Monday, November 26, 2018

£28 million from UK government to support nutrition in Uganda

By Esther Nakkazi

The UK government has launched the Karamoja Nutrition Programme worth £28 million pounds which will improve the delivery of quality nutrition services across Karamoja.

84 percent of people in Karamoja are unable to afford a nutritious daily diet, 45 percent of households have limited access to food, and over half of all households do not have much diversity in their diet. 

Malnutrition, therefore, remains a major impediment to Karamoja’s development, undermining the health and economic prospects of the population. More than 1 in 3 children in Karamoja experience stunted development due to malnutrition.

The Karamoja Nutrition Programme, funded by UK aid and implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations World Food Programme, will strengthen the Government’s health system to ensure children and mothers across the region receive high-quality health and nutrition services and are better nourished.

The programme supports all District Local Governments in Karamoja to develop the skills of nutritionists and health workers; improve the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in hospitals and health centres; generate evidence to improve the design of nutrition services; procure and manage quality nutrition supplies; and provide more effective nutrition leadership and coordination across all Government departments and partners.

“Working to strengthen the Government’s health system, with strong district leadership and engagement, presents an opportunity for Karamoja to address its malnutrition challenge,” said Francesca Stidston, the Head of Office for the Department for International Development (DFID) in Uganda.
"This programme is timely in that it will help to ensure that children access higher quality nutrition services, which are essential to their survival and healthy development,” said Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF’s Representative in Uganda.

The programme will support: over 100,000 malnourished children under the age of 5 with a community based supplementary feeding programme; nearly 15,000 severely malnourished children with specialized treatment in hospitals and health centres; 140,000 children to receive Vitamin A supplements and deworming medication twice a year; and around 70,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women with iron folic acid supplements to treat anemia.

At the launch, the leadership from Karamoja’s eight districts - Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit and Nabilatuk - as well as leaders from the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs, committed to ensure that all pillars of the programme are fully integrated within the health sector and are effectively planned and budgeted for after the programme ends in three years.

“The Karamoja Nutrition Programme is a continuation of the Government of Uganda and development partners’ march to end child stunting in Uganda,” said WFP’s Country Director El-Khidir Daloum.

“We are outraged by the level of stunting in Karamoja, which remains unacceptably high. Ending stunting is mission possible,” Daloum said.

While child stunting has reduced by roughly one percent every year in Karamoja since 2006, 35 percent of all children under the age of 5 in Karamoja are still stunted.

The Karamoja Nutrition Programme compliments other programmes in Karamoja, such as the Karamoja Resilience Support Unit supported by USAID, Irish Aid, and UK aid and GIZ’s programme to improve the reliability of water supply and sanitation in selected health centers, which collectively contribute to a comprehensive multi-sectoral nutrition response to all people across Karamoja.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Urgent Research for Development Action Plan required to Combat ArmyWorm

By Esther Nakkazi

A more coordinated research-for-development (R4D) action plan is urgently needed to ensure that effective and affordable solutions reach smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa so they can sustainably combat the voracious fall armyworm an international conference heard.

The international conference held from Oct. 29 to 31 at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was also aimed at drawing a science-based roadmap to combat the fall armyworm.

“We must look at the big picture to design safer, accessible, effective and sustainable solutions against fall armyworm,” said Martin Kropff, director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

“Fall armyworm has been the fastest pest to expand across the continent,” said Eyasu Abraha, Ethiopia’s State Minister for agriculture development.

African leaders consider the invasive fall armyworm “a big threat for African food security,” said Amira Elfadil, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, at the opening of the conference.

Since the initial shock in 2016, various stakeholders - farmers, researchers, extension officers, agribusinesses, governments, and donors have reacted quickly to fight the invasive pest in various ways.

They have used pesticides, agroecological approaches and new seeds but still the situation is far from under control. African farmers have as well lost millions of dollars in earnings due to the loss of crops to the fall armyworm.

The rapid increase of the pesticide market in Africa has led to the circulation of plenty of banned or counterfeit products, some very toxic, said Steven Haggblade, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, USA. Besides, most farmers are also often not well trained in the use of such chemicals and do not protect themselves during application, he said.

On the other hand, pesticide use also has many negative trade-offs, said Paul Jepson, a professor of environmental and molecular toxicology in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University.

Natural enemies like parasitic wasps are also often far more vulnerable to pesticides than fall armyworm larvae, which are hard to reach and hide in the maize whorls for instance.

Since it was first detected in Nigeria and São Tomé, the moth has spread across more than 40 African countries where it has found an ideal environment, with diverse agro-ecologies and a warmer climate all year round amplifying its persistent threat. It has also been seen in India since July 2018.

Entomologists are trying to fill a knowledge gap in how the fall armyworm behaves and migrates throughout Africa. What is known is that it has a host range of more than 80 plant species, including maize, can cause total crop losses, and at advanced larval development, stages can be difficult to control even with synthetic pesticides.

The female fall armyworm can lay up to a thousand eggs at a time and produce multiple generations very quickly without pause in tropical environments. The moth can fly 100 km (62 miles) a night, and some moth populations have even been reported to fly distances of up to 1,600 kilometers in 30 hours, according to experts.

During the conference, experts debated intensely on the technical gaps and the best ways to combat the pest through an integrated pest management strategy, including how to scout the caterpillar in the crop field, establish monitoring and surveillance systems, pest control innovations and appropriate policy support to accelerate the introduction of relevant innovations.

They also heard the many collaborative initiatives, including national task forces and expert working groups, which have informed the current state of knowledge but were cautioned about the many still existing knowledge and technology gaps.

“The cost of not collaborating is pretty severe,” said Regina Eddy, who leads the Fall Armyworm Task Force at the USAID Bureau for Food Security. “The real gamechanger will be that all experts agree on a common and concrete research-for-development agenda and how to organize ourselves to implement it effectively.”

The conference was jointly coordinated by CIMMY and hosted by the Fall Armyworm R4D International Consortium which recommended that common methodologies and research protocols be developed to ensure data from various studies across the continent are better used and compared. For instance, this would look at how best could the true impacts of the fall armyworm on food and seed security, public health and environment be measured?

Conference participants also agreed to work on defining economic and action thresholds for fall armyworm interventions, to ensure better recommendations to the farming communities and that advice must include the use of environmentally safer pesticides, low-cost agronomic practices and landscape management and fall armyworm-resistant varieties, among other integrated pest management tools.