Agriculture is an important sector given the role it plays within the country’s economy. It employs over 80[1] percent of Uganda’s population; the sole source of food for Ugandan population; and has forward and backward linkages with other sectors of the economy. The sector contributes about 21 percent to the country’s GDP and expanded by 1.3% in FY 2016/17, lower than previous years due to prolonged drought that affected many parts of the country.

Characteristics of agriculture

  1. Predominantly subsistence;
  2. Prone to vagaries of weather (droughts, floods, pests and diseases);
  3. Uses rudimental tools (lack of up to date technology);
  4. Less or no application of scientific methods; 

Following the above characteristics, there in need for commercialized Agriculture in order to increase agricultural production and productivity along the value chains. Improving the sector’s productive capacity would benefit agriculture dependent population for better livelihood, as well as contributing to economic development. In FY 2015/16, commercialization of agriculture remained low, with only about 119,000 million farming households, equivalent to 2.3 per cent of the 5.2 million farming households engaged in commercial farming. The household reliance on subsistence farming rose from 68 percent in 2002 to 69 percent in 2014.

Challenges in the Agricultural Sector

The sector’s performance in regard to production and productivity, food and nutrition security has not been satisfactory mainly due to:

  1. Slow technological innovations and adoption;
  2. inadequate management of pests and diseases;
  3. Limited access to land and agricultural financing;
  4. Weak agricultural extension system, as well as over dependency on rain-fed agriculture. 

All these render agriculture highly vulnerable to exogenous shocks including low prices and climatic changes, which ultimately reduce the welfare of households. There is need to enhance technological innovation and adoption especially among women since they constitute over 77% of the total agricultural labour force[2].

Migitating the above challenges requires Government to re-focus on implementing value chain approaches for selected agro-outputs such as; Cotton, Coffee, Tea, Maize, Rice, Cassava, Beans, Fish, Beef, Milk, Citrus and Bananas among others. This would help to create productive employment opportunities along the entire commodity value chain of input provision, production, storage, processing and marketing. In the FY 2016/17, the sector’s budget increased by 65 percent (from Shs. 343.46 billion to Shs. 823.42 billion). This was aimed at increasing production and productivity, household food security, farmers’ income and value of exports.

Pertinent to this, in a bid to reduce reliance on rain-fed agriculture, Government completed rehabilitation of four large irrigation scheme projects such as; Olweny irrigation scheme (Lira district); Agoro irrigation scheme (Lawmo district); Doho rice irrigation scheme (Butaleja district) and Mubuku irrigation settlement scheme (Kasese district). Over the medium term, government will continue to invest in the construction of new and rehabilitation of both large and small scale irrigation schemes across the country. Furthermore, in order to enhance water for production, government is determined to increase cumulative storage from the current 7.8 to 55 million cubic metres by 2020.

Government’s focus on the agricultural sector

According to the second National Development Plan (NDPII), Agriculture is prioritized as a key growth opportunity and investment area with the greatest multiplier effect in the economy. To that effect, the ultimate objective of government in the sector is to increase production and productivity in order for her growing population to obtain more agricultural outputs in the higher value occupations.  

Government through NDP II is dedicated to achieve three core projects, which include; Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP); Markets & Agriculture Trade Improvement Project (MATIP II) andFarm Income Enhancement and Forest Conservation II project.

  1. The Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP); aims to raise productivity, production, and commercialization of selected agricultural commodities in specified clusters of districts across the country. The project will be piloted in five districts in five different clusters covering 30,000 farming households in the first year beginning with five crops; maize, rice, beans, cassava and coffee, and later on rolled out in subsequent years to all the 42 districts in 12 clusters covering 450,000 farming households. The project became active in January 2017.
  2. The Markets & Agriculture Trade Improvement Project (MATIP II, aims to provide a link between the rural and urban markets in the country in order to expand the commodity value chain. The project is being implemented in a second phase, the first phase having been completed in FY 2015/16 under which 7 urban markets were constructed; Lira, Jinja, Mbale, Wandegeya, Hoima, Gulu and Mpanga markets. The second phase is currently ongoing under which 11 new modern markets will be constructed in Busia, Tororo, Soroti, Arua, Kasese, Mbarara, Kitgum, Masaka, Moroto, Lugazi and wakiso (Entebbe) districts.
  3. The Farm Income Enhancement and Forest Conservation II, aims to improve household incomes, food security and climate resilience through development of agricultural infrastructure. The project is currently in startup phase, and is to be implemented over a five year period in five districts where proposed irrigation schemes are located; Nebbi, Oyam, Butaleja, Kween and Kasese districts.

In FY 2017/18, government will focus on the following interventions:

  1. Strengthening of the Operation Wealth Creation  (OWC) Programme to increase access to quality farm inputs, specifically fertilizers in order to address the issues of soil fertility, quality of seedlings and animal breeds, backed by research and development in draught resistant and fast maturing seeds and planting materials;
  2. Improving the control of pests and diseases especially in the highest drought affected districts, and where there are reported high incidences of crop and animal pests and diseases;
  3. Ensuring the availability of water for production by investing in bulk water schemes on major lakes and rivers, on-farm valley tanks for households in districts that are severely water stressed, promoting use of solar water pumps for irrigation by setting up a small-scale solar powered underground and surface water irrigation systems at sub-county level using farmers/farmer groups per sub-county, providing portable water pumps to be shared between at least 10 neighboring households and addressing climate change through promotion of tree planting with emphasis on appropriate species for protection and conservation;
  4. Strengthening policy and regulations to improve standards of inputs and agricultural products;
  5. Support farmers with appropriate farm power such as tractors of appropriate capacity at sub-county level at subsidized rates to increase the efficiency in land opening.
  6. Enhancing post-harvest handling through investment in adequate storage facilities including cold chain storage infrastructure using PPPs, establishment of granaries at the household level and silos at sub-county level, and, revival of the cooperative societies to provide storage facilities at various levels.
  7. Strengthening of the Agricultural Extension system to improve agronomic practices at the farm level;

[1] Uganda National Housing and Population Census; UBoS, 2014

[2] The second National Development Plan (NDP II)