Congratulations to Kaitlin Patterson on her publication in Public Health Nutrition! Her article examines the sensitivity of the food system of an Indigenous African population, the Batwa of Kanungu District, Uganda, to seasonal variation. She used mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to characterize one of the highest food insecure populations in the published literature. Her results are being used by local Ugandan NGOs to prioritize development-related decision making in the region. Access the article here (free, open-access).
Climate change is projected to increase the burden of food insecurity (FI) globally, particularly among populations that depend on subsistence agriculture. The impacts of climate change will have disproportionate effects on populations with higher existing vulnerability. Indigenous people consistently experience higher levels of FI than their non-Indigenous counterparts and are more likely to be dependent upon land-based resources. The present study aimed to understand the sensitivity of the food system of an Indigenous African population, the Batwa of Kanungu District, Uganda, to seasonal variation. A concurrent, mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) design was used. Six cross-sectional retrospective surveys, conducted between January 2013 and April 2014, provided quantitative data to examine the seasonal variation of self-reported household FI. This was complemented by qualitative data from focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews collected between June and August 2014. Ten rural Indigenous communities in Kanungu District, Uganda. FI data were collected from 130 Indigenous Batwa Pygmy households. Qualitative methods involved Batwa community members, local key informants, health workers and governmental representatives. The dry season was associated with increased FI among the Batwa in the quantitative surveys and in the qualitative interviews. During the dry season, the majority of Batwa households reported greater difficulty in acquiring sufficient quantities and quality of food. However, the qualitative data indicated that the effect of seasonal variation on FI was modified by employment, wealth and community location. These findings highlight the role social factors play in mediating seasonal impacts on FI and support calls to treat climate associations with health outcomes as non-stationary and mediated by social sensitivity.
Keywords: Seasonal variation, Food security, Indigenous populations, Social determinants of health, Mixed methods