#76. Uganda: a commitment to food security

stories • Published October, 2021

Uganda’s rank on the Happy Planet Index in 2019: #76. Explore the data.

By: Suzan Joy

Uganda has a low overall Happy Planet Index score, but has a pretty impressive ecological footprint, with a rating of 1.2 global hectares per capita (gha). This score makes Uganda one of the few countries in the world with an ecological footprint per capita that is within the planet’s ecological limits. (Theoretically, the Global Footprint Network calculates that if everyone in the world used 1.74 gha in that year, then the planet’s resources would be able to renew themselves sustainably.) 

Uganda’s ecological footprint score is a result of both lower levels of development as well as sustainable lifestyles. Since 41% of the population live in poverty, they can’t really afford to live unsustainable lifestyles.Over 75% of the population live in rural areas and mostly rely on farming, agribusiness, livestock, bee- and poultry-keeping for both home consumption and selling to meet other bills. So there isn’t much as far as large cities, where there is typically more unsustainable consumption, which increases the ecological footprint.

Uganda’s GDP per capita is less than the size of Kenya, Tanzania, and other neighboring countries. This is because it’s industrial sector faces challenges of political instability, poor infrastructure, poor economic management, and struggles to produce high value globally competitive products. 

What’s working well in Uganda?

Although people in Uganda have low levels of wellbeing, there is such a strong sense of community. This explains the immense amount of solidarity and resilience in our society during times of crisis.

Uganda produces a wide range of agricultural products including: coffee, sugar, cotton, tea, tobacco, bananas, maize, fish, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, livestock etc. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Uganda’s fertile agricultural land has the potential to feed 200 million people. 80% of Uganda’s land is arable but only 35% is being cultivated. This is both a challenge and an opportunity, as 23% of the population is facing acute food insecurity, 41% live in poverty, and the unemployment rate is rapidly increasing. So it’s important that the government continues to support sustainable agricultural practices alongside other social entrepreneurial initiatives.

Uganda has done fairly well in supporting the agricultural sector in order to improve food security for its population. The Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan (ASSP) is the flagship plan for investment and development of the agricultural sector, in line with the National Development Plan which has been implemented through a multi-sector approach, involving the Government of Uganda, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government, District Local Governments, Development Partners, Civil Society Organisations, and the private sector. 

In the fiscal year 2018/2019, agriculture accounted for about 22% of GDP, and 34% of export earnings. In 2020, agriculture contributed 24.03%, an increase resulting from this focus on agriculture. Uganda’s commitment to increase food security is impressive and today, 70% of it’s working population is employed in agriculture.

What could be improved?

Despite this progress in the Agricultural sector, unemployment in Uganda is particularly high – especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Uganda has the youngest age structure in the world, with 77% of its population under the age of 30. Therefore, it’s possible that the unemployment rate will keep shooting high for as long as institutions of learning remain closed. The government should reopen these institutions and put restrictions on the students’ intake per class, to maintain the COVID-19 social distance measure.

In addition, it should explore making online classes easily accessible to all citizens. This could mean subsidising internet service providers and tech companies to provide affordable products and services to students, establish collaborations with other international institutions of learning and restructuring the education system to accommodate homeschooling and support Social Entrepreneurship. 

About the author

Suzan Joy is an active member of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, coordinating the WEAll East Africa hub. She consults regularly for civil society and international grant making organizations alongside grassroots community projects. She believes in the module “Leave no one behind”, aiming to help the world through one conversation and project at a time!
Connect with Suzan on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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