In Uganda, colonial land occupation was never prolific and therefore farm size remained small, with smallholder farmers as the basis of agricultural production. Land units of small-scale producers range from 1 to 3 ha on average, whereas for medium-scale producers, farm size is between 3 and 15 ha. Agriculture remains the backbone of Uganda’s economy, contributing about 40% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 85% of export earnings. The sector employs 90% of the population, over 95% of whom are smallholder subsistence farmers who live in the rural areas. Large-scale producers may cultivate from 15 ha of land for intensive production to 100,000 ha for extensive production, mainly grazing, but these account for only about 5% of the farming population.
Uganda has over 50,000 farm households certified as organic; for most of these, cash crops are the major source of income. In this regard, commercial organic agriculture can be seen as a major employer or employment opportunity. Organic farming is practiced on smallholder farms, where the majority of work is carried out by the women, supported by other family members. The direct ownership is generally held by the man, however, and if a farm is organically certified it is normally registered in the name of the man. Most of Ugandan agriculture is close to organic methods because the traditional farming practices that still are largely followed by the majority of the smallholder farmers emphasize organic farming methods such as soil erosion control, crop rotation, use of natural fertilizers and manures, and mulching, and its not surprising that apart from certified production, organic is also promoted by many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community based organizations (CBOs) as a sustainable form of agriculture to guarantee food security and provide income to the rural population.
1 Inger Källander and Gunnar Rundgren assisted in compiling this case study.
Studies show that compared to other families, certified organic producers are more food secure and are able to sell their surplus. The link between organic agriculture and poverty reduction is increasingly being recognized, with a push towards commercializing smallholder farmers and support for their access to markets from a number of major donors and the government. The contribution of the organic sector to overall export competitiveness has been recognized by the Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB) through the inclusion of the ‘Best Organic Exporter’ category among the prize categories within the Presidential Awards for Export Excellence. Organic products currently exported from Uganda are fresh fruits and vegetables (e.g. pineapples, passion fruits, apples, bananas, papayas), dried fruits and spices, coffee, cocoa, cotton lint and cotton garments, sesame, vanilla, and chillies.
The development of organic agriculture
The export market has been the main driving force for the organic agriculture movement in Uganda. A few commercial companies began deliberately engaging in organic agriculture, with an eye on the export market, as early as 1993. At the same time many NGOs, CBOs, and the government promoted an approach to agriculture that would allow the safeguarding of food security, help to provide income, maintain soil fertility, and control pests. From there, it was only a small step towards embracing the formal practices of organic agriculture, which, with their emphasis on nature, were found to be palatable to Ugandans.(Author: Moses Kiggundu Muwanga)
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
Further reading on Early Organic Sector Development In Uganda:
Case Study Overview
Organic Market Development
Organization and Structure
Supporting Structures and Lessons Learned
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