Last year’s United Nations Food Systems Summit provided a historic opportunity to empower multi-level multi-sector stakeholders to use the power of food systems and get us on track to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Uganda was not left behind.
Uganda towards a position to the summit agenda
Uganda organized national and grass-root dialogues to generate consensus and a common position to the summit agenda. The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was the main convener while the National Planning Authority (NPA) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) were co-convenors. Dialogues were aligned to the Action Tracks and targeted stakeholders such as government ministries, agencies and local governments, research and scientific partners, development partners, civil society, academia, the private sector, farmers, entrepreneurs, women and youth groups, among others.
To contribute to these discussions, an independent dialogue spearheaded by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)-Uganda was convened on 9th August 2021. This dialogue focused on the role of research and science in supporting sustainable food systems in Uganda.
Towards strategies and interventions
With the participation of over 100 researchers and scientists, the dialogue was curated by Dr. Beatrice Ekesa a senior scientist from the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT. Moderation was done by Dr. Peter Rukundo a senior lecturer from Kyambogo University, Uganda and Ms. Agnes Kirabo the Executive Director for the Food Rights Alliance (FRA) Uganda. The first session included keynote addresses and speeches from the Director General of NARO, Dr. Ambrose Agona, the Country Representative of the UN’s Food AO Dr. Antonio Querido, the Commissioner of Food Security and Nutrition from MAAIF, Dr. Alex Bambona, and the Alliance’s Managing Director for Africa, Ms. Suzanne Ngo-Eyok. The need to have a platform that brings together researchers/scientists and provides an avenue for their interaction with policymakers and the private sector was strongly emphasized during the speeches. Coming up with strategies for enhancing local funding for research and identifying and working on context-based scalable interventions was noted to be key.
Discussions seeking answers
The keynote addresses were followed by discussions around each of the five action tracks exploring answers to four main questions:
- What are the current research and science initiatives likely to support food systems?
- Given the new demands and current research and development initiatives, what can be done differently or better for research to deliver on its role in food systems transformation in the next five years?
- How will we be able to assess and know that the identified game-changing actions are successful? and
- What are some of the major barriers for researchers in Uganda and what needs to be done by government and stakeholders?
The dialogue showed that there is a wide range of expertise and ongoing food systems research that continues to evolve, thus providing a rich source of potential for national development.
The food diversity and varying agro-ecological zones in Uganda can be harnessed further through increased investment in research, science, technology and innovation. Increasing investment in research initiatives can play a key role in understanding the drivers of sustainable food production, consumption and consumer demand; increasing availability and access to safe and nutritious food for all; improving participation and benefits for all actors along the food value chain; and scaling innovations that contribute to nutritious, sustainable and resilient food systems in Uganda. In addition, research and science can help establish the status quo and map scenarios for food systems that predict and meet future needs.
The key findings and recommendations from the dialogue included:
- There is a wide range of ongoing research that is contributing to different parts of the food system and to each of the five action tracks. Increased visibility of this research, technologies and innovations within the research and science field/partners as well as other stakeholders is needed, as well as identification of synergies and complementarities in research skillsets to support coordinated interdisciplinary system-directed approaches in delivering research agenda.
- There is a need to increase the linkage and engagement of research and other stakeholders such as farmers, private sector actors such as agro-industries, and humanitarian agencies to ensure that interests, needs, expectations, approaches and actions are linked and contributing to impact and scaling of technologies and innovations. This will require efficient and targeted communication strategies.
- It’s important that researchers and scientists develop technologies and innovations that solve local challenges. This can be enhanced by increased local funding and utilizing local extension service systems to address local challenges and drive local solutions. Increased lobbying and advocacy are needed as well as fulfillment of government commitments.
- Integrating and/or developing strong monitoring and evaluation systems from different partners, for example, digital portals for agricultural information systems for research partners will improve monitoring, communication, and dialogue.
- Increased utilization of the untapped potential of local, traditional, indigenous foods and knowledge will support context-specific solutions and increase sustainable production, value addition, and promotion of consumption of healthy diets.
The breakout sessions were facilitated by a team comprised of Dr. Ben Lukuyu of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Dr. Deborah Nabuuma from the Alliance, Mrs. Prossy Kyomuhendo from World Agroforestry, Dr. Haroon Sseguya from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Dr. Sylvester Dickson Baguma from NARO.
This team was supported by Mr. Pius Lutakome from ILRI, Ms. Fatihah Kobugabe and Ms. Harriet Kabasindi from World Agroforestry, Dr. Valentine Gloria Nakato from IITA, Mr. Roger Emmou from the Alliance, and Ms. Leocardia Nabwire from the International Food Policy Research Institute.
All the main points from the breakout sessions were presented in a plenary session. This was followed by a panel discussion that brought together four experts, Dr. Gloria Otieno a seed systems and policy expert from the Alliance, Dr. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, an expert in production systems from NARO, Prof. John Muyongam, an expert in post-harvest handling and food technology from Makerere University, Ms. Sarah Ngalombi, a nutrition expert from Uganda’s Ministry of Health and Dr. Robert Ackatia-Armah from the World Food Programme. A summary of key points to be communicated to the National food systems dialogue and later shared at the UN Food Systems Summit was compiled and presented by Dr. Sadik Kassim of NARO.