KAMPALA – In an official press statement presented at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on July 17, 2019, the state minister for agriculture, Christopher Kibazanga has announced that National Technical Working Group on Food Bio-fortification will be launched at the Source of the Nile National Agricultural Show tomorrow (Thursday).
The minister was accompanied by a team from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Uganda National Farmers’ Federation and Harvest Plus which is a lead private sector partner on nutrition, the National Agricultural Research Organisation.
The minister said that Bio-fortification is one of the proven strategies to achieve food and nutrition security for populations across the world.
“It has been recommended in policy frameworks at global, regional and national levels. Notably, the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (ending hunger, achieving food security, improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture), the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Compact (CAADP), the East Africa (EAC) Rural Development Strategy and EAC Food and Nutrition Security Policy (2014) all call upon signatory countries including Uganda to strengthen nutrition synergies in agriculture development policies and programs,” he said.
Uganda Vision 2040 and the National Development Plan (NDPII, 2015/16-2019/20) have emphasized the potential for nutrition to improve human capital development and socio-economic transformation. In addition, the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP 2011-2016) and the Uganda Food & Nutrition Policy of 2003 emphasized improving nutrition through the promotion of the production and consumption of diversified nutritious diets.
Kibanzanga said that the MAAIF has a core mandate to undertake interventions that enhance production and consumption of diverse nutrient-dense diets and protect households from the impact of food security shocks and other vulnerabilities.
“This is underscored in the National Agriculture Policy whose overall objective is to achieve food and nutrition security and improve household incomes through sustainable agriculture and value addition through coordinated interventions,” he said.
Why the Technical Working Group is key
According to MAAIF, despite the enabling policy environment at all levels and the various interventions in place at national levels to reduce micronutrient deficiencies notably, Industrial food fortification, Home-based fortification and food supplementation among others, the solution to micro-nutrient deficiency reduction in the population is still far from reality.
The ministry indicates that the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) of 2016 reported an increase in the prevalence of anaemia among children under 5 years from 49% in 2011 to 53% in 2016.
MAAIF adds that in the same period, the prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age (15-49 years) increased from 24% to 32%. Vitamin A deficiency is also still a problem and by 2011 it was affecting 33% of children below 5 years (UBOS & ICF, 2012). In spite of the limited data on the prevalence of other micro-nutrient deficiencies in the country, the levels of anaemia and vitamin A deficiencies are indicative of a high burden of micronutrient deficiencies. “There is, therefore, a need to refocus the strategies if we are to sustainably reduce the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies in Uganda.”
The value in improving nutrition
In Uganda, evidence suggests that consumption of vitamin A-rich Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes could potentially increase levels of vitamin A intake among under five-year-olds by 60%; with about 150g meeting a child’s daily need for vitamin A.
Studies by sector researchers indicated that bio-fortified beans could provide up to three-quarters of the recommended daily requirement for Iron among women.
There is, therefore, a need to scale up production and utilization of bio-fortified crop varieties in the country as a means of sustainable reduction of malnutrition. In this regard, MAAIF in collaboration with partners has constituted a National Biofortification Technical Working (NBTWG) to promote biofortification interventions in the country for improved food and nutrition security and overall human capital development.