Food Habits of Uganda

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Nutrition transition

Which changes occurred in Uganda's diet?

Uganda is one of the three countries of East Africa which is in a process of transition between traditional and modern lifestyles. The population of the developing country is dispersed by different ethnic, ecological and economical backgrounds. (Oniango, 1999) Early European travellers reported that the Africans had a good diet. A variety of healthy eating habits was observed, several indigenous green leafy vegetables were eaten and millet which is more nutritious compared to other grains was much more common.

The changes in food patterns have been examined by Allen (Allen, 1955), Burgess (Burgess, 1962), Latham (Latham, 1964) and Laurie (Laurie, 1954) and reported upon by the committee on nutrition in the colonial empire (Attems, 1969) and the ministry of health, Entebbe (Bell, 1955). Millet and sorghum were diminishing and got replaced by white maize and cassava. Instead of the wild green leaves more European vegetables were consumed. The traditional thin porridge (made out of the flour of cooking bananas or grains) named "Uji" which was consumed for breakfast was more and more replaced by tea. Furthermore it could be noticed that more foods have been bought for consumption and that food taboos disappeared. (Allen, 1955; Burgess, 1962; Latham, 1964; Laurie et al., 1954)

In the 1950s Uganda was inhabited by over 6.5 million people and belonged to at least 35 different ethnical groups. (Jelliffe, 1964) Generally it was blessed with rainfall, fair soil, abundant sunshine and plenty of land in relation to existing population and famines have been rare during that period of time. Although food shortages were already common in former times, a wide range of food crops were available including several grains, roots, tubers and plantains. (Cleave, 1968) Information on food intakes of the past showed that there was enough food available for the East African population and that poor distribution was one of the major problems. (Allen, 1955)

Changes in diet and food habits occur all over Africa, especially in the urban areas. The diet in northern parts of Uganda for example which consisted of legumes, cereals (millet, sorghum), groundnuts, wild green leafy vegetables and sesame seeds was replaced by maize (corn), greens and "WFP" (Foods provided by the WORLD FOOD PROGRAM) foods in the most insecure areas.


  • Millet porridge with a sesame/ nut paste sauce
  • Beans with peanut paste sauce
  • Fish with sesame paste sauce

These dishes got replaced by more "westernized" foods, in particular through food items high in saturated fat when available. In areas of high insecurity through wars or natural disasters the WORLD FOOD PROGRAM (WFP) of the United Nations provide the following food items:

WFP - foods for food aid

Source: Ernest Mutanga, WFP team, Kampala, Uganda (26.10.2005)

  • Sorghum or Maize
  • Lentils or beans with vegetable oil
  • Corn Soy Blend (a vitamin and mineral fortified mixture of corn and soy, known as Corn Soy Blend, Annually, the U.S. provides over 250,000 metric tons of CSB as food aid.)


  • Cereals: Maize, millet and sorghum
  • Root crops: Sweet Potatoes, Cassava and to a very limited extent yams
  • Pulses: Beans (different types), Pigeon peas, cow peas, green grams
  • Oil crops: Sim-sim (sesame), ground nuts, sunflower
  • Additional crops: cucumbers, pumpkins, okra etc.

    Oniango, R. K. (1999). "Food habits in Kenya: The effects of change and attendant methodological problems." Appetite 32: 93-96.
    Allen, K. W. (1955). "The monotonous diet of the African." E.A. Med J 32: 95. Burgess, H. J. L. (1962). "Protein-calorie malnutrition in Uganda, II-Busoga District, III-Bukedi District, IV-Bugisu District, V-Ankole district." E.A. Med J 39.
    Latham, M. C. (1964). "Malnutrition in East Africa." J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 67: 90.
    Laurie, W. a. H. T. (1954). "A health survey in Kwimba District, Tanganyika." East African Medical Survey. Monograph, East African High Comission. No. 3.
    Attems, M. G. (1969). The Shambala system of agriculture, (Usambara). Institute für Wirtschaftsforschung, München Afrika Studien, Weltforum Verlag München.: 179.
    Bell, S. (1955). "The Ameru people of Kenya." J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 58: 223, 249, 281.
    Jelliffe, D. B., B. F. J, et al. (1964). "Ecology of childhood disease in the Karamojong in Uganda." Archives of environmental health 9: 25-36.
    Cleave, J. H. (1968). "Food consumption in Uganda." E.A. Med J I: 70.

Created by Verena Raschke 2005 / Contact