Using Cross-generational Dialogue to engage Youths in conserving and promoting the NUS
Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS) play an essential role in strengthening Uganda’s food and nutritional security and buffer economic and social shocks that might hit the population due to focusing on fewer crops. ESAFF Uganda is implementing the SD=HS program with different pillars, including Pillar 3, which focuses on strengthening communities' coping strategies by increasing the intake of nutritious food based on local biodiversity and improved NUS management. Under this pillar, different activities are implemented, including organizing Cross-generational Dialogues.
The Cross-generational Dialogue is a multi-demographic conversation that brings together key stakeholders like the elders and the youths to discuss the role and usage of the NUS in fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition in Uganda. Because youths are less engaged in agriculture, the Cross-generational dialogues are very resourceful in helping them cope with hunger and malnutrition especially amidst the rampant climate change.
Besides, addressing food security, poverty and malnutrition in the community, NUS contributes to improving nutrition, generating income, maintaining ecosystem health, empowering the poor and marginalized, and promoting cultural diversity. In Uganda, traditional knowledge about NUS, which is essential for its conservation and preservation, is held by the older generation. The recent population census shows that Uganda is the world’s second youngest country globally with a median age of 15. Yet, most youths lack adequate information about NUS and its importance. To sustain NUS's role in Uganda’s food system, the young generation needs to be empowered with knowledge and resources to protect and conserve the NUS.
“The elders should not abandon us; we are stronger generation and all we need is support and knowledge on how to handle our local diversity.” Obura Papias, youth small-scale farmers from Apac district.
Cross-generational dialogues are conducted through round table discussions, storytelling traditional songs and skits, most the local food plants have stories related to the different activities like harvesting, preparation, among others. Local level policy sessions are conducted where different stakeholders discuss the role of government in the conservation and preservation of the NUS. These kinds of sessions have played a big role in changing the mindset of the youths from looking at NUS as a poor man’s food to appreciating their contribution in fighting against poverty, hunger and malnutrition in the communities. Cross-generational dialogues are fundamental in building a collaborative movement of different stakeholders who are actively contributing to addressing challenges, needs and opportunities related to promoting NUS at local and national levels. There has been an increased understanding of NUS across all generations because of the open discussions during the Cross-generational Dialogues Often times, the cross-generational dialogues are organized with cookery demonstrations that enable participants to gain both practical and theoretical knowledge on the preparation of the different local food plants.
“Most of the local foods are tactile to prepare, showcasing the preparation procedures to the young generation is mandatory. This is the only way they can learn to get the actual values of these foods.” Achan Winifred a small-scale farmer from Amuria district.
The communities have appreciated the cross-generational dialogues and there is an evident increase uptake of the NUS considering their nutritional and medicinal values. Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, many communities resorted to the NUS, as they are famous for boosting the body’s immunity to fight against diseases. Medical personals have also encouraged communities to consume local food due to their nutritional values. However, much as the cross-generational dialogues promote knowledge sharing, this knowledge is not documented and might be lost overtime. ESAFF Uganda calls on researchers and policy makers to support small-scale farmers to popularize the NUS and document the uses of these local food plants; this will help the youths have access to traditional information about the local food plants.