Bundibugyo district council has passed a bye-law compelling all farmers in the district to plant food crops and not focus only on cocoa growing. In 2011, 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.
Farmers in the district have abandoned growing food crops on their gardens and concentrated on Cocoa, which is the main income earner in the district. This has left some families with no food to feed on, causing shortage of food in homes.
The shortage of food in families forces communities to purchase food from Kabarole, Kasese districts and some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to the bye-law, farmers will have to plant food crops for home consumption, besides cocoa and vanilla on their gardens or else they face a jail term of three months, pay a fine of 30,000 shillings or both.
The Bundibugyo District Agricultural Officer, Martin Mwesige, who drafted the bye-law, says that the district has the potential to grow nutritious food crops like bananas, cassava, beans and maize, but families dedicate large chunks of land to growing cocoa. Mwesige says that in Busaru and Harugale Sub Counties, there is no single food crop grown because priority is given to cocoa and vanilla.
Asked how the district will enforce the bye-law, Mwesige says that agricultural department will rely on extension workers and sub county NAADS coordinators to ensure that farmers comply.
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However some farmers have mixed reactions to the bye-law that has been passed, with some saying that they will not abide to it.
Beatrice Sabiiti, a farmer in Bubukwanga, says farmers should be left to grow crops of their choice. Sabiiti says she is interested in growing cocoa because there is market and when sold, she can afford to take her children to good schools.
Moses Suza, the chairperson of Bundibugyo farmers association, welcomes the bye-law, saying it’s long overdue. Suza says that in the past farmers have been encouraged to grow food crops, since cocoa is a seasonal crop.
He says that some families starve when the cocoa season ends, because they haven’t grown other crops.
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In 2011, 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. Last year, a research carried out by the Ruwenzori Think Tank on Food security indicated that Bundibugyo district has the highest number of children below 5 years with stunted growth in the Ruwenzori region.