This science café was held at the Tooro Botanical Gardens (TBG) on 15th May 2018 and participants included 10 teachers, 15 farmers, 10 food vendors, 8 farm workers and 2 transporters.
At the start, participants were asked to write down their expectations around the topic of "eating right", what they considered as key drivers and catalysts of malnutrition and why most people in town were increasingly abandoning traditional nutritious foods for junk fast foods. This was followed by expert presentations on the theme:
- Professor Edward Rugumayo gave a detailed presentation on eating good quality food with emphasis on an affordable and accessible balanced diet
- Alex Kahwa from the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda presented on using kitchen gardening to fight malnutrition
- Godfrey Ruyonga presented on the effects of malnutrition on the economy and education
Photo credit: Tooro Botanical Gardens
The presentations were followed by a question and answer session, an open discussion on the topics presented and an evaluation of the café by the audience.
After the meeting, participants were taken to TBG’s practical training centre to have a hands-on experience of what was discussed in the café. Participants made a healthy meal from what they harvested from the BigPicnic demonstration garden/practical training centre.
The purpose of the activity was to share information about eating good quality food for better health and increased productivity. It was aimed at making participants:
- Aware of valuable foods in our communities that are neglected but very important in our diet
- Able to identify nutritious, affordable and easily-accessible foods
- Think about the way forward for sustainable, organic production of such foods amidst a growing trend of increasing production of tea and other commercial cash crops.
Generally the activity was successful and by the end of the meeting all participants unanimously agreed that all the foods needed to have a balanced diet were available in the community and affordable by almost everyone in Fort Portal.
The only challenge was misunderstanding of the right food for a balanced diet, not utilising the small available spaces in homes to plant organic vegetables and choosing "modern" fast foods over nutritious traditional ones that are seen as inferior and left for the low-income earners.
Participants appreciated the initiatives and resolved to promote what they had learnt to fight malnutrition and increase productivity, community health and school performance. From shared experiences, we were able to identify the commonly-available food combinations that can result in daily balanced diets for homes and schools. Appropriate organic kitchen/backyard gardening for different homes to promote food security in homes was designed based on examples from similar projects and personal experiences. Reliable sources of quality planting materials were also identified.
It was resolved that a team of experts and community members should present this information on different radio stations to reach a bigger number of people and visit schools and other institutions for similar debates. Another science café with based around a similar topic is to be organised in two months’ time.