MARACHA. A nutrition and food security project in its second year of implementation is steadily curbing malnutrition in Maracha district, officials have said.

Maracha was one of the 12 districts selected to pilot the Uganda multi-sectoral food security and nutrition (UMSFN) project after finding that it had one of the highest population of malnourished people in the whole country.

The other districts implementing the five-year project are Arua, Bushenyi, Bugiri, Iganga, Isingiro, Kabale, Kasese and Kiryadongo. The others are Kyenjojo, Namutumba, Nebbi and Yumbe.

The project funded by the World Bank under the auspices of the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan aims to address stunting among school children seen as a key driver of poor performance in schools.

As part of the activities, a one-acre demonstration plot is established in each participating primary school, community sensitisation, parent group formation and lead farmer demonstration farms for micro-nutrient rich crops are promoted.

The main project crops are the new orange flesh sweet potatoes, iron rich NAROBEAN varieties and cowpeas among other vegetables.

Cow peas garden

Mr Sunday Cadribo, the Maracha district health educator said as a result of the project they scored significant gains in improving nutrition among the children in the first 1,000 days (from birth to two years).

Mr Cadribo said they have advised the people in the district to eat three color foods that include white foods (grow foods or proteins) for body building, yellow foods and fried foods that are termed as go foods to give energy and greens that give vitamins which aid rapid metabolism process in the body to make sure that deficiency diseases are eliminated.

Under the project the malnourished children are identified by the Village Health Team members (VHTs) in the communities and transferred to Maracha hospital nutrition unit.

He noted that stunted growths, Vitamin A drugs and de-worming tablets that were administered among the school going age children have reduced since the commencement of the project implementation.

He also said the low birth weights have reduced from 352 to 246 children in the one year due to promotion of better nutrition among expectant mothers.

Mr Alfred Munguleni, the Maracha district Agriculture officer said the project is implemented by three sectors which include agriculture, education and health to ensure that a well fed child grows with healthy mind to receive quality education.

He notes that under the production sector they are promoting growth of all types of greens, orange sweet potatoes and beans which are rich in vitamins in 69 schools in the district managed by 60 parents in demonstration gardens.

They also organized field days to demonstrate best practices in planting and cooking the greens in which they trained the farmers to use containers and kitchen gardens to produce greens throughout the year and to take farming as a business to boost income levels.

Mr Lawrence Nyakuta, the head teacher of Olivu primary school said the program has opened the eyes of stakeholders to feed the children both from home and at the school.

He said the crop varieties being promoted under the UMSFN are high yielding that they would satisfy the needs of the members of the community who have small plots of land to feed their families better.

The district education officer Mrs Flavia Osoa expressed confidence that the project would achieve its ultimate objective saying those at the forefront implementing the project received adequate training to manage their demonstration gardens.

Mrs Osoa said they have also acquired cooking utensils and built energy serving stoves to promote school feeding program in all the schools in Maracha district.