"By investing in sustainable nutrition for all, we are investing in the future, because children are the future of this country."
Stakeholders at the launch witness a demonstration of a nutrious food basket by mothers in Kisinga sub-country Kasese district. SNV Uganda in partnership with Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has launched a three year Sustainable Nutrition for All project aimed at improving household nutrition for 3,000 households in the districts of Kasese and Kyenjojo. The project will use schools, for home grown school feeding, agriculture extension services, inputs, knowledge and technology for production and sale of high nutrient crops and nutrition education for the community.
Speaking at the launch event in Kisinga primary school in Kasese, the Swiss Development Co-operation Programme Officer Marlene Heeb reiterated their commitment to work with the local governments, SNV and other stakeholders to address the nutritional challenges in the country. “By investing in sustainable nutrition for all, we are investing in the future, because children are the future of this country” Marlene added. Uganda is considered self-sufficient in food. However, the country still grapples with distribution and affordability that result in seasonal acute and perpetual chronic under nutrition and food insecurity. In Kasese and Kyenjojo districts, 43% of children under 5 are stunted. Stunting in children does not only compromise their stature but has a significant impact on their cognitive development which is irreversible.
There are several interconnected causes of child malnutrition in Uganda. Inadequate dietary intake resulting from suboptimal maternal and infant feeding practices and the high disease burden resulting from malaria, diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, and worm infestations are the immediate causes. The underlying cause of inadequate dietary intake and high disease burden is household food insecurity. This is mainly caused by poor access to sufficient foods for diversified diets. SNV’s experience implementing nutrition sensitive agriculture has shown that that improved nutritional outcomes are best achieved when projects work in parallel on four integrated areas of demand creation, increased supply, behavioural change and governance. The local political leaders in the region affirmed their commitment to the project results and to addressing the perceived cultural norms that eating vegetables is for the poor. "Vegetables are not just for the poor and neither should fruits be left to birds to consume alone. We have to change this belief," the Local Councillor V Chairperson for Kyenjojo district said. The Local Councillor V Chairperson for Kasese district urged the politicians and church leaders to campaign for good nutrition and called upon the men to stop going out to drink and eat meat, while their children at home lack good food. He insisted that the responsibility for good nutrition should not be left to women alone.
The Sustainable Nutrition for All project builds on the results of the SNV Community Empowerment Programme that ended in 2014. Through the programme 720 schools established gardens as good agricultural practice learning centres. In Kisinga primary school where the new project was launched, the school continued with their school garden initiative after the community empowerment programme ended. Today the school provides hot mid-day meals for all children at only 700 Ugx (USD 22 cents) per child. The project will also work closely together with the SNV DFID Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene Results project because recurrent diarrhoea and intestinal worm infections, which are both linked to poor sanitation contribute to child stunting. Implementation of the Sustainable Nutrition for All project SN4A project will start in two sub-counties that have already been declared open defecation free under the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene project.
The Sustainable Nutrition for All (SN4A) project will work towards increasing local capacity to trigger demand; improving supply of nutrient-rich vegetables through smallholder farmers; triggering behavioural change by understanding the broad range of factors affecting nutrition with a special focus on intra-household gender relations; and strengthening governance structures at the national level. To harness knowledge and lessons from the sustainable nutrition for all model, SNV has partnered with the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and the Centre for Development Innovations Wageningen-UR (CDI). The Sustainable Nutrition for All (SN4A) project is also being implemented in Zambia by SNV Zambia.