December 10, 2014 | By Roger Thurow

Lunchtime in Uganda

This video and post originally appeared on the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.



Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days is vital for the growth of a child’s body and brain. Micronutrient deficiencies—lack of iron, zinc and essential vitamins—can lead to physical and mental stunting, which sentences a child to a life of underachievement.

Along with breastfeeding, particularly important is the complementary feeding of solid foods which begins when the child is around six months old. In northern Uganda, nurses and midwives spread the word about the importance of a diversified diet, rich in vegetables other than the staple corn.

Since most rural families can’t afford to eat meat more than once or twice a month, they rely on the vegetables and fruits that they grow themselves. The farmers in this area—most of them are women and moms—are fortunate, for they have begun cultivating orange-flesh sweet potatoes that are rich in Vitamin A and a bean variety with high iron content. These biofortified crops have been developed by HarvestPlus; through breeding, the nutrient elements already in plants are increased.

In this slideshow, we see Brenda Okullu putting these lessons into practice as she prepares lunch for her 15-month-old son Aron. She begins by walking to her fields to gather all she needs: orange sweet potatoes, the high-iron beans, green leaves from a pea plant, wild mushrooms and peanuts. She boils the sweet potatoes, beans and greens, chops up the mushrooms and grinds the peanuts for a sauce.

It is a healthy, colorful lunch for the entire family. For Aron, Brenda mashes the vegetables together in a bowl, leaving a few whole boiled sweet potatoes that he can pick up and chew. She washes Aron’s hands and then he digs in.

Roger’s international reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Archive

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At 6:30 this morning, as the sun was coming up, Sanet Biketi walked out of his small house made of mud and sticks.  Carrying a machete at his side, he headed straight to the edge of his maize field and said a prayer of thanksgiving for the arrival of harvest day.

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Harvest and Hunger

Two scenes from the great African paradox of surplus and shortage – feast and famine – in the same country.

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Empty Promises, Empty Stomachs

The promises made by the leaders of the rich world in L’Aquila, Italy, two years ago were supposed to stop what is now happening in the Horn of Africa. But those pledges haven’t been kept, and starvation is raging once again.

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Vision.  Strategy.  Tactics.

These were the priorities that emerged at my table during a discussion about the role of U.S. universities, government agencies, NGOs, foundations and the African diplomatic community in advancing African development.  

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The Nigerian ambassador to the U.S., Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, tells an acerbic joke to illustrate the importance of good leadership.

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This growing season in south-central Kenya has been a good test for the new drought tolerant maize varieties being bred in Africa.  This is a semi-arid area, but this year they can drop the semi.  Farmers report only three short periods of rain since the February planting time.

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Bill Gates came to the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security with a confession.  “I’ve never been a farmer,” he said.  “Until recently, I rarely set foot on farm.”

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Public Policy Matters

I enjoyed the great privilege of giving my first commencement speech on Sunday, to the graduating class of the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin.  I had eagerly anticipated the ceremony, knowing that the passion to shape a more just world inspires young policy makers as mightily as it fuels journalists.

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Something to Cut

With many words in this column, we have discussed what not to cut from the federal budget.  Namely, administration requests to fund agriculture development, especially in Africa, under the Feed the Future initiative and the Global Agriculture Food Security Program.

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Here is the Yin and the Yang of development aid spending: In the U.S., it is on the chopping block, threatened by budget cutters sharpening their knives; in China it is on an expansion course, favored by a government seeking to accumulate influence and riches in the developing world, particularly Africa.

Multimedia

Videos


 


Digital Preview of The First 1,000 Days

In his new book, The First 1,000 Days, Council senior fellow Roger Thurow illuminates the 1,000 Days initiative to end early childhood malnutrition through the compelling stories of new mothers in Uganda, India, Guatemala, and Chicago. Get a first-look at photos and stories from the book in this new web interactive.

» Learn more.
» Order your copy of the book.

Books

The First 1,000 Days

Roger Thurow’s book will tell the story of the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

The 1,000 days period is the crucial period of development, when malnutrition can have severe life-long impacts on the individual, the family and society as a whole. Nutritional deficiencies that occur during this time are often overlooked, resulting in a hidden hunger. It is a problem of great human and economic dimensions, impacting rich and poor countries alike.

Learn more »

The Last Hunger Season

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers' lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world's growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO's, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

Learn more »

EnoughEnough

Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers on Africa, development, and agriculture, see famine as the result of bad policies spanning the political spectrum. In this compelling investigative narrative, they explain through vivid human stories how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa, and how our sometimes well-intentioned strategies—alternating with ignorance and neglect—have conspired to keep the world’s poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves.

Learn more »