KABAROLE: Rehema Nabukeera 32, is a born of Kanyambeho village in Kiko town council Kabarole district who has dedicated her life towards fighting malnutrition by promoting the growing and consumption of local food in her community.
Nabukeera, a single mother of two is a member of the Orugali group under the Kabarole Resource and Research Center (KRC) and Hivos, non-government organizations that advocate for the consumption and preservation of indigenous foods.
Nabukeera says that in 2016 she was one of the few selected farmers by KRC and trained on how to prepare and preserve indigenous food so as to fight malnutrition. She says that after the training she realized that it didn’t require a lot of money to feed well but it required behavioral change.
I started engaging my community and some people picked interests and joined me that is when I started the idea of community mobilization, Nabukeera quoted.
“As Orugali group we work with KRC to advocate for the consumption and preservation of indigenous foods through food festivals at community level or major events,” Nabukeera says.
Nabukeera says the group also uses traditional cooking methods that preserve food values and keep the food safe.
“I have over 100 members and I trained them after acquiring the skills because we had a challenge of malnutrition most of our children in the community were malnourished and yet people have food within their homes,” Nabukeera adds.
The indigenous food advocate is also a member of the Coalition of the Willing-a group of 20 people which consist of National Organic Agriculture Movement, Fort Portal Municipal council, village councilors, street food vendors, small and medium enterprises, elders and artists mentored and supported by KRC that voluntarily came together to raise voices and concerns about healthy diets and the general food system in Kabarole District.
Nabukeera has participated in different education awareness sessions including radio programs, cookery demos to raise awareness on healthy diets. Being a woman councilor for her home area gives her the platform to do all this awareness.
“Whenever I have an opportunity to speak at any public function I have to talk about diet because it is an issue of concern within our community,” Nabukeera elaborates.
Nabukeera is also a community based facilitator who trains other farmers on farming and nutrition best practices.
“I established kitchen gardens of about 20 by 20 feet to guide farmers on nutrition because it doesn’t require a lot of money to get food we have the food but we don’t know to use it in the right way,” Nabukeera says.
Nabukeera who started mobilizing farmers in 2016 now has a membership of over 100 people spread across the whole sub county.
“I do the training for free it’s voluntary because I realized the challenges my people go through and I couldn’t seat down with the knowledge I had acquired from KRC,” Nabukeera says. Nabukeera is the only woman model farmer in her community.
Nabukeera further reveals that her vision is to ensure that there is a situation when at all times a homestead has access to sufficient food to meet its nutritional needs for a healthy and productive life.
“Farmers should feed well in order to be healthy and fit for efficient work in their fields to cause the needed rural development and that’s what I’m aiming at,” Nabukeera says.
Nabukeera explains that healthy living requires healthy food systems that meet the body’s nutritional needs.
“Our approach to agriculture has so far tended to concentrate on income generation and poverty reduction without paying due attention to the farmers’ nutritional needs,” Nabukeera adds.
She says that the public should be educated about the different nutritional values of the crops they grow and the advantages of eating healthy diets.
“This will translate into stronger, healthy, people working in the fields, less visits to health facilities, reduced expenditure on medical care, fewer infant and maternal deaths, and less farming time lost attending burials and taking care of the sick due to malnutrition,” Nabukeera asserting.
The ministry of health indicator survey recently ranked Kabarole district with the highest cases of malnutrition accounting for over 65% cases of stunted growth and 53% cases of anemia amongst the children aged between 6 months and 4 years
Currently malnutrition stands at 41.6% in Kabarole higher than the national rate of 35%.
According to the report the Malnutrition rates could have doubled especially during the last few years because of the poor eating habits in most families.
The Ministry of Health Nutrition department, says Malnutrition is a significant public health problem in Uganda and is a direct cause of 35% of all under 5 child mortality. In 2015, The Cost of Hunger in Africa” study revealed that Uganda loses shillings 1.8 trillion in a single year due to poor nutrition.
Frank Moses a community leader says Nabukeera’s Orugali approach in the sub county has saved people’s money to invest in transporting their produces to markets, take their children to better schools, build better houses, and to invest in value addition ventures which are features of rural development.
Uganda loses US$899million annually - as much as 5.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product - due to the effects of malnutrition according to a recent study, entitled “The Cost of Hunger in Africa”. Nutrition education for our citizens will help to reduce the health burden
A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) news release dated 17 January 2014 stated: “The priorities for agricultural research and development must become more nutrition enhancing, with a stronger focus on nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and animal-source foods, as well as local biodiversity and diversified farming systems.” End