A look at effects of food security and nutrition in Uganda
and how they affect the economy.
Food Security in Uganada: Downstream effects and Economic Impacts
As one of the six themes of the Sustainable Development Goals, food insecurity and nutrition has gained the attention of policy makers worldwide as a determinant of adverse health outcomes. While it is a global issue affecting developed and developing countries alike, food insecurity bears greater repercussions for countries with limited resources such as Uganda.
The capital city of Uganda: Kampala
As part of our MMASc program – in the Global Health stream – we will be going to Uganda for 3 months to work with local communities. So far in the program, we’ve learned how complex health systems can be, especially in regions with minimal resources. The interplay between a country’s health systems and its economy continue to spark my interest. The people of Uganda have experienced drastic food insecurity and malnutrition in recent years hence my interest in understanding its impacts on the nation’s economy.
Food security embodies food supply, availability and quality1. The economic capacity to obtain, access and utilize food is a crucial factor when considering food security. Through direct and indirect routes, food insecurity affects agriculture, childhood education and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases that ultimately impact the economy in cascading downstream effects. As a significant source of employment and income for about 80% of households, agriculture plays an integral part in the Ugandan economy2. Many farmers engage in own-consumption, commercialization or both, to support their families. However, factors such as climate change, access to farmland, equipment acquisition and maintenance can limit farm production, thereby affecting income levels and funds available for other household expenditures1. When farming output decreases, so do income and household food consumption, along with investments in long-term expenditures such as reliable farm equipment and livestock1. These investment reductions further impact farmland management, as farmers are unable to procure or maintain vital equipment to keep their fields afloat. This eventually culminates in decreasing crop yields meaning there is less food for own-consumption nor commercialization, an important revenue stream for farmers.
Moreover, in instances of low agricultural output, re-evaluation of household expenditures often leads to reduced or completely halted investments in childhood education. Interestingly, such decisions disproportionately affect girls, in grade 7 and above, made to engage in home production and alternative income generating activities2. Such arrangements obstruct childhood education and development, hindering human capital formation such that future generations could lack necessary skills to build and support their economy.
Furthermore, food insecure individuals tend to consume cheaper and less nutritionally valuable foods leading to a high prevalence of overweight and obesity, demonstrated in recent studies to increase morbidity and premature mortality1,3 as with infectious diseases such as HIV. These outcomes increase the risks of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes among others, which contribute to the double burden of disease. A study performed on 66 Ugandan food insecure men and women found that 31.2% of the men and 66.3% of the women were found to be at a higher risk of overweight and obesity3. This same study also found that food insecure households tended to have fewer children and lower income levels than food secure households. It is becoming increasingly important to recognize the trends and effects of food insecurity in vulnerable countries, such as Uganda.
As a rising global issue, the awareness of food insecurity has been increasing with numerous solutions already in progress. While there is still much to be done, Uganda has started to see gains through local and international efforts to alleviate the impacts of food insecurity.
Yvette K. is a currently a Candidate for the MMASc program who is passionate about health systems and economic development on a global scale.
- Anríqueza, G., Daidonea, S., & Manea, E. (2013) Rising food prices and undernourishment: A cross-country inquiry. Food Policy (38), pp. 190–202. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2012.02.010
- Björkman-Nyqvist, M. (2013). Income shocks and gender gaps in education: Evidence from Uganda. Journal of Development Economics (105), pp. 237–253. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2012.02.010
- Chaput, J.-P., Gilbert, J.-A., & Tremblay, A. (2007). Relationship between Food Insecurity and Body Composition in Ugandans Living in Urban Kampala. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107(11) pp. 1978-1982. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.08.005