Uganda News

Teso is battling to maintain its indigenous cuisine on the table due to a lack of granaries.

Farmers in Teso have been threatened by a lack of suitable storage facilities, putting local food crops in jeopardy.

For long years, Teso residents who practiced subsistence farming relied on Edula granaries made of native twigs, mud, and wattle to preserve their food shortly after harvest. This allowed families to have a year-round food supply, even during severe dry seasons.

Traditional grain crops such as millet and sorghum, as well as vegetables such as cow peas (Eboo), spider plant (Ecadoi), hibiscus species (Malakwang), and pumpkins, have been staple food crops in the Teso for millennia.

These crops are extremely nutritious.

The granaries also served as seed banks, ensuring that villagers had seeds to plant in the following planting season. The lack of granaries is now having an influence on food security in the subregion.

Grace Atyang, a farmer from Onganyakonye village in Omaseniko parish in Kapelebyong district, whose family relies heavily on indigenous food crops, said her family used to grow millet and sorghum.

“These crops can be eaten in a variety of ways, including porridge and bread. As a result, we never went hungry,” Atyang explained.

Millet is one grain that farmers have embraced farming for a long time because of its nutritional value, according to Scovia Adikin, a senior research officer and program leader for dry land cereal crop commodities at the National Semi Arid Agricultural Research Institute (NaSARI).

“Millet contains a lot of iron, has a lot of protein, and has a low glycemic index. Millet eating is strongly suggested for diabetes patients and pregnant women because of these properties. “It’s no surprise that Iteso has embraced it for years,” Adikin remarked.

“You don’t need much to feed a lot of people,” she explained.

Another farmer, Agnes Okaleng of Otapengo village in Kapelebyong sub county, said indigenous crops are reliable since they are climate adaptable.

“Traditional crop varieties such as groundnuts and sweet potatoes, for example, can resist drought.” It’s why, just in case, I maintain planting them alongside the new variety,” Okaleng explained.

Teso has experienced a dilemma in recent years due to the absence of granaries. This has resulted in a significant decrease in the production of indigenous crops, owing to a scarcity of seeds.

What happened to Teso’s granaries?

The British colonialists introduced granaries to Teso, and they served two purposes. They served as a food reserve for families during the time between planting and harvesting, as well as a seed storage facility for the following planting season.

In the 1960s, the subregion, which was dubbed the “food basket of Uganda,” had abundance of food.

Farmers abandoned granaries due to theft, according to Moses Okello, the district’s senior agriculture officer.

“Theft was primarily responsible for the disappearance of granaries. There is no security when food is stored in the granary… “There was no locking, so anyone could walk in and take the storage,” Okello explained.

Other factors, such as arsonists setting granaries on fire in the middle of the night, caused farmers to share space with their produce. However, due to a lack of space, many farmers were forced to sell their harvest in order to purchase livestock.

Stanley Okwi Etole, a farmer from Kakungur village in Bukedea district’s Malera sub-county, says granaries vanished due to a shortage of craftsmen, many of whom killed during the war.

He goes on to say that environmental issues, such as a scarcity of supplies, also had a role.

“All of the forests where craftsmen used to gather materials for constructing granaries have been destroyed. Even the ancient men who knew how to build granaries have passed away. As a result, things have become really difficult,” Okwi explained.

The effect

Many farmers, according to Okwi, have resorted to cultivating crops like sweet potatoes and beans that they can either sell or eat straight from the garden due to a lack of suitable storage for agricultural harvest. As a result, there is always a scarcity.

“There was no hunger in the days of granaries since all types of food, including cereals, vegetables, and greens, were dried and preserved for use during extended dry spells and as future seeds.” We are now facing starvation and malnutrition as a result of our abandonment of such practices,” Okwi explained.

According to Joseph Morris Enabu, Teso’s regional nutritionist, there has been an increase in occurrences of malnutrition over the years due to a lack of traditional meals.

“Malnutrition has grown frequent because food production methods have been harmed, and people are either not consuming enough food or the wrong diet,” Enabu explained.

Nutritional data is difficult to come by in the Teso subregion, but UNICEF estimates that over 561,000 Ugandan children die each year as a result of starvation.

According to the 2020 Uganda Health Demographics survey, 13% of Ugandan women are malnourished.

What exactly is the issue?

The introduction of new crops, according to Moses Okello, the senior agricultural officer for the Soroti area, has stifled market demand for indigenous food crops.

“Because a number of indigenous crops have lost their yield, many farmers have switched to other crop kinds that yield more,” Okello told this website.

Low market value, insect and disease attack, and failure to endure climatic change are some of the causes that have contributed to the fall in the production of indigenous food crops, according to him.

According to Adikin, a senior research officer at NaSRI, indigenous crops have lost market share since little has been done to diversify their products, making them less competitive.

In recent studies, Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM Uganda), an association of civil society organizations working to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and the sustainability of farming communities, found that globalisation and modernisation of the food system was focusing research funding and consumer spending on only a few crops, some with high nutritional value.

“The market is gravitating toward fewer and fewer indigenous staples, and if people stop eating them, farmers will produce less of them, pushing such types closer to extinction,” according to one of PELUM’s 2020 studies.

What options do we have?
Farmers, according to Atyang, need to join associations in which they can be supported in order to maintain seed banks.

She claims that this will help safeguard the very healthy traditional meal from extinction.

“Allow the government to come in and instruct farmers on how to store agricultural harvests like they did in the days of granaries, rather than using polythene bags.” It’s also critical to assist rural farmers in establishing seed banks for indigenous crops, as this will aid in the fight against starvation by providing adequate healthy food.

Despite this, Okello, the Soroti district agricultural officer, acknowledges that farmers must be educated and schooled in the agronomy and preservation of indigenous food crops.

He believes that more study should be done on traditional food crops because they serve as a genetic bank for the enhancement of other crops.

The government of Uganda has endeavored to intervene in the levels of malnutrition in the country, according to the 2011-2016 Uganda Nutritional Action Plan.

This was in accordance with the Uganda Food and Nutrition Policy (UFNP), which the government authorized in 2003.

The Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP) has as its ultimate goal the reduction of malnutrition among women of reproductive age, babies, and small children by 2016.

However, with 12 percent of Ugandan women still malnourished in 2022 and an estimated 56,000 children expected to die of nutrition-related causes by the end of this year, it is past time for the government to focus more on indigenous food crop research and production, which are a natural solution to nutritional needs, particularly in rural communities like Teso.

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