Currently, the government is implementing the Uganda Multi-Sectoral Food Security and Nutrition Project (UMFSNP) in schools and communities.
ARUA - In a bid to encourage health and well-being of children in the country, the Government is to continue promoting nutrition programmes the state minister for agriculture, Aggrey Bagiire, says.
During his visit to Arua and Nebbi districts, Bagiire noted that promotion of agriculture for nutrition also stimulates the social and economic development of the country
"We want communities to be able to produce food that is nutritious and of health benefit to the children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and the general community members. That is why we are implementing these projects in schools alongside community members," Bagiire says.
Currently, the Government is implementing the Uganda Multi-Sectoral Food Security and Nutrition Project (UMFSNP) in schools and communities in districts with a high prevalence of malnutrition including stunting, wasting and anaemia.
Now in its final year, the five-year project is implemented through the ministry of agriculture, working in a multi-sectoral collaboration with the ministries of health, education and local government together with Office of the Prime Minister as a co-ordinating entity.
The national co-ordinator of UMFSNP, Julius Twinamasiko (with cap), leads Bagiire on guided tour of the demo gardens at Arua Demonstration Primary School in Arua district.
At least 15 districts were selected based on the regional rankings of 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) estimates of the prevalence of stunting in under-five children and low dietary diversity.
The districts are Bushenyi, Nebbi, Ntungamo, Maracha, Namutumba, Isingiro and Yumbe.
Others are Arua, Bugiri, Iganga, Kiryandongo, Kyenjojo, Kabarole, Kabale and Kasese.
The UDHS report indicates that at least, 32% of the children under 5 years in West Nile are stunted and 53% anaemic.
"It is really painful in this era and age to see children stunted and malnourished. Parents wake up and start feeding your children well, the way your parents fed you," Bagiire says.
The minister says nutrition is an important aspect for a child's growth, education and for a healthy and productive community.
"This is an important project which I would love to see extended. I call upon community members to embrace it. Start by establishing vegetable gardens and make sure you eat vegetables, fruits, and other micronutrient-rich foods," Bagiire says.
Julius Twinamasiko, the UMFSNP national co-ordinator, says the project mainly aims at increasing production and consumption of micronutrient-rich foods and utilization of community-based nutrition services in smallholder households.
UMFSNP is financed through a $27.64m Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) grant.
"The focus is on the production and consumption of diversified micronutrient-rich crops, including Orange fleshed sweet potatoes, iron-rich beans, vegetables and fruits, nutrition care practices, and hygiene and sanitation demonstration in selected primary schools and communities," Twinamasiko says.
It targets children ages 6-23 months and pregnant and lactating mothers in households with low dietary diversity.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), schools play a central role in this process, providing the knowledge that new generations will require in order to become active members of society.
"These demonstration gardens have passed on skills and knowledge to pupils since they act as some practical classrooms," Twinamasiko says.
Twinamasiko further explains that since the project started, there are reduced numbers of malnourished children that are received in health facilities, there is increased dietary diversity in communities, increased production of micronutrient-rich crops, increased nutrition and health information flow through the monthly nutrition fora.
Annet Amongoko, a teacher at Arua Demonstration Primary School, says the project has helped to interest children in agriculture as well as aiding them with information on nutrition.
"These children now know the importance of feeding well and what quantities and qualities of foods to eat to be healthy. They share the messages with parents creating a multiplier effect," Amongoko says.
At Arua Demonstration, the school has established various vegetable gardens. This is the same practice in all the 1,500 schools implementing the project.
Stephen Agali, a lead farmer from Sudan village in Dadamu sub-county, reveals that as community members they have learnt better ways of feeding children and the importance of growing nutritious food.
In total, the project directly benefits about 1.14 million primary beneficiaries, expected to be mainly from smallholder farming families.