Nabuuma discussing with a mother the growth and nutrition of her child following growth monitoring.
Working with Bioversity International, Deborah Nabuuma travels to five countries across East and Central Africa promoting the cultivation of Vitamin A rich bananas. The project aims to introduce healthier varieties of bananas to farmers in the regions to supplement their diets thus preventing malnutrition. After witnessing the benefits of the scheme across the borders, she decided to assist the organization in implementing a similar subproject locally under the name agrobiodiversity. “I realised I needed to spread my wings. That is when I started working with farmers in Kiboga District, in Uganda, on a new project”, says Nabuuma. Through this plan, Nabuuma helps the farmers identify the different banana varieties, trains them on the benefits of each type of banana, and demonstrates how banana fields should be managed.
Nabuuma’s fascination with nutrition goes back to her student days when she was studying food science and technology as an undergraduate. Upon completion of her degree, she worked briefly in a Ugandan hospital where she got an up close and personal exposure to the state of the effects of malnutrition, especially Vitamin A deficiency in women and children. This experience strengthened her resolve to finding solutions to improved sustenance. She says, “Because the banana is a staple food in Uganda, I realized that it was the vehicle that had the most potential to help provide solutions to vitamin A deficiency.”
The banana is ubiquitous to Uganda. Banana trees are found in almost every household and the country’s lush countryside hosts vast plantations of the crop. Uganda’s per capita consumption is estimated between 220-460Kg-the highest in the world!
Nabuuma notes that even though the Vitamin A project has picked up among the farmers, it still faces a major challenge in the Ugandan economy. “These types of bananas are richer in Vitamin A and are not as popular in the market as the other regular varieties. Their taste is different, it is not what people are used to, that is why some people tend to shy away from them”, she explains.
Nevertheless, Nabuuma is delighted in the fact that despite the challenges, she is still motivated and is ready to impart more knowledge to farmers. “To see the trainers eager to learn more and share with the farmers what they have learnt every time we conduct trainings, makes my work worthwhile and empowering”, she states.
Nabuuma maintains that creating opportunities and possibilities out of every situation is a step towards molding a brighter future in agriculture for the next generation. During her role modeling event at a local school, she titled her theme, I too can make it, to suit her young audience. She explains, “It is important to involve the young in development matters. I talk to students about setting goals and the challenges they may encounter when mapping individual career paths, especially in the field of agriculture.”
Download: Deborah Nabuuma, 2014 AWARD Fellow, Uganda