Understanding intra-community disparity in food and nutrition security in a generally food insecure part of eastern Africa
Food and nutrition insecurity continues to be one of the major development challenges in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions of the world. Karamoja sub-region, located in northern Uganda, is one of the poorest and most food insecure part of Eastern Africa. Previous studies have generalized the sub-region as food insecure. However, limited attention has been paid to locational differences in the food and nutrition security situation within this culturally and ecologically diverse part of the country. A crosssectional study design was used to examine at a community level, disparity in food and nutrition security situation among communities in Kotido and Moroto districts of the Karamoja sub-region. The study investigated the status of agricultural production, dietary habits and food security situation using individual household survey, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, household food insecurity access scale (HFIAS) and food insecurity coping strategy index (CSI). Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, and correlation and regression methods, at 5 % level of significance. The results showed that irrespective of ethnic differences, majority of households (78.8%) consumed less than 3 meals 24 hours preceding the interview. Generally, agricultural production was inadequate to support household food security and less than 30% of the households had adequate calorie intake. However, calorie intake adequacy was at least three (3) times higher in Kotido than in Moroto district. Plant foods were more frequently consumed than animal-source foods. At least 57% and 73% of households in Kotido and Moroto districts, respectively, never consumed fish. Food security was generally predicted by household size, ownership of food stores, occupation of household caregivers, number of livestock (especially goats) owned by households, time taken to fetch water (related to distance to water source) and sorghum production. Whereas it is generally known that Karamoja sub-region is highly food insecure, this study has demonstrated that communities in Moroto district are worse-off than those in Kotido district. Therefore, community-level characteristics ought to be an essential baseline consideration in designing food and nutrition interventions in Karamoja, and indeed in food insecure localities in general.
Keywords: Karamoja, Eastern Africa, dietary practices, coping strategies, animal source foods