other towns in the region including Kamdini, Minakulu and Bobi.





Premier Rugunda announces government plan to send food supplies to schools across the country

Government plans to supply food to schools across the country due to a shortage triggered by a prolonged dry spell, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has said.

Rugunda told parliament last evening that food will be provided through the District Education Committees in all the 116 districts. The committees will then determine the schools that need urgent relief noting that severe food shortages have impacted on school attendance.

Rugunda added that the matter will further be discussed at a Cabinet meeting today.

The commitment followed a passionate and heated debate on an action plan to mitigate the food insecurity situation in the country. This was part of a joint statement presented by Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja and State Minister for Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru.

Ecweru said that the most food insecure regions include Teso, Karamoja, Bukedi, the Cattle Corridor, Busoga, Lango, Acholi and parts of central Uganda. He said that these areas had started receiving relief food from the Office of the Prime Minister.

He added that the food crisis situation had impacted severely on the attendance in schools especially in the rural government primary schools where children find it hard to go to school on empty stomach.

Ecweru told parliament that the current relief stocks stand at 30,000-100kgs bags of maize flour, 7000- 100kgs bags of beans and 119,660 50kgs bags of rice. He said the food items worth 22.2 billion Shillings were a donation from the government of China.

Ecweru told parliament that the Japanese government has pledged to support particularly the Karamoja Sub-region through the World Food Program towards feeding in schools.

Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja said that bean seeds are scarce due to the drought and that government can only provide 600,000 kilograms worth 2.4 billion Shillings.

Members of parliament demanded for adequate funding to the agriculture sector.




Priest in Gulu blames Government for ignoring drought problems in Karamoja

A catholic priest in Gulu town has attacked government over its failure to address drought and its adverse effects for many years.

Reverend Father Erick Uma, the parish priest of Holy Rosary Catholic Parish, says the government is acting dead by not rising up to mitigate the effects of drought among citizens for far too long.

Preaching during the morning mass at Holy Rosary Church on Sunday, Father Uma said the government of President Yoweri Museveni has failed to address drought and famine in the Karamoja region for thirty long years leading to tremendous death of many people.

“How can a government that has been in power for over thirty years fail to address the problems of drought and famine yet you claim you are working?” he questioned.

“This is a dead government that should not be voted again in power. You the people of Uganda have been voting blindly for thirty years,” he stressed with confidence in his voice as the congregation cheered.

Father Uma said the poor state of roads, education, health and electricity sectors should have been improved years ago to show good signs of development.

He also criticised politicians at local government levels for what he called failure to address critical issues affecting the local people.

The priest then charged that the people of Uganda want change before accusing Christians of indulging in commercial sex for money.

Father Uma asked the congregation to turn to the church and follow the lives of Christ who showed love and trust for his people.

The accusations come as government put the number of people facing hunger as a result of drought at 1.5 million.


Poor produce due to drought causes hike in food prices

Food prices in some East African markets have almost doubled in the past 12 months because of an ongoing drought. The situation is posing a heavy burden to households and special risks for pastoralists in the region, according to the latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin (FPMA).

The bulletin by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that local prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals are near or at record levels in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and South Sudan.

In Uganda, the prices of beans, cassava and maize flour is about 25 per cent higher than a year ago in the capital city, Kampala. Beans now cost 40 per cent more in Kenya than a year earlier while maize prices are up by around 30 per cent, according to the bulletin.

In Tanzania, maize prices in Arusha, Tanzania, have almost doubled since early 2016 while in south Sudan food prices are now two to four times above their levels of a year earlier.

“Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity,” Mario Zappacosta, a senior economist for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a news release.

Zappacosta says that Drought-affected pastoral areas in the region face even harsher conditions. . In Somalia, goat prices are up to 60 per cent lower than a year ago, while in pastoralist areas of Kenya the prices of goats declined by up to 30 per cent over the last 12 months.

He says that shortages of pasture and water caused livestock deaths and reduced body mass, prompting herders to sell animals while they can leaving them with even less income to purchase basic foodstuffs.. This has also pushed up the prices of milk.