KAMPALA – The Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry of Fisheries, Mr Vincent Ssempijja, has commended the World Food Programme (WFP) for buying 198,000 metric tonnes of food in Uganda, valued at $55 million in 2018.
This brings the total amount of food that WFP bought in Uganda in the last three years to more than 425,000 metric tons worth $147 million (about UGX546 billion).
He called WFP “great allies and partners” and “one of the engines in Uganda’s agricultural sector”.
“Recently, I was in Busoga. The people said good words and mentioned the achievements of WFP staff who work among small-holder farmers. I thank all your staff, including all those who go to the last person (in farming communities in Uganda),” Mr Ssempijja said during the review of WFP’s work in Kampala on Tuesday.
The minister said because of WFP’s support in Karamoja, the region is now able to produce high-quality grain. WFP is significantly supporting community sensitization and training for improved productivity.
“WFP discussed its strategic plan with the Government. The plan rhymes with the agricultural sector strategic plan. We move together with WFP. We know what they do, and they know what the Ministry does, all the time,” he said.
Mr Mary Karoro Okurut, the Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), commended WFP for investing in research, providing development support, building strategic partnerships and tackling malnutrition. In regions that produce sufficient amounts of food and yet have high rates of stunting, she called for sensitization of communities to address root causes of malnutrition.
The Gulu District Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Milson Kato, commended WFP’s new emphasis on a deeper engagement and building the capacity of local governments under its plan.
“Local governments, being nearer to the people and understanding their problems better, means they are in a better position to implement Government programmes than the central governments. Building their capacity means they can deliver better, having the feeling of the local people,” Mr Kato said.
Mr Patrick Musoke, the Deputy Director for Strategy and Business Development at Kampala Capital City Authority, commended WFP for its “fundamental shift” toward supporting the entire food value chain.
He also commended WFP for investing in research and generating evidence, saying this informs policy and programmes including of Government agencies. Lacking evidence, Mr Musoke said, has often led to reactionary, uninformed public investments. WFP is working with KCCA to address rising rates of urban malnutrition, based on findings of the first-ever comprehensive food security and vulnerability assessment in Kampala.
Ms Maureen Bakunzi, the acting Commissioner Strategic Coordination and Implementation in OPM, urged all partners in school feeding and education to examine why a national school feeding policy has not been realized and to work to its finalization.
She mentioned the need for the Government, WFP and others to address high rates of anaemia and poor diets in general.
Throughout the discussions, there was a major call for Uganda to do more, in collaboration with WFP and others, to build the capacity of smallholders to reduce losses and improve grain quality.
MS Ketty Lamaro, the Undersecretary, Development and Pacification in OPM, said: “If WFP can continue to train and build the productive capacity of farmers in Karamoja, we can achieve sustainability.”
Mr El-Khidir Daloum, WFP Country Director, said of the 198,000, only a small percentage was bought from small-holder farmer groups. The rest was bought from local traders.
“WFP is able to buy up to 200,000 metric tons of food if Ugandan farmers and traders can provide quality grain. Standards, quality and policy challenges are stifling smallholders and keeping them in stagnation. WFP is committed to consulting and being accountable to its partners on all levels. That is why we called for this meeting this week.
Other staff of WFP called for improved coordination to ensure small scale farmers get all the support they need from the various actors in Agriculture.