The Food Systems Solution Platform (FSSP) is an advocacy project under the SD4All programme focusing on influencing policy and practice for production and preservation of indigenous and traditional food in Buikwe district. The FSSP was launched in 2017 and it is being implemented by Slow Food Uganda in partnership with Hivos and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) until 2020. The goal of the FSSP is to create an enabling legal and policy environment for the increased production and consumption of diverse indigenous and traditional foods and vegetables for low income rural and urban populations in Buikwe district. This will be achieved through convening different food actors into a multi-stakeholder platform to analyse the current situation and share solutions for improving the food system, nutrition standards and food security in the district.
The Food Parliament
The Food Parliament is a platform that provides space for discussion and finding innovative solutions to difficult problems faced by the citizens including smallholder farmers in preserving the indigenous seeds and agricultural biodiversity. The Food Parliament is aiming at harnessing citizen voices to advocate for sustainable production of diverse indigenous and traditional food for biodiversity conservation. At the end of each food parliament session, community member representatives come up with recommendations which are forwarded to the district leadership for consideration by the District council. The first Food Parliament was held in November 2017 at Buikwe district headquarters and it led to the passing of a resolution by the district council regulating sugarcane production within the district.
The Slow Food Youth Academy is a learning platform organized by Slow Food Youth Network which involves an interactive training program for young learners, students and youths of different professions who are interested in learning more about the food system. The Uganda Academy aims at making young people familiar with the food System by acquiring knowledge so that they can also be able to change the food system of creating a world of good, clean and fair food accessible to everyone. This is done through bringing together young change makers to build their capacity as well as bringing them closer to take part in discussions aiming at changing the field of food production and consumption.
The Youth Academy is not only meant to train young people to become active advocates for better food policies and practices in their communities, it also serves to introduce more young people to the realities of the food system in Buikwe district since they form majority (over 60%) of the total population of the District. It entices them to participate in discussions, dialogues and other activities related to food and nutrition challenges affecting Buikwe district. Eight of the former academy participants have taken active places in their respective areas of interest. Such interventions include convening various sessions of the food parliament, establishing model gardens, mobilizing others on biodiversity conservation and diverse food production as well as engaging directly in youth forums in their localities to discuss about food and nutrition among other initiatives.
The School gardens act as a powerful education tool on diets and food diversity as well as a source of vegetables to be incorporated into school lunches. The Gardens are planted mostly with local, traditional and indigenous food and vegetables like African Egg plants (Nakati), spider weed (jjobyo), Amaranths of different varieties, bitter tomatoes (Entula), carrots, and black night shade among others known to be of a good nutritional quality. There are young farmers clubs initiated in schools for students to have a management model of enforcing nutrition improvement among themselves through the garden activities. Besides cultivating school gardens, there are also cross learning events facilitated on diverse local food production, preparation and consumption. These events include:
Food wise: An event dedicated to fostering cross generational linkages in food preparation and consumption between old and young people. Food wise is organised every year in the month of august to connect to facilitate knowledge exchange among the young people and the old generation and it involves cooking classes for traditional food, exhibition of food preservation techniques among others.
The fruit and juice festival: Is an event dedicated to sharing knowledge about the diversity of fruits and to nutritional importance of the different fruits locally found in our communities. It is an event attended by school Children as well as other interested members of the general public. The fruit and Juice Festival is Organised every year in the Month of March.
The vegetable festival: As the name suggests is knowledge sharing event organised to celebrate the role local and traditional vegetables species play in ensuring better nutrition and food security in our communities. This event is also dedicated to schools participating or wishing to take part in the Slow Food Gardens’ initiative as well as food communities and producer groups producing a diversity of local vegetables. The event is also attended by visiting chefs who facilitate the creative cooking competitions for school children and their teachers.
Facilitate learning journeys for food communities on sustainable agriculture practices and farm diversification, Value addition and post-harvest handling. The food communities always visit model farms and crop and seed banks for replication of best practices. Learning journeys are conducted for producers in food communities on covering various topics of agro-ecological practices including Soil management, Natural pest management and control, Local seed saving and management options and Post-harvest handling including Value addition on specific food products selected to curb on the food losses evident in the communities during harvest season
According to the Buikwe District Statistical Abstract of 2017, poor nutrition remains a major problem in Buikwe District. It is reported that 68% of population in Buikwe district have less than two meals a day and the little accessed is mostly of a single type of food. Increasing rural- urban migration coupled with the quest for increasing income streams by smallholder farmers has rendered most of the households’ food insecure. Most of the food crops grown are put on the market leaving virtually no food reserves for home consumption. This directly affects the dietary and nutritional status of these households. It still remains a fundamental challenge in Buikwe District where people have no access to healthy and nutritious food produced in a way that ensures food security. This is due to the current increasing cases of large-scale mono-cropping of crops like sugarcane, rice and maize which is eroding ecosystems and crop diversity within the District, reducing diversity on our plates. Inspite of the above mentioned status, the district lacks a legal and policy framework to address these and many other food related issues whenever they emerge. Through engagements with the FSSP project under the SD4all programme, the district has realized the need to enact a food and production ordinance. The process of drafting a food and production ordinance is underway and it started with a consultative meeting held on 22nd November 2018 at Royal Suites Hotel in Bugolobi-Kampala, Uganda. The meeting aimed at bringing together key technocrats across all sectors and departments in Buikwe district local government, Lugazi municipality and the selected citizen group representatives namely; chefs alliance, food communities, small-holder farmers, fishing communities, food vendors, civil society organizations, women and men to discuss and agree on topics of consideration in the proposed food and production ordinance of Buikwe District.