MAAIF CHIEF LIVESTOCK SCIENTIST TELLS WHAT M7 GOV’T MUST DO TO BOOST CITIZENS’ IMMUNITY AGAINST COVID AMIND MALNUTRITION FEARS

Corroborating on what Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said from day one, Dr. Kizza Besigye has repeatedly preached the need for the economically-vulnerable citizens to be supported and enabled to improve their diet and as a result boost their immunity to the levels required to successfully fight off Coronavirus in case they get exposed to the very unforgiving virus that has thrown the entire world into unprecedented chaos.

But in an insightful paper, Dr. Charles Lagul who heads NAGRC the government agency charged with preservation and multiplication of livestock genetics and breeds has made robust proposals on how the GoU can leverage on the livestock resources to address food security concerns and household constraints that are preventing families from feeding well enough, avoiding malnourishment and subsequently boosting their immunity. The National Animal Genetic Resources Center & Data Bank (NAGRC & DB), which he heads, is the Agriculture Ministry (MAAIF) agency charged with supporting households to have better livelihood through undertaking a range of livestock farming activities all aimed at boosting incomes and food security.

The home-based farming enterprises Lagul says can be harnessed to earn a living during the COVID lockdown include zero-grazing of cattle, goat keeping, bee keeping, pasture development, fish farming, rabbit keeping, piggery and poultry. Gratefully, these are farming enterprises that NAGRC has been supporting across the country. Lagul encourages Ugandans to raise their livestock-related queries or concerns to the NAGRC secretariat through 0414320831/0782799753/0773790707. For emailing purposes, the NAGRC secretariat is reachable through nagr.dbuganda@gmail.com.

THE DETAILS
In his paper, Lagul makes submissions on many things including proposing urgent establishment of the Food Security Strategy Group (NCFSG) which can closely work with concerned government authorities to ensure the negative consequences COVID-19 could have for food security are studied and comprehensively mitigated. He says, because people are locked down at home without active participation in economic activities, the number of Ugandans below the poverty line (basically living on subsistence with no participation in the money economy) will most likely expand as a result of the COVID pandemic. Lagul fears that the COVID-related constraints will soon lead to food stores becoming depleted leading to food shortages; culminating into mortalities induced by poverty and malnourishment.

That many of the low-income Ugandans that were beginning to progress against poverty will most likely sink back below the poverty line. Quoting a recent USAID study, Lagul asserts that households involved in livestock farming are more likely to survive slipping back into extreme poverty than those that are not. That those involved in simple practices like poultry, rabbit-keeping, sheep and goat rearing tend to have stronger insurance in periods of economic decline than those who are not.

Lagul observes that whereas government has so far done well on the anti-COVID medical interventions, the NCFSG should be prioritized to spearhead the thinking process into ensuring there are robust programs to achieve food security while placating household incomes during and after the COVID pandemic. He proposes that to ensure the ideas incubated from the NCFSG efforts are comprehensive and agreeable to all, NCFSG membership should comprise of representatives from GoU agencies, CSOs and private sector. That this group should be mandated with making comprehensive proposals on how the livestock sub sector can be leveraged upon to sustainably achieve food security while placating household incomes. That the interventions suggested should guide in the short, medium and long term period.

Lagul then shares some figures to illustrate why something needs to be urgently done to ensure Ugandans engage in appropriate nutrition practices. Quoting UBOS reports, Lagul discloses that currently every Ugandan on average consumes 62 liters of milk per year and 6 kgs of beef respectively against the 200 liters and 50 kgs that WHO and FAO recommend as appropriate. That it’s ideal and recommended by both WHO and FAO that every human being at least accesses and eats one egg per day.

He says being the mandated government agency on livestock matters, NAGRC has in place Livestock Experimental Stations, Bull Stud at Entebbe and stock farms in different parts of the country namely Bulambuli, Aswa, Maruzi and others in districts like Kayunga, Kamuli, Bunyangabu and Kiruhura just to mention a few. He commends government for categorizing NAGRC under essential services enabling his staff to continue operating through this COVID period to ensure the livestock
at the different NAGRC farms continue to grazed, fed, watered and treated in case they are sick.

He also outlines things and interventions NAGRC has capacity to keep doing to support livestock farmers to ensure they remain resilient through the COVID period in the short, medium and long term period. The possible areas of support or NAGRRC intervention include enhancing production, productivity, market development and trade facilitation capabilities. That the NCFSG can, closely working with NAGRC, pick out lessons to comprehensively guide on the restructuring of the animal resources sub sector to ensure it’s much more resilient in case COVID-like calamities ever occur again in future.

Lagul discloses that in the short term, NAGRC has the capacity to support youths, women and PWDs groups into rabbit-keeping to enable some resilience through this COVID period. That interventions targeting the same interest groups can as well be undertaken in poultry which, just like rabbitry, doesn’t require much time. That in
the short term, these interventions can ensure families have access to eggs to feed nutritiously besides selling to earn some income. Yet that isn’t all. He says in the medium term, the same groups can be supported into hay and silage production which they can sell to enable improved animal nutrition. There is also forage production which the women and youths can engage in during this COVID period and still earn some money. Other potential areas for the same groups include piggery, apiary/bee farming, aquaculture and cage farming. Lagul argues this will boost protein production to diminish imminent malnourishment of people in the low income communities.

In the long term, Lagul says NAGRC could be leveraged upon to support low income Ugandans into dairy farming, beef production and value addition into engagements like dairy, beef, poultry, pock and products’ production besides streamlining storage, supply chain and marketing practices. NAGRC can also leverage on technology to facilitate training of PWDs, women and children in best livestock farming and governance practices which is essential for deepening commercialization. That once the NCFSG is established and enabled to do an excellent job of spearheading complimentary thinking processes, the livestock sub sector will achieve the realization of it’s required contribution to national development as envisaged under NDP III. Relatedly, Vision 2040 envisages agro-industrialization which Lagul says must be consolidated through having NCFSG in place to ensure comprehensive interventions are originated from the livestock sub sector among other GoU sectors. That investing in food security will also help address gender concerns making Uganda more compliant to its international obligations because the consequences of food insecurity tend to affect females and the girl child more than males.

In the long term, Lagul says NAGRC could be leveraged upon to support low income Ugandans into dairy farming, beef production and value addition into engagements like dairy, beef, poultry, pock and products’ production besides streamlining storage, supply chain and marketing practices. NAGRC can also leverage on technology to facilitate training of PWDs, women and children in best livestock farming and governance practices which is essential for deepening commercialization. That once the NCFSG is established and enabled to do an excellent job of spearheading complimentary thinking processes, the livestock sub sector will achieve the realization of it’s required contribution to national development as envisaged under NDP III. Relatedly, Vision 2040 envisages agro-industrialization which Lagul says must be consolidated through having NCFSG in place to ensure comprehensive interventions are originated from the livestock sub sector among other GoU sectors. That investing in food security will also help address gender concerns making Uganda more compliant to its international obligations because the consequences of food insecurity tend to affect females and the girl child more than males.

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