KAMPALA – AGRA, an African-led African-based organisation that seeks to catalyse Agriculture Transformation in the continent has launched a new strategy to boost the competitiveness of Uganda’s agri-food systems in line with the country’s development blueprint, Vision 2040.
The 5-year strategy will be centered around four key pillars of;
Inclusive market systems and the promotion of export trade in value-added agricultural commodities, bolstered by increased competitiveness among market actors,
Sustainable and climate-resilient production of high-quality agricultural produce, with a particular focus on empowering smallholder farmers to manage climate risks effectively,
Strengthened capacity of agriculture sector institutions at both the national and subnational levels, ensuring effective implementation, coordination, and mutual accountability, and
Enhanced systems for the delivery of agricultural inputs and the promotion of good agricultural practices.
The new strategy builds on AGRA’s work in the country, mainly focusing on increasing smallholder farmers’ income, food security and nutrition, thus driving productivity.
Dr. John Jagwe, Country Manager, AGRA noted that by building inclusive and competitive markets, the strategy will ensure increased volumes and value of traded agricultural commodities, and employment opportunities for women and youth.
He revealed that the strategy (AGRA 3.0) comes in after the success of the former, AGRA 2.0 which was focused on the system for farmers, engaging the states and building its capacity to deliver but also leveraging on partnerships and bringing the private sector on board.
“Now today I’m glad to inform you that AGRA 2.0 has moved a distance…but we think an extra five years is no harm to complete this wonderful story that is unfolding.”
For this phase, Dr. Jagwe said it will be market driven to ensure that Uganda’s surplus food can go on the markets acceptably.
Also, to ensure the sustainability of the demand from the market, he said 3.0 will safeguard vibrant systems.
“The other thing we are cognizant about is that climate is changing. The rainfall patterns are no longer predictable and the rainfall amounts are also not predictable. When it becomes not predictable, then you don’t know when to plant and as you plant, you don’t know whether the rain will sustain your crop,” he said, adding that “for those of you who grow beans, you know that when those patterns are jeopardized, you will lose all the bean crop. We have seen that in the last season as well.”
Speaking during an event to launch the strategy, AGRA’s Deputy Vice President for PID, Dr George Birigwa, appreciated that Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy and has always been a critical pillar of its economic development, which calls for strategies to promote it.
Through the partnership with the Government of Uganda, he revealed that AGRA has since 2007 trained 57 scientists (18 PhD and 39 MSc), developed and released 59 crop varieties of maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, rice and bananas, beans and sorghum, supported 6 homegrown seed companies to produce seed which annually benefits millions of smallholder farmers, among others.
Through AGRA 2.0, he noted that they reached out to 472,806 smallholder farmers with various technologies.
Through this strategy (3.0), Dr. Birigwa called on the government and other partners to join them and transform the country’s food system.
“A food systems approach that takes into account all elements, relationships, and related effects which integrates nutrition, climate change resilience, and inclusivity into all of our work.”
He added, “To help Uganda transform its food system, we plan to rollout our interventions through business lines (i) Policy and state capability will support governments to create an environment for private sector involvement in agricultural transformation. (ii) Seed systems – help “trigger” higher productivity through improved seeds, thus improving the pathway to higher incomes and better food security. (iii) farming-will ensure farmers are building resilient farming systems which enable them to sustain their improved yields. (IV) Inclusive markets and trade will help to build a “pull” factor bringing farmers businesses into a positive, sustained cycle of commercialization and reinvestment.”
On the inclusivity part, he said that they plan to support strategies to eliminate the barriers to participation for women and youth, enabling them to contribute to- and benefit from – agricultural transformation.
“We are committed to working with the government and the private sector to build a resilient food system, ensuring that the benefits of agricultural transformation reach all Ugandans,” he pledged.
Officiating at the event, Minister of State for Agriculture Bwino Fred Kyakulaga, said that the strategy is aligned with the Government’s third Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan (2020/21–2024/25) that aims to transform Uganda’s agricultural sector from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture.
“The strategy is emphasizing the market so has been the government. You remember what happened with vanilla. People rushed into growing a lot of it but the world demand went down and farmers got frustrated and cut them down…we don’t want such a thing to happen again. Therefore, the strategy is in line with the government’s strategy.”
He revealed that the government is currently helping large-scale farmers with mechanization, giving them tractors but also helping them with irrigation technology which in return are expected to offtake the small-holder farmers surrounding them.
“Also, their (large-scale farmers) facilities will be the center of excellences for value addition and will be used for extension of service delivery to the farmers surrounding them.”
Speaking on the quality, the minister admitted that there have been interceptions of the country’s products “which have been found wanting in terms of contamination with micro-organisms.”
He, however, revealed that they have intensified crop inspection and certification and are currently strengthening and recruiting more resources to cater for the challenge.
AGRA has invested over $62.8 million in supporting SMEs, issued $3.6 million worth of grants to boost the capacities of rice farmers and SMEs and spent $0.24 million to reach 25,000 farmers directly to promote fertiliser use through partnerships.
The strategy prioritises increasing smallholder farmers’ incomes and food security and managing climate and market risks. Over the next five years, AGRA will be working towards strengthening financial and non-financial services for SMEs involved in staple crops to make them sustainable. This will be done through investments in policy and advocacy work, matching grant support for business improvement and expansion, and linking the businesses with new technology and funding mechanisms.