The agriculture sector is a key to overall economic growth and development of Uganda. The sector contributes 20.9 percent of the National Gross Domestic Product and 80 percent of the export earnings. Real growth in agricultural output has declined steadily, from 7.9 percent in 2000/01 to 0.7 percent in 2007/08 (although it did show signs of recovery in 2008/09, with a 2.6 percent growth rate). Agricultural production has increased over the years and this increase is attributed to area expansion rather than increase in productivity with over 95% of the farmers being smallholders with landholdings averaging 2 ha.
The country has a total area of 241,551 km2 of which about 30% is highly degraded. Available data between 1999 and 2006 indicate that trends of the major crops showed positive increases for cereals (maize, millet, rice and sorghum), beans and simsim, while there has been a significant decline noted for root crops (cassava, Irish and sweet potatoes) as well as export crops (coffee and cotton). The livestock census of UBOS (2009) showed that total cattle ownership increased by 54% since 2005, showing an increasing trend of livestock integration into the farming systems. While fish exports increased dramatically from 1991, there was a sharp decline, falling from a peak of 39,201 tons in 2005 to about 24,965 tons in 2008 as a consequence of overfishing leading to falling stocks and declining catches. Lake Victoria continues to provide the biggest percentage (41.8 percent) of total fish catch, which are dwindling fast, the situation for the other lakes is even worse.
The country’s agricultural production system is diverse spread within14 Agro-ecological Zones (AEZs). The zones are characterized by different farming systems determined by soil types, climate, landforms, socio-economic and cultural factors. Poor agricultural land management, increased extreme weather events, and population pressure have escalated land degradation in all the AEZs. The AEZs experience varying levels of vulnerability to climate-related hazards which include drought, floods, storms, and pests and diseases. Furthermore, the International Climate Risk Report labels Uganda as one of the most unprepared and most vulnerable countries in the world. Agriculture is the sector most vulnerable to climate change due to its high dependence on climate and weather. Climate projections show that agriculture systems will suffer with climate change, thus, threatening food production systems and therefore the livelihoods and food security of millions of people, especially women who depend on agriculture. Consistent warming trends and more frequent and intense extreme weather events, particularly droughts and floods have been observed across the country in recent decades. In line with these trends, climate change scenarios consistently project temperature increases across the region, which will require farmers to adapt to changing conditions.
Total dependence on rain-fed agriculture and poor soil health coupled with land degradation increases vulnerability of farming systems and predisposes rural households to food insecurity and poverty thus eroding their productive assets and weakening their coping strategies and resilience. Increasingly, the onset, duration and intensity of these rains vary considerably from year to year, while the frequency and intensity of the extreme weather events such as drought and floods are on the increase with devastating impacts on the national economy and the livelihoods of the people. Drastic and innovative measures are needed to help farmers and consumers cope with the changes in emerging and projected weather patterns. To address this challenge, the Government of Uganda has identified six strategic priorities as sources of Uganda’s agricultural development and growth in a changing climate. The six strategic priorities are:
Improved Productivity and incomes – a pro-growth, pro-poor development agenda that supports agricultural sustainability and includes better targeting to climate change impacts will improve resilience and climate change adaptation. Because climate change has a negative impact on agricultural production, achieving any given food and nutrition security target will require greater investments in agricultural productivity. Public and private sectors as well as public-private partnerships will play a critical role.
Building resilience and associated mitigation co-benefits – CSA will help reduce vulnerability of Uganda’s agriculture sector by increasing productivity, enhancing adaptation and resilience of the farming systems and reducing emissions intensity in the context of achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Value Chain Integration – This approach is holistic in that it considers input supply, production, agricultural services, marketing and business support services as necessary building blocks. Under the approach, both public and private sectors are seen as critical actors in the value chain. Knowledge and capacity building are critical strategic priorities to leverage innovations and increase efficiencies. The approach also provides enabling framework for integrating gender and the needs of the youth.
Research for Development and Innovations – Although Uganda has a well-developed agricultural research system, use of modern science and climate smart technologies in agricultural production is still limited. Inadequate research–extension–farmer linkages to facilitate demand-driven research and increased use of improved technologies continue to constrain efforts to increase agricultural productivity as farmers continue to use outdated and ineffective technologies. The role of research will be re-oriented to support innovations that facilitate the transition to climate-smart agriculture by smallholder farmers. New and emerging agricultural research partnerships will identify technological advances that respond to the impacts climate change and climate variability. A major thrust will be use of climate-smart agricultural practices, promoting improved land management and sustainable crop-livestock and fisheries intensification, in order to bolster farmers’ adaptive capacity and support the national vision of achieving food security.
Improving and sustaining agricultural advisory Services – Agro-advisory services that include climate applications for agriculture will help farmers to make better and informed decisions in the face of risks and uncertainties, in addition to the integrated management of present and emerging pests and disease challenges. Climate applications include seasonal weather forecasts, monitoring and early warning products for drought, floods and pests and disease surveillance. These products and services would increase the preparedness of the farmers, well in advance, to cope with risks and uncertainties. In this regard, dissemination of agro-weather advisories and other climate-smart agricultural practices will be enhanced through Public Private Partnerships. Furthermore, robust agro-advisory services would catalyse private sector investment in priority areas such as weather-based index insurance and associated infrastructure.
Improved Institutional Coordination – Improved institutional coordination is crucial for achievement of horizontal and vertical integration required for effective discharge of the CSA Programme. The achievement of horizontal integration requires a framework that provides for high-level guidance while vertical integration is instrumental in determining the roles of various sector institutions and devolved governments in performing CSA mandates. The proposed coordination framework will improve Inter-Ministerial and Local Government Coordination; enhance partnerships with private sector and civil society organizations; and strengthen coordination with development partners.