- Normal food security is reported all over Uganda, except in the civil war affected north. The second harvest in the country had been better than expected and high maize production has stabilised staple prices. Ugandan maize is also exported to neighbour countries.
Preliminary estimates by the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) conclude that Uganda's 2003 second season maize production is more than twice the initial estimates of 100,000 metric tons. The August to December season has reportedly provided ample supplies of key staple crops, such as beans, matooke, millet and sorghum.
Well-distributed rainfall in the second season benefited crops, making up for drier conditions during the first half of 2003. As a result, a good production is reported in Uganda's key growing districts. Unseasonable rainfall during January 2004 also had benefited other perennial crops, such as coffee.
Significantly higher maize production in the last season has met the national consumption and humanitarian food aid demands within Uganda and has helped to provide cereal supplies to other countries in East Africa, where harvests have been poor. This is the conclusion in the latest report by FEWS.
The high demand in maize coupled with high supply has maintained stable but higher than normal wholesale maize prices over the last 6 months. In contrast, for the same period in 2001/02, production was high, but the overall demand was lower, resulting in a price slump, the FEWS study found.
The favourable situation for Ugandan farmers may result in an enhanced interest in maize growing, FEWS suggests. "Strong purchasing signals in maize deficit Kenya and Tanzania are leading Ugandan farmers to consider increasing maize production in the coming season." However, short supplies of good quality seed materials may limit production, the US agency warns.
Favourable weather conditions this year even have provided the chronically drought ridden Karamoja Region in north-eastern Uganda with a "normal household food security." The current dry period in Karamoja however has reduced vegetation and water availability, limiting livestock's access to pastures and water. These dry weather conditions are within the region's normal fluctuations, however.
Serious problems are only noted in Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader Districts in north-western Uganda, where civil insecurity continues to plague the population and mostly hinders agricultural activities. A large part of the population in these districts has fled their homes and lives in temporary camps with minimal access to fields.
Most displaced families still depend on food aid supplied by the World Food Programme (WFP) for a large portion of their food needs. For instance, reports from the field indicate that displaced people in Gulu District access only 25 percent of their food needs from harvests and other sources, including labour sales, FEWS reports.
Despite strong efforts by WFP and other humanitarian organisations operating in northern Uganda, "food security remains precarious," FEWS concludes. Due to ongoing fighting and rebel attacks on civilians and on the infrastructure, road access to the region is also limited.
- In addition, income opportunities are limited, FEWS reports from northern Uganda. "There are few labour opportunities, and people obtain cash mainly by selling fuel wood and charcoal, which bring them little money in relation to their needs, particularly given the high staple prices."
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