Every year, Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate World Food Day on 16 October, to promote worldwide awareness and action for those facing hunger and for the need to ensure food security and- nutritious diets for all. The 2022 celebrations were held at NaCRRI-Namulonge and it brought together over 500 participants and 52 exhibitors along the theme; Leave No One Behind: Better production, Better nutrition, Better environment and Better life. This year’s World Food Day comes at a time when Uganda is experiencing hunger, alarming malnutrition in some areas and unprecedented challenges of climate change especially in the northern and eastern regions. In line with the theme and prevailing situation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and partners took a strategic decision to hold this year’s commemoration event at NaCRRI.
For over 50 years, NaCRRI has been at the forefront of research on crops of strategic national importance. The Institute is one of the 16 constituent institutes of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and is a major hub for excellence in agricultural research and innovation. It generates crop technologies, innovations and management practices that are reducing farmers risk and creating value to crops, stimulating socio-economic transformation by curbing food and nutrition insecurity; promoting agro-industrialization and commodity exports; galvanizing import substitution and spurring private sector investment along the value chains.
While officiating as the Chief Guest at the event, the Prime Minister of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja noted that the current hunger in Karamoja and Teso areas is an embarrassment to Uganda.
“The food insecurity in parts of this country should make us to pause and ask ourselves what we are not doing right and what we need to do better… It should make us to pause and ask what the leadership at all levels, from the politicians, religious and cultural leaders are not doing right,” she said.
She later revealed that Government is increasingly prioritizing strategic investment to boost the agricultural sector. “In order to regionalize the delivery of mechanization services as well as Water for Agriculture Production services across the country, Government has opened up Regional Mechanization Centres at Namalere, Buwama, Agwata, Kiryandongo, and Mbale the whole country will be covered in the phased manner,” the Prime Minister emphasized. Hon. Nabbanja further added that using the acquired heavy earth moving equipment, Government constructed and rehabilitated valley tanks in the drought and cattle corridor Districts.
Dr. Antonio Querido, the Country Representative of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in his remarks during the celebrations indicated that Food is humanity’s most sought for resource and a fundamental human right and that despite the huge interventions, hunger and malnutrition have remained a challenge.
“Today 3.1 billion people around the world still cannot afford a healthy diet. Hunger continues to rise and it affected 828 million people in 2021 – an increase of about 46 million people since 2020, and 150 million since 2019,” he said. He called upon the government and stakeholders to focus on building robust, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems to address the root cause of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.
As a key highlight at this year’s event, the Chief Guest awarded best exhibitors along the theme and child-winners who participated in FAO’s art content organized for children aged 5-15 years to tell stories of their interaction with food, its production and consumption.
NARO has had the privilege of hosting the World Food Day Celebrations at her Public Agricultural Research Institutes since 2010. During the 2022 celebrations, Dr. Yona Baguma-the Deputy Director General in-charge of Research Coordination note that this year’s theme for the celebrations is in line with NARO’s aspirations to enhance total factor productivity and production, contribute to food and nutrition security, household incomes and well-being, agro-industrialization and sustainable inclusive economic growth in the country.
He further reiterated that even amidst challenges such as limited funding, lack of a favorable law on biotechnology and staff retention, NARO is committed to contribute to food and nutrition security, sustainable utilization of natural resources, agro-industrialization and consequently sustainable socio-economic transformation in the country.