While Africa has potential to grow diversity of food, the continent suffers high levels of under-nutrition, nutritional deficiencies, food poisoning and has in recent decades also registered marked rise in prevalence of over-nutrition and associated non-communicable diseases. Over 20% of Africa’s population face chronic hunger and approximately 30% of children below five years on the continent are stunted as a result of chronic under-nutrition. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies is also widespread, especially among children under five years of age and women of reproductive age. The high prevalence of under-nutrition and nutritional deficiencies has been associated with poor mental development among children, leading to low productivity in adulthood. It is also linked to approximately half of mortalities recorded among under-fives. In adults, under-nutrition and nutritional deficiencies lead to low productivity, poor health and poor pregnancy outcomes.
Food and Local, Agricultural, and Nutritional Diversity (FoodLAND) project aims to develop, implement and validate innovative, scalable and sustainable technologies aimed at supporting the nutrition performance of local food systems in Africa, while strengthening agro-biodiversity and food diversity as well as diversity of healthy diets. FoodLAND adopts a bottom-up approach and bases the initiatives to be carried out on producers’ and consumers’ motivations, needs and choices. The starting point is to draw a picture of consumers’ and producers’ preferences and behaviours, to detect food-related decision-making processes and factors. Funded to the tune of 7 million euros by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 programme, and led by Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna (Italy), the project is committed to developing a range of innovations for local agriculture and aquaculture development, as well as to nudging consumers towards healthier eating behaviour in six African countries: Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The project specifically aims to empower smallholder farmers and food operators, foster nutrition responsive and sustainable agro-biodiversity, reinforce the productivity and resilience of food supply chains, and create new market opportunities at both the local and global scales, thereby encouraging the flourishing of rural communities. These achievements are envisaged to benefit both African and European consumers by providing them with traditional-based, healthy, nutritious foods, while encouraging the diffusion of African diets and aiding the fight against malnutrition, particularly in women and children. Uganda’s project team includes Prof. John Muyonga and Prof. Johnny Mugisha from CAES; Dr. Cassius Aruho, Dr. Puline Nakyewa, Dr. Margaret Masette, Dr. Getrude Atukunda and Dr. Justus Rutaisire from NARO; Mr. Henry Nsereko from VEDCO; and Prof. Dorothy Nakimbugwe from Nutreal.
Launched in 2020, the project was envisaged to create a network of 14 local Food Hubs—paired with 14 separate cities in these countries—that would mobilise relevant actors in rural, urban and peri-urban communities and serve as injection points for testing and introducing the innovations. The 28 partners that comprise the FoodLAND consortium (18 of them African institutions while the other 10 are European) were expected to work together to develop, implement and validate 12 technological innovations; which include organizational and technological innovations for both vegetable and fish farming and food processing systems, together with 17 novel local food products, ranging from fresh, dried and processed vegetables and fish to composite flours and therapeutic foods.
Achievements registered thus far
To date, the project team in Uganda has registered a number of achievements including;
- New nutrient enhanced food products – Noodles containing orange fleshed sweetpotatoes and biofortified beans; instant flours containing orange fleshed sweetpotatoes, biofortified beans and grain amaranth; and dry eggplant. Arrangements are in place for commercialization of the technologies by SMEs.
- Establishment of infrastructure at MUARIK for research and training on fertigation (irrigation that supplies water together with manure) and precision irrigation.
- Development of technology for smart cold storage of perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables. The technology allows for remote monitoring of temperature and relative humidity.
- Development of technology for rodent control in stores. This technology has been shown to be effective in preventing of rodent damage to food in stores.
- Promotion of agro-ecological intensification – Applying ecological principles to ensure sustainable agricultural production.
- Testing application of biobased packaging of food
- Training of 100 farmers in different production technologies.
- Training of 3 M.Sc.
- Developing of nutrition guidelines for adults and the elderly.
The 4th Annual Meeting
The 4th Annual Meeting held at Hotel Africana in Kampala from 18th-20th January 2024 and attended by over 70 representatives from partner institutions took stock of the achievements and discussed strategies for future implementation. During the meeting, the partners shared insights on consumer research, specifically focusing on the implications for innovations, and for food and nutrition security. They also deliberated on the progress made in the areas of precision agriculture, farming and food processing systems and food stability and safety, and brainstormed on strategies for reaching out to the urban and rural population, raising awareness among vulnerable groups and promoting the project novel foods. On the meeting agenda were focused group activities and discussions on the innovations that are being developed and tested in the partner countries – validation of technological research and innovation.
Relevance of the project
Addressing participants, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs at Makerere University, Prof. Umar Kakumba commended FoodLAND as an extremely important project for Africa that directly responds to the aspirations of Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No poverty), 2 (Zero hunger), 3 (Good health and wellbeing). “The project also directly addresses goals 3 (healthy and well-nourished citizens), 5 (modern agriculture for increased productivity and production), and 7 (environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economies and communities) of Africa’s agenda 2063. It also aligns with Uganda’s National Development Plan 3 which has agro-industrialisation as the first strategy, and contributes to the three core mandates of Makerere University, which are training, research and knowledge transfer partnerships. The project is well aligned to Makerere University’s 2020-2030 Strategic Plan, which among others, seeks to strengthen generation and uptake of knowledge and technologies that contribute to socio-economic transformation of people in Uganda and beyond.” Commenting on the low level of research uptake, with only 14% of research conducted globally finding some form of application, Prof. Kakumba commended the FoodLAND model which starts with baseline studies to understand the needs and preferences of the target population, participatory technology development and a focus on technology dissemination, noting that the strategy improves likelihood for uptake of research outputs. “Low research uptake translates into enormous waste of financial resources and human effort.” Prof. Kakumba appreciated the EU for the funding extended towards research and other development initiatives at Makerere and Uganda in general.
Way forward on improving production and productivity
Delivering a presentation on the Research and Innovation Strategy for Africa: Challenges and Opportunities, the Executive Secretary of RUFORUM, Prof. Patrick Okori pointed the need to increase and balance investment in Agriculture, and to engage science, technology and innovation in enhancing production and productivity. “Africa still has the largest arable land yet most of our production is less than 50%. We need to leverage science, technology and innovation to enhance production and productivity. There is need to harness the digital revolution to support translation of knowledge. Universities should also move from project-based research to programmes.”
The FoodLAND consortium
- Alma Mater Studiorum – Università Di Bologna (Coordinator), Italy
- Agroscope, Switzerland
- The James Hutton Institute, UK
- Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
- Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture de Meknes, Morocco
- Institut Supérieur Agronomique de Chott-Mariem, Tunisia
- Institut National Agronomique de Tunisie, Tunisia
- Mekelle University, Ethiopia
- University of Nairobi, Kenya
- Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania
- Makerere University, Uganda
- National Agricultural Research Organisation, Uganda
Partners for agriculture/aquaculture promotion and sustainable development in Africa
- Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency Tigrai, Ethiopia
- Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya
- Comitato Europeo per la Formazione e l’Agricoltura, Italy
- Relief Society of Tigray, Ethiopia
- Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns, Uganda
- Farm Concern International, Kenya
- Helvetas Tanzania, Switzerland
- Groupement d’Intérêt Economique ZoyoutDir Béni Mellal, Morocco
- Groupement de développement agricole HrayerGloubthiran, Tunisia
Small and medium-sized companies in the food sector
- Kitui Enterprise Promotion Company Limited, Kenya
- Tamarillo Kenya Limited, Kenya
- Katundu Traders Limited, Tanzania
- Nutreal Limited, Uganda
- AquaBioTech Limited, Malta
- NovamontS.p.A, Italy
Communication and IPR management partners
- ElhuyarFundazioa, Spain
- EURICE, Germany
FAO Trains CAES Faculty on Integrated Food Security Phase Classification for Acute Malnutrition (IPC-AMN)
The primary objective of this training initiative is to promote knowledge exchange and learning about innovative systems, methods, tools, and best practices in nutrition surveillance.
The School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-systems Engineering (SFTNB), College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University has held a four-day training for its staff and students on Integrated Food Security Phase Classification for Acute Malnutrition (IPC-AMN). The training held from 26th-29th February 2024 has been conducted at the School premises at the University.
The training initiative emerged from the collaborative efforts of the “Learning Network on Nutrition Surveillance.” The implementation of this initiative is led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). This network, fostering connections between policymakers, research institutions, and universities, spans across the countries of Djibouti, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.
The primary objective of this initiative is to promote knowledge exchange and learning about innovative systems, methods, tools, and best practices in nutrition surveillance. The initiative fosters knowledge exchange on innovative systems, methods, tools, and practices in nutrition surveillance, with a special emphasis on the East, Central, and Southern Africa region, and the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) for Food Security and Nutrition stands as a crucial element within this network.
One of the key contributors to this training initiative is the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), leveraging its two decades of experience. FAO has meticulously designed face-to-face training sessions for professionals in food security and nutrition. Furthermore, they have developed a comprehensive curriculum for graduate and post-graduate students focusing on the IPC for Acute Malnutrition scale (AMN).
This AMN course is crafted to equip graduates with the essential skills for IPC, but also serve as a pathway for IPC certification, enhancing their professional credentials as they embark on their careers. Notably, a similar curriculum addressing acute food insecurity has been successfully implemented at the University of Pretoria, and has worked successfully.
As a significant stride towards expanding the reach of this valuable curriculum, FAO has played a pivotal role in training the academic staff at Makerere University (Department of Food Technology and Nutrition) on both the structure and content of the AMN course curriculum. This strategic partnership aims to facilitate the eventual incorporation of this curriculum into the institution’s offerings.
Facilitating this training was Dr Jannie Armstrong, Integrated Phase Classification’s Learning and Research Coordinator. Dr Armstrong brings a wealth of experience to the table, overseeing the academic liaison portfolio and ensuring that IPC remains informed of developments in food security and nutrition research globally. His commitment is evident through co-developing IPC training materials and contributing as a member of the Technical Development Team.
Over the past 25 years, Dr Armstrong has contributed significantly to food security policy across Asia, Africa, and Europe, working with esteemed organizations such as FAO, WFP, and others. His enduring research interest in food security policy in the Global South reflects his dedication to making a positive impact in this field.
“As educators, we recognize the paramount importance of preparing our students for the evolving workforce, and FAO’s initiative is a testament of our commitment to continuous improvement in teaching and learning, aligning perfectly with our objectives. We express our sincere appreciation for this collaborative effort and are confident that together, we shall rise to meet the evolving needs of our stakeholders both within and outside Uganda,” remarked Dr Hedwig Acham, Senior Lecturer, Department of Food Technology & Nutrition, Makerere University.
More photos from the event.
Dr. Robert Fungo Elected President, Federation of African Nutrition Societies (FANUS)
Dr. Robert Fungo was in November 2023 elected President of the Federation of African Nutrition Societies (FANUS).
Dr. Fungo is a Lecturer at the Department of Food Technology and Nutrition, School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University. His Teaching, Research and Community Outreach is in the Field of Applied Human Nutrition, Food Science and Food Technology. As a Nutritionist and Food Technologist, he is interested in understanding the influence of agriculture and food systems on the nutrition and food security of women and children in low and middle-income African countries (LMIACs).
The Federation of African Nutrition Societies (FANUS) is a conglomeration of nutrition societies of the African nation with the vision to market and sustain nutrition security and national altogether country of Africa. The vision of the Federation is to enhance the visibility, relevance and functionality of FANUS and national nutrition societies, con-jointly to strengthen the functioning and property of national nutrition societies to realize goals, unite and influence nutrition in Africa.
Details about Dr. Robert Fungo please click on the link below:
Call for Papers – Makerere University Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (MUJAES)
The Editorial Board, Makerere University Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (MUJAES), College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) is receiving manuscripts for consideration for Volume 13, Issue 1 2024 that will come out in June 2024 and Issue 2 slated for December 2024. Manuscripts should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For details on MUJAES and guidelines for submission of manuscripts, visit: https://mujaes.mak.ac.ug/. Manuscripts to be considered for publication in MUJAES should be based on original research findings.
For any inquiries, contact; Dr Jeninah Karungi-Tumutegyereize, Editor, MUJAES. Email – email@example.com.
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