During the World Food Day 2020 celebrations, which run under the theme ‘Grow. Nourish. Sustain. Together. Our Actions are our Future’, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries highlighted some of the initiatives it is undertaking to improve Uganda’s food basket.
While the country is largely food secure, with only 4.9 million people out of 35 million said to be insecure, a fast-growing population (expected to reach 100 million by 2050) and the presence of the world’s third-largest refugee population poses further challenges to its ability to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 on Zero Hunger.
“About 86% of the population in Uganda is food secure. This population still has normal access to food from own production and in the market following average harvests. Food prices in the market are fairly affordable,” the ministry says.
“Though food is largely available, food access and utilization are major limiting factors in Northern Uganda regions and minor limiting factors in other regions. This has been attributed to low level of incomes, storage, inadequate nutritional awareness, cultural food preferences, poor sanitary and food preparation practices and wastage of food during harvest periods due to festivities.”
To offset some of these challenges, the ministry working through its agency National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), agricultural development partners and farmer groups, is promoting the multiplication and diffusion of quick maturing, drought-tolerant and disease-free seeds and vegetative-propagated planting materials in order to improve farm yields.
“Management of key crop pests and diseases is also a key focus area of the ministry,” officials say.
The ministry has also put in place a number of initiatives such as a Value Chain addition project now being implemented with the support of the African Development Bank, to promote trade and access to markets by smallholder farmers.
With the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the ministry is also scaling the Farmer Field Schools (FFS) methodology in Uganda to provide vital agricultural skills, knowledge, and information to rural communities in disadvantaged regions of Uganda.
The duo recently announced the launch of the second round of the Youth Inspiring Youth in Agriculture Initiative (YIYA), a nation-wide competition aimed at promoting youth employment in the agricultural sector by fostering role models of youth agripreneurs.
The program was introduced in 2017 and in the first round, 25 best youth agripreneurs were selected and awarded.
The award package included cash support and opportunities to attend technical training, exhibitions of agricultural products, and policy dialogues related to youth employment in agriculture.
In the second round, the National Technical Coordination Platform has invited youth aged 18-35 years and 270 youth agriprenuers (2 per district) will be selected, announced and awarded as youth agriprenuers at district and regional levels.
The 270 youth agriprenuers will be subjected to further screening to select 135 district youth champions nationwide ensuring a gender balance of 68 female and 67 male youth. From 135 district youth champions, 35 national youth champions will then be selected.
All the 270-district young agriprenuers will be documented, recognized as national young agriprenuers and provided opportunities to engage in peer-to-peer support activities with other youth, according to the ministry.
The final 35 national and 135 district champions will get an award package that will include: opportunity to attend a week of technical training at the NFLC training center, as well as the opportunity to participate in national exhibitions of agricultural products, and policy dialogues related to youth employment in agriculture.
In addition to the training at the NFLC training center, the 35 national champions will also benefit from other national and international trainings and policy dialogues
The ministry is also engaged in control, management and prevention of trans-boundary animal diseases aimed at preventing outbreak and control of the spread of trans-boundary animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever, East Coast Fever, Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia, Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia, etc.
Through its Department of Fisheries Resources, the ministry is promoting and regulating the fisheries sub-sector, which contributes a wholesome 3% of Uganda GDP.
Four NARO research institutes have been supported by FAO to enhance climate change mitigation and adaption capacity to deal with climate change-related challenges. Climate change issues have also been integrated into the National Development Plan.
Under the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP), which is being implemented in 57 districts, the ministry secured a commitment of $150 million from the World Bank to support the intensification of on-farm production through the provision of subsidized inputs using electronic voucher (e-voucher) system and improve value addition and market access through the provision of matching grants for post-harvest and value addition facilities and also fixing road chokes.
Farmers are given matching grants of up to $75,000 to support 67% of required investments in acquiring postharvest and value addition infrastructure.
Agriculture is one of the five strategic sectors that was identified by the National Development Plan (NDP II) to help transform Uganda’s economy from low to middle-income status.
The Agricultural Sector employs about 72 percent of the total labour force (including the disguised labour), 77% of whom are women and 63% are youth most of whom reside in rural areas (Statistical Abstract, 2017).
With limited agricultural Mechanization, the sector accounted for 24.9% of the total GDP in the FY 2016/17 and the Agricultural exports accounted for 40% of total exports in 2014/15.
Agriculture has a catalytic effect on other sectors and has the capacity to play a critical role in the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger by sustainably intensifying production.
All these measures and more are necessary because a recent assessment conducted by FAO, World Food Programme, and the Office of the Prime Minister on the status of food security during the lockdown revealed that in July 2020, two in 10 households in urban areas did not have enough food to eat.
“Half of them resorted to poor diets or reduced number and size of meals, while six in 10 families sold their productive assets, such as land, begged or turned to illegal activities to find food,” Antonio Querido, the FAO representative in Uganda, said during the celebrations at State House in Entebbe.
“A further 17 percent of Ugandan nationals living in Kampala (equivalent to 292,330 people) are experiencing worse levels of acute food insecurity and have increasing food consumption gaps and reduced/poor dietary diversity,” he went on.
“This data calls for urgent attention and investment to ensure that every household in Uganda has access to enough safe nutritious food. Prolonged crises could make the situation worse and further negate all progress made towards securing a hunger-free Uganda.”