In Uganda, everybody (sic) is a farmer!

By Kennedy O’Shea – Research Associate

The Ugandan agricultural sector employs roughly 70% of the country’s total population.  This is because Uganda’s climate and fertile agricultural land allow for a profitable food and cash crop industry, both within the country and as exports.  The main agricultural crops that are grown in Uganda include grains, sugarcane, tea, cotton, and coffee, with coffee accounting for roughly 20% of total export earnings and a third of foreign exchange earnings.  Because of this, Uganda’s agricultural potential for investors has been deemed to be among the best in Africa. It has been estimated that the land available for agricultural uses has the potential to feed 200 million people, perhaps more.  

While a rising population and growing incomes nationwide are steadily increasing the demand for food and agricultural products, there is a historically low rate of technological adoption, which makes it difficult for Ugandan farmers to achieve their full profit potential.   One such instance arises in the case of the widespread lack of use of irrigation technologies by cash crop farmers. Because Uganda has two rainy seasons, which leads to multiple harvests in a single year, farmers are able to be totally dependent on rain, and are thus hesitant to invest in irrigation technologies because they see no real need for them.  However, as extreme climatic events become more frequent, there will be significant, visible implications for water resources and the sustainability of infrastructure and food security.

In recent years, there has been a substantial boom in domestic and regional demand for higher-value foods.  This trend arises from income growth, urbanization, and dietary shifts, and these changes offer massive opportunities for Ugandan farmers to change their practices in ways that will make their businesses more profitable.  Some of these changes could include larger financial investments, more efficient farming methods and technologies, and the implementation of innovative, climate-smart practices. 3.95 million households, roughly 60% of Uganda’s population, produce more than 95% of the country’s food and cash crops.  This represents a massive population that, if properly supported and equipped within their sectors of the agricultural industry, could contribute to a substantial nationwide shift in the economic standing of Uganda.

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