Food systems in Kabale Municipality are experiencing a radical transition in response to socio-economic and demographic changes. Rising incomes, rapid urbanization and growing middle classes have led to strong adjustments in dietary preferences and consumer behaviour and require public and private investments for improved food market integration. Increasing agro-food production has only partially translated into less hunger and certainly has not been accompanied by a reduction in malnutrition. While there are currently thousands of people still suffering from under nutrition, several other people are overweight or obese, mainly due to dietary insufficiencies. A ‘sustainable food system’ is understood as a system in which all activities are sustainable from an environmental, economic and social point of view. Food systems are considerably broader than only agriculture and food value chains. They encompass all the stages of food transformation: growing, harvesting, packing, processing, marketing, consuming and disposing of food residues. Food systems are essentially multidimensional, including socio-cultural, economic, environmental and political aspects, having complex interactions with multiple actors engaged into nested agro-food systems operating within dynamic and interactive food environments. It is in this light that we need to consider future developments in diet quality and healthy eating behaviours of people. Any food system should have the following key aspirations for future:
• Inclusiveness, ensuring economic and social inclusion for all food system actors, including smallholder farmers, women and youth;
• Sustainability, minimizing negative environmental impacts, conserving scarce natural resources and strengthening resiliency against future shocks;
• Efficiency, producing adequate quantities of food while minimizing losses and waste;
• Nutritious and healthy, providing and promoting consumption of diverse nutritious and safe foods for a healthy diet.
The environmental impact of food in Kabale Municipality is one of the drivers of growing interest in the topic and a primary concern for those in environment administration. Indeed, according to the FAO, the food sector alone accounts for over 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Moreover, around 1/3 of the food produced for human consumption in Kabale Municipality is wasted or lost. Making Kabale Municipality food systems more sustainable can thus yield major benefits in terms of carbon intensity and resource efficiency. This will involve notably the use of local and seasonal products (short supply chains), improving diets (reducing the share of animal protein and processed foods), using products that meet environmental and sustainability criteria (certification), promoting self-production (fruit & vegetable gardens, use of derelict lands), and preventing waste (food and its packaging).
In Kabale Municipality, the escalating costs of diet-related diseases and environmental degradation have led to growing attention to food system inclusiveness and sustainability because
a) Food security is now perceived as a security issue following the urban riots that erupted in Uganda after the food price hikes of 2007/08;
b) The food chain accounts for some 31% of GHG emissions in Kabale Municipality in particular and Uganda in general, making the food system a crucial target of policies to counter climate change;
c) The epidemic of obesity and other diet related diseases makes the food system a prime target of campaigners;
d) Food poverty is increasingly visible in Kabale Municipality, as we can see from the explosive growth of food banks, making food a social justice issue as well as a human health issue;
e) The food system is now perceived as a prism through which planners seek to promote more sustainable natural resource management and eco-system services;
f) A quality food revolution is underway as people re-discover the pleasures of good food and its associations with place and provenance.
In Kabale Municipality, there are several critical issues that challenge food system performance. These include
a) Urbanization. More people live today in Kabale Municipality than in rural areas of Kabale and by 2050 two-thirds of the population will reside in the Municipality. Economic growth is rarely keeping pace with the Municipality growth. This has led to difficulties for people finding employment, pressure on land and housing allocation, and growing demands for urban planning and governance. Developing inclusive and sustainable food systems for the rapidly expanding urban populations is one of the most pressing challenges.
b) Value chain upgrading. The provision of healthy food to the people in the Municipality puts enormous pressure on the agro-food subsystem. If this increased and changing demand is to be met by domestic supply, local agricultural production needs to become more diversified. More value can be added to agricultural products through processing, trade and packaging. Currently, in many food systems these processes tend to be energy-intensive and are accompanied by substantial losses due to inadequate handling and/or infrastructure failures. On the other hand, they may also provide new employment opportunities outside agriculture.
c) Food price management and rural-urban linkages. Rural-urban interfaces also deserve attention for improving the stability of food supply and access to food, both in terms of seasonal variation as well as with respect to food prices. Consumers can be heavily affected by sudden food price spikes due to harvest failures or increasing demand. Such insecurities are frequently addressed by maintaining strategic food reserves at household or Municipality level. This might not only be a fairly expensive strategy but could also lead to market imbalances if sales are not in line with regular price tendencies. Whereas food price management for key staple crops (rice, maize) is sometimes understood from a food sovereignty perspective, prices of fresh foods like fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and meat tend to be more volatile. Regional trade may offer an interesting alternative for price stabilization. More importantly, food prices can also be balanced through better forecasting (using satellite weather information) and with insurance strategies for mitigating losses. Such market resilience is vital for enabling a more inclusive food system transformation.
KMDF is working both on supply and on perceptions of the general public towards sustainable food choices among audiences, finding new approaches and tools adapted to them. KMDF is working on sustainable food to facilitate the transition of existing local market actors towards shorter supply chains and greater sustainability and encourage the emergence of new actors- not only to reduce CO2 emissions and overall environmental impacts, but also to secure and create long term local jobs and strengthen urban communities.
Establishment of Sustainable Food Forum
In January 2018, Kabale Municipality Development Foundation (KMDF) launched a Sustainable Food Forum (SFF) where different stakeholders are working to develop low-carbon and resource-efficient urban food systems, by focusing on three areas: growing, delivering and enjoying food. Indeed, in Kabale Municipality, the food sector alone accounts for over 30% of consumer energy demand and produces over 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. In Kabale Municipality, the urban population tends to be out of touch with agricultural production, and the Municipality food culture is increasingly moving towards fast food, processed foods, distributed by large centralized supermarket chains that are not rooted in the life of Municipality neighborhoods. Many consumers, especially, those with low incomes, eat too little fruit and vegetables because of the cost but also because it is not part of their culture and habits. Today, more than 50% of the population in Kabale lives in the Municipality and by 2050, the Municipality will gather more than 80%. The current food system cannot meet this growing food demand of the Municipality sustainably. This growing food demand has not only resulted in significant environmental impacts, but also social inequity in terms of access to balanced and affordable nutritious food in Municipality.
Major themes of the Sustainable Food Forum
The Sustainable Food Forum focused on three major themes:
• GROWING fruit and vegetable in the Municipality, in gardens, in parks, on rooftops, on balconies, on derelict lands etc., safeguarding & improving fertility of lands;
• DELIVERING food stuffs in a more sustainable and less carbon intensive way;
• ENJOYING more sustainable food (local products, without pesticides, seasonal and fresh products, etc.) while improving diets (reducing the share of animal protein and processed foods), using products that meet environmental and sustainability criteria (certification), and preventing waste (food and its packaging).
Sub-themes of the Sustainable Food Forum
The Sustainable Food Forum (SFF) cultivates a just and regenerative food system so people in Kabale Municipality and the environment can thrive. To achieve this, SSF has 5 sub-themes that include the following
1) Growing Local Foods. Through this initiative, SFF Provides the knowledge and resources people in the Municipality need to grow their own food. Improving the health of their families, community and environment.
2) Farm Express: SFF promotes access to healthy, local food by connecting local growers to people and businesses, strengthening local economy and supporting local, sustainable food.
3) The Sustainable Kitchen: SFF offers cooking and nutrition education classes, teaching meals that are delicious, nutritious, seasonal and affordable, ensuring lasting dietary changes.
4) Sustainable Markets: These are vibrant places that connect local farmers with shoppers to ensure local, healthy food gets on their plates at home.
5) SFF Double Shillings: Doubles the amount of food assistance Shillings an individual can spend on fresh, local fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets and farm stands throughout the Municipality.