Communities in Bundibugyo are abandoning food crops and focusing on growing cocoa, causing shortage of food in the district.
The district has the potential to grow food crops like bananas, cassava, beans and maize, but large chunks of land are dedicated to growing cocoa as a cash crop. The shortage of food has forced communities to purchase food from Kabarole and Kasese districts and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In the ten homes visited by Uganda Radio Network in Busaru and Harugale Sub Counties, there is no single food crop grown. Priority is given to cocoa and vanilla.
Beatrice Sabiiti, a resident of Harugale village says that she prefers to grow only cocoa because she is sure of getting money to look after her family and personal needs. Sabiiti says that since there are only four people in her home, there is no need to grow food crops.
Sabiiti however admits that at times she spends a lot of money to purchase foods like bananas and cassava from Fort Portal to feed her family and the transport costs are high.
Annet Masika, a farmer in Nyakisi village Busaru Sub County says that the district agricultural department has failed to convince families on the importance of food crops.
Masika notes that since there are no financial institutions in the district to offer her a loan to improve her business, she will stick to cocoa growing because she is sure of income.
But Lawrence Kaliisa, the district agricultural officer says that the district has been encouraging homes to grow food crops, but there hasn’t been any positive response. Kaliisa says that the district is planning to have an ordinance passed, where households have to grow food crops besides cocoa and vanilla.
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Because of the food shortage, Harugale Farmers Association has started sensitizing communities on the importance of growing food crops.
William Azoli, the chairperson of the association says they move from home to home encouraging families to grow food crops. Azoli notes that the association has trained over 200 farmers in the district on how to grow bananas for home consumption.
He says that although cocoa is a source of income for most families, when the cocoa season ends, families don’t have money to purchase food.
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Rebecca Businge, a nutritionist at Bundibugyo Hospital says that they are encouraging families to have kitchen gardens, where they can grow different types of vegetables to feed their children.
In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report indicating that at least 45% of children below the age of 5 years in Bundibugyo district suffer from chronic malnutrition.