Monday March 30, 2020

Amid Drought, Somali farmers turn to Ugandan roots to fight Hunger in Africa

The key, she told the visiting Somalis, is to find ways to process crops to increase their value, such as turning cassava or sweet potatoes into finished products like flour

FILE - A farmer works in an irrigated field near the village of Botor, Somaliland, April 16, 2016. Across the Horn of Africa, millions have been hit by the severe El Nino-related drought.-VOA
  • Droughts and unpredictable weather are making getting a crop ever hard
  • Uganda is now the leading producer in the region of root crops
  • The organisation’s members lost 15 tonnes of cassava flour -worth ,$4,500 in 2012, due to lack of buyers

September 24, 2016: To fight hunger, Somali farmers turn to Ugandan roots- Amina Shale, a Somali farmer, says worsening droughts and ever more unpredictable weather are making getting a crop ever harder.

“It can take a whole year before the rains come,” she complained. “Growing crops like tomatoes is very tiring because I have to water them at least twice a day.”

But Shale now has some new ideas about how to cope, thanks to a trip to visit the neighbours.

She and 26 other Somali farmers travelled to eastern Uganda last month to see how sweet potatoes are turning into a climate-resilient boom crop for that East African nation.

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Uganda is now the leading producer in the region of root crops, which researchers say are much tougher in the face of worsening climate-change-related problems such as drought and flooding.

Some roots, like cassava and sweet potato, are being processed into flour and increasingly used for everything from doughnuts to wedding cakes.

That is helping boost incomes and ensure food security – something urgently needed in Somalia, where 40 percent of people are acutely food insecure, according to an estimate by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Today, few Somali farmers know of – or grow – crops like sweet potatoes or cassava, Shale said. She plants vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, kale and pawpaw.

But during the FAO-backed trip to Uganda, she saw how root crops require less irrigation – and she is now considering switching, she said.

On both sides of the border, farmers are struggling with problems brought on by more erratic weather, including new or worsening pests and diseases attacking traditional staple crops.

Extreme weather is also causing more of the crops that are harvested to rot quickly, said Akello Christine Ekinyu, a Ugandan farmer from Odowo who now grows and processes cassava and sweet potato.

Ekinyu, one of the hosts for visiting Somali farmers, said the crop switch had helped lift her family out of poverty.

“I built a new brick house with the income I got from these crops,” beamed Ekinyu, wearing a gold dress and matching headscarf.

In a day, she said, she can make about 100,000 Uganda shillings ($30) selling cassava and sweet potatoes, compared to $2 when she worked day jobs in town. That has been enough to send her two children to university, she said.

New Sources of Income

The key, she told the visiting Somalis, is to find ways to process crops to increase their value, such as turning cassava or sweet potatoes into finished products like flour.

She learned to do this after joining the Soroti Sweet Potato Producers and Processors Association in Uganda.

FILE - Children are seen enjoying orange sweet potatoes. (Courtesy - HarvestPlus)-VOA
FILE – Children are seen enjoying orange sweet potatoes. (Courtesy – HarvestPlus)-VOA

Echabu Silver, the group’s chairman, explained that “instead of consuming or selling the cassava when it is raw, farmers should process it, turn it into new products and then sell it at a higher price.”

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That could be anything from crisps and doughnuts to flour for wedding cakes, he said.

Tony Ijala, the manager of Cassava Adding Value for Africa, a roject led by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, said cassava is increasingly no longer grown for home consumption only, but also sold at markets.

“Even retired Ugandans are planting – and deriving an income from – cassava instead of relying on their extended families,” he said.

Building markets for the new crops have taken time, however.

Akorir Helen Mary, former secretary general of the Arapai Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Uganda, said the organisation’s members lost 15 tonnes of cassava flour – worth $4,500 – in 2012, due to a lack of buyers.

But now, four years later, “there is high demand for cassava in the market, as [it is] most Ugandan industries’ – like breweries’ – preferred raw material,” he said. (VOA)


  • Sruthi Inguva

    The first and foremost thing which all of us can do is to make judicious and sensible use of water at our own end. If all of us save only one drop a day that would amount to saving billion drops. Surprisingly reducing our consumption of meat and poultry will also help reduction in water wastage. As per a study conducted by Institution of Mechanical Engineers U.K, which was published in the prestigious newspaper The Guardian, to produce 1kg of meat requires between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water whereas to produce 1kg of wheat requires between 500 and 4,000 litres of water.

Next Story

U.N. Food And Agriculture Organisation Renews Its Policy To Achieve ‘Zero Hunger’

Increasing farm output beyond sustainable levels can cause permanent damage to ecosystems, the report said.

Children, Hunger
A severely malnourished boy rests on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. VOA

Feeding a hungry planet is growing increasingly difficult as climate change and depletion of land and other resources undermine food systems, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization said Wednesday as it renewed appeals for better policies and technologies to reach “zero hunger.”

Population growth requires supplies of more nutritious food at affordable prices, but increasing farm output is hard given the “fragility of the natural resource base” since humans have outstripped Earth’s carrying capacity in terms of land, water and climate change, the report said.

About 820 million people are malnourished. The FAO and International Food Policy Research Institute released the report at the outset of a global conference aimed at speeding up efforts to achieve zero hunger around the world.

A Papuan child suffering from malnutrition lies in a hospital bed for treatment in Agats, the capital of Asmat district in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province. VOA

“The call for action is very clear. It is possible in our lifetime and it is also realistic to end hunger and malnutrition,” Inonge Wina, vice president of Zambia, told the gathering.

Food security remains tenuous for many millions of people who lack access to affordable, adequately nourishing diets for a variety of reasons, the most common being poverty.

But it’s also endangered by civil strife and other conflicts. In Yemen, where thousands of civilians have died in airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition, the aid group Save the Children says 85,000 children under 5 may have died of hunger or disease in the civil war.

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Malnourished and displaced Somali children sit in a tent in their camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. VOA

In Afghanistan, severe drought and conflict have displaced more than 250,000 people, according to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.

FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva noted that the number of hungry and malnourished people in the world has risen to levels last seen a decade ago.

“After decades of gains in fighting hunger, this is a serious setback and FAO and the U.N. sister agencies, together with member governments and other partners, are all very concerned,” Graziano da Silva said in a videotaped address to the conference.

Hunger is still most severe in Africa, but the largest number of undernourished people live in the Asia-Pacific region, the report said. It said good public policies and technology are the keys to improving the situation.

World Hunger, WFP, Hunger
Gatdin Bol, 65, who fled fighting and now survives by eating fruit from the trees, sits under a tree in the town of Kandak, South Sudan. VOA

The FAO estimates that global demand for food will jump by half from 2013 to 2050. Farmers can expand land use to help make up some of the difference, but that option is constrained in places like Asia and the Pacific and urbanization is eating up still more land that once may have been used for agriculture.

Also Read: Researchers Develop New Test To Detect E.Coli In Food Quickly

Increasing farm output beyond sustainable levels can cause permanent damage to ecosystems, the report said, noting that it often causes soil erosion, pollution with plastic mulching, pesticides and fertilizers, and a loss of biodiversity.

China destroys 12 million tons of tainted grain each year, at a loss of nearly $2.6 billion, according to the report. (VOA)