“Orugali”. Safeguarding and promoting traditional diets for improved nutrition in the Tooro Sub Region


By Francis Musinguzi, Information, Research and Communication, KRC Uganda.

What is Orugali?

The etymology of the word “Orugali” is traced in the Rutooro-Runyoro dialects meaning a large traditional plate that was made from local materials, such as papyrus, finger-millet stems and other plant materials. In the traditions of the people of Tooro and Bunyoro, Orugali was used to serve diverse foods to a large family. Orugali symbolised food diversity and a strong family fabric of eating and sharing together. According to Robinah, KRC’s Food Ambassador and Proprietor Rwenzori Travellers’ Inn in Fort Portal, she recollects her childhood experience of Orugali and reminisces that it was a good arrangement where parents monitored the eating habits of their children.

Why Orugali campaign?

The Tooro sub region is famous for its rich food culture, characteristic of a diversity of nutrient dense foods. Yet, in total contradiction, the region contributes the highest burden of stunting at 40.6% among children under five years, higher than the national average of 29% (UDHS, 2016). These findings define the context of KRC Uganda’s nutrition programming, aimed at reducing the burden of malnutrition. Some of the underlying factors for the contradiction between food availability and malnutrition include:

  • Lack of knowledge among households on nutrition especially on how to utilise the food available to meet the dietary needs of the family members
  • Lost knowledge on healthy cooking methods. This knowledge has been lost through generations and the younger generation is now influenced by new wave of fast foods promoted in new media
  • Reducing biodiversity which ultimately leads to disappearance of valuable food products to accentuate healthy diets. In many households, availability of food is now characterised by monotony of staples, for instance banana and cassava
  • Poor processing of foods that lead to loss of valuable nutrients and sometimes expose food to contamination because of poor handling and use of hazardous processing gear

Excessive nutrient mining. A study on the food system of Kabarole District in 2016, revealed that per 100 trucks of matooke bunches that reach Kampala every day deplete 1.5 million kg of potassium and 0.5 million kg of magnesium from the rural soils, annually. The study further reveals that larger losses of nutrients from Kabarole’s soils are caused by leaching and erosion due to poor soil management. A study published in 2000 by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) estimated that typical Kabarole soils lose 105 kg of nitrogen per hectare each year from leaching and 55 kg of phosphorous from soil erosion. In sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda is among the countries most severely affected by nutrient mining (Bill Vorley, 2017). Soil mining is one of the contributors to micro-nutrient deficiencies in the population.

In order to localise the food security and nutrition campaign, KRC initiated the Orugali food fest, as communication campaign to highlight the regional malnutrition problem and the urgency to address it. The Orugali campaign has heralded our institutional focus for food security and nutrition programming since 2014. It seeks to change attitudes and feeding practices in the local population through a protracted conversation on food and nutrition.

How Orugali sessions are conducted

  • Orugali food fests are held at household level where 20-50 people from the community attend. Diverse and nutritious foods are prepared by a host family for every-one in attendance to consume. This group also uses traditional cooking methods that preserve the food’s nutritious value and ensure that the food is safe. After the meal, discussions are held on the importance of food diversity and food choices and what it means for healthy living. Families are reminded of how possible and important it is to eat different nutritious food even on low budgets. Other topics explored include re-generating soil fertility, kitchen gardening, water and sanitation including the role of leadership in improving the local food system.
  • At institutional level or events, Orugali fests are conducted to influence the corporate people towards health diets. Conversations on healthy living are facilitated by KRC’s nutrition experts, who also conduct screening for malnutrition, provides counselling and dietary therapy for those who request for it.
  • Orugali sessions are also conducted across the media, on television and YouTube where educative videos are posted on how to prepare some of the celebrated traditional recipes, such as Sombe, Pumpkin, Ferinda and many more.

The Orugali concept is credited to have inspired the hotel industry in Fort Portal, where a number of restaurants have introduced Orugali on their menu, serving diverse traditional foods known to have healthier nutritional benefits.

References

Bill Vorley, 2017. Uganda Food Change Lab: Planning for the future food system of Kabarole District. International Institute for Environment and Development. London

Uganda Bureau of Statistics – UBOS and ICF. 2018. Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2016. Kampala, Uganda and Rockville, Maryland, USA: UBOS and ICF