Most Ugandans Depend on Agriculture for a Living – Report

Almost half of Uganda’s population still relies on agriculture, a new study shows. According to the study conducted by Twaweza East Africa shows that at least 49 percent of Ugandans still engage in one or more forms of agriculture for sustenance, illustrating the sector’s dominance to the country’s economy.

The study entitled Livelihoods under COVID-19: #1 Agricultural Practices is one in a three-part series of impact assessments under the Sauti za Wananchi initiative, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey. 

A total of 1,600 respondents across Uganda in May and June 2020 took part in the survey. According to the findings, half of the households are dependent on crop cultivation to generate some income. Among these, four in every 10 households rely on crop cultivation as the main source of income.

About 16 percent of the households earn income from keeping and selling animals or animal products, 15 percent from running a non-agricultural service business or a retail/manufacturing business.

“Dependence on crop production is higher in rural areas than urban but is still the main source of income for as many urban households as casual work. Income from businesses and formal employment is more common in urban areas,” the report reads in part.

The study was commissioned by Food Rights Alliance, a coalition of civil society organizations and individuals working on food, agriculture and related policies to ensure that the right to adequate food is not violated or even abused in partnership with Twaweza East Africa, a civil society that works to demonstrate how citizens can come together to collectively address their problems, and make government work better for them.  

The study findings indicate that half of the households (47 percent) are engaged in the production of food crops and vegetable staples, including one out of three urban households (32 percent). Two out of ten households (18percent) are engaged in livestock keeping, and one out of ten (13percent) cultivate crops purely for commercial purposes. These activities are all more common in rural areas than urban, but a significant number (34percent) of urban residents are engaged in some form of agriculture.

 “Ugandans often have more than one source of income to ensure they can meet their household needs. Even urban households rely significantly on agriculture for their income and food security, suggesting that urban agriculture is a vital area for support. Cultivation in urban areas can help to increase resilience to shocks for poor households and can help to regulate the supply of food in urban areas,” Marie Nanyanzi of Sauti za Wananchi at Twaweza said.

The study also looked at the sources of income.

“All across Uganda, people depend on a number of different sources of income to survive. In urban areas, 1 out of 4 citizens (25%) rely on casual labour as their main source of income, the same share as well rely on growing and selling crops. These are the two most common sources of income in urban areas. 

“In rural households however, growing and selling crops is the main source of income for almost half of households. At the same time one out of five (22 percent) depends on casual labour for income, similar to urban areas,” the report further reads.

One of the bigger differences between rural and urban households is the reliance on formal employment or a salaried job: twice as many urban Ugandans (13 percent) rely on this as rural Ugandans (7 percent). However rural households (16 percent) are more likely than urban households (9 percent) to generate income from animals and animal products. 

Although urban households are more likely to be engaged in different types of businesses, the differences between rural and urban areas are not very large: 14 percent of rural households and 17 percent of urban households rely on retail or manufacturing businesses while 13 percent of rural households and 18% of urban homes rely on non-agricultural services businesses.

“Agricultural production is the bedrock of people’s livelihoods and survival, in both rural and urban settings. Although the report shows high levels of dependence on agriculture among Ugandans, the sector has not received appropriate consideration in terms of planning, governance and budget allocations,” Agnes Kirabo the Executive Director Food Rights Alliance said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic” she continued, “is a stark reminder to government to restore the agricultural sector to primacy given its role in macro-economic stability, human security and national stability. Appropriate interventions in planning, financing and governance are required as a matter of urgency,” she added on.

Maize is the largest grown food crop by acreage. The report shows that maize dominates in terms of acres with an average of 15 acres (31 percent) dedicated to the crop’s cultivation compared to one acre or less for all of the other individual crops. The other mostly grown crops are beans (28 percent), cassava (16 percent) and groundnuts (12 percent) of land use.

The country’s main planting season didn’t perform as expected – although most of the population were home as part of government’s lockdown aimed at curtailing the spread of the Covid – 19 outbreak

The report shows that 4 out of 10 farming households (38 percent) planted less compared to the last season. 

The report is expected to guide public policy on sector allocations as the country struggles to contain the negative effects of the Covid – 19 pandemic.

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