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Agriculture Remain the Backbone of Uganda’s Economy

The threshold number of people needing to be fed by 2050 is a challenge to the world. In many sub-Saharan African countries, agricultural development is key to accelerating economic development and overcoming poverty. 

Poverty in Uganda remains mainly a rural phenomenon, with 34 per cent of the rural population living below the national poverty line. The agriculture sector accounts for about 15 per cent of GDP and employs around 75 per cent of the labour force, a number that is increasing as the population grows.

Over the last decade, Uganda’s agricultural output has generally been declining yet the population is rapidly growing. The country’s  abundant agricultural resources offer many opportunities for investment in agricultural production and agro-processing, as well as for trade in agricultural inputs and products.

Economic Development

The GDP from Agriculture in Uganda averaged 3001.83 UGX Billion from 2008 until 2019, reaching an all time high of 6880.74 UGX Billion in the third quarter of 2019 and a record low of 1994.51 UGX Billion in the first quarter of 2008.

While the East African country’s economy reported strong growth in 2019, estimated at 6.3%, largely driven by the expansion of services. Services’ growth averaged 7.6% in 2019, and industrial growth 6.2%, driven by construction and mining. Agriculture grew at just 3.8%. Construction, retail, and telecommunications were key economic drivers.

Endowed with a warm climate, ample fertile land and regular rainfall, Uganda, provide one of the best environments for agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda’s favourable soil conditions and climate have contributed to the country’s agricultural success in the past.

As most areas of Uganda have usually received plenty of rain. In some years, small areas of the southeast and southwest have averaged more than 150 millimetres per month. However, Northern Uganda has to increase the resilience to climate change for poor farmers in that area in order to increase their incomes.

Although, agriculture remains the major source of livelihood with most living in rural areas, employing two-thirds of the labour force and providing approximately half of export earnings for the country’s population. The Ugandan population is to a large extent comprised of a high and increasing cohort of young people, close to 78 percent of the population is below the age of thirty. The sector in Uganda is dominated by smallholder farmers and many small (up to 50 workers) traders and processors.

Challenges in Agricultural Sector

In 2019, about two in three Ugandans said they could not afford food at times in the past year. Heavy rainfall in areas of Uganda in 2019 disrupted agriculture and infrastructure, further adding to residents’ difficulties in affording food.
While, youth engagement in agriculture is declining amidst rising youth unemployment.

The major challenges to the agricultural sector in Uganda as being low commercial, agricultural levels, lack of linkage between research and farmers, low use of fertilizers, low coverage of irrigation, land fragmentation, low level of value added, high cost of finance, lack of agricultural machinery, vectors and diseases, and poor transport network.

As a swarm of desert locusts continues to invade Uganda from neighbouring Kenya has increased food insecurity. Also, the prices of food have gone up as a result of food scarcity in the consumer price index basket.

Bottom Line

For agriculture to remain the most important pathway out of poverty for the majority of Ugandans. This will be achieved if the government and relevant stakeholders work with agricultural businesses to supply farmers with cheaper, better and more varied agricultural inputs and services, and to create stronger markets for farm produce.

The adoption of modern irrigation practices will help to increase agricultural production in Uganda. The yields of irrigated crops are expected to be two to three times higher. It helps to utilize the land for agriculture. As a result, diversification of crops like corn, beans, peas and so on can be harvested in Northern part of the country. Making the right adjustments now will be critical to realize the Vision 2040 and this will increase youth engagements in exploring entrepreneurship in this sustainable sector.

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