A farmer harvesting bitter berries from one of the demo gardens under the Songhai project in central Uganda Photo: UNDP Uganda


Zero hunger! The rallying call for both developed and developing nations is to forge a global partnership and end the deprivation of enough and nutritious food, to all the people of the world. 

Unfortunately, impediments remain in the realization of this target, the second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), encapsulated in the 2030 Agenda.

About 135 million people still suffer from acute hunger largely due to conflicts, climate change and socio-economic factors. The number could potentially surpass 840 million in less than a decade.

Uganda’s case

Natural and man-made economic bottlenecks have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic to slow down food production and productivity. According to the June-July 2021 issue of the National Integrated Early Warning Bulletin (U-NIEWS) published by Uganda’s National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre (NECOC), flooding, disease outbreak, crop failure and landslides undermined food production.

And while Uganda produces more food than it consumes, poverty estimated at 21.4 percent in 2019 limits several people from accessing nutritious food, especially in the north and east of the country. This denies them food sovereignty – the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food to sustain their consumption.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Food Insecurity analysis for the June - August 2020 period, 2.6 million people in Uganda faced high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 – meaning they were in crisis and edging towards emergency). Another 38% of the population is food-stressed while 40% was minimally affected.

A fast-growing population – expected to reach 80 million by 2030 – and the presence of over 1.2 million refugee population also could affect Uganda’s ability to achieve #SDG2. At 3.2 per cent per annum, Uganda’s population growth rate is amongst the highest in the world.

Down the food value chain, smallholder farmers – the majority in the agriculture sector, lack farming skills, facilities, post-harvest handling techniques and access to credit. “Storage facilities are often inadequate to protect harvested crops from pests, moisture and mould, which results in losses of up to 30 percent,” according to WFP.

A youthful lady farmer irrigating a mulched cabbage garden, in Kampiringisa, Mpigi District, Uganda. Photo: UNDP Uganda


Global picture

According to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report, several major drivers have put the world off track to ending world hunger and malnutrition.

“In 2014, the long decline in world hunger that had begun in 2005 came to a halt. The number of people experiencing undernourishment began to slowly increase until, in 2020, the world witnessed an unprecedented setback in its hunger eradication efforts,” the report points out. The COVID-19 pandemic and the related containment measures, the report says, have made it more challenging to achieve this goal. “The number of people in the world affected by hunger continued to increase in 2020 under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report emphasises.

It is estimated that between 720 million and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020. In Africa, one in five people (21 percent of the 1.2 billion population) was facing hunger in the same year, representing more than double the proportion of any other region of the world.

Apart from COVID-19, the report lists conflict, climate variability and extremes, economic slowdown, unaffordability of healthy diets, poverty and inequality as key drivers for food insecurity and malnutrition.

Youth harvesting carrots from one of the demo gardens under the Songhai project in central Uganda supported by UNDP. Photo: UNDP Uganda

United Nations Secretary-General calls summit

It’s for this reason that the UN Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a Food Systems Summit in September 2021, as part of the Decade of Action geared towards achieving the SDGs by 2030. The Summit is expected to launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food systems.

“The Summit will awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. It is a summit for everyone everywhere – a people’s summit. It is also a solutions summit that will require everyone to take action to transform the world’s food systems,” according to a statement published on the UN Food Systems Summit website.

In Uganda, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) are leading on Track III of the summit which is to, “Boost Nature-Positive Production.” Dialogue on Track III is co-chaired by Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) and Uganda Water and Sanitation Network (UWASNET).

Action in boosting nature-positive food production will seek to optimize environmental resource use, processing, and distribution to reduce biodiversity loss, pollution, soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions.

National dialogue

During a recent pre-summit National Food Systems dialogue, the UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Elsie Attafuah, underscored the importance of food systems to the achievement of targets on several other SDGs.

“When our food systems fail, the resulting disorder threatens our education, health and economy, as well as human rights, peace and security. Those who are already poor or marginalized are the most vulnerable,” Ms. Attafuah observed.

Transforming and rebuilding food systems will enable nations to answer the UN Secretary -General’s call to, “build back better” from COVID-19, she said.

On his part, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi, acknowledged the challenges Uganda’s food system faces and the simultaneous need to protect the environment and demand more land for food production.

Thanking UNDP and FAO for supporting the pre-summit dialogues, he acknowledged they will enable Uganda to ascertain how to enhance sustainability of the national food systems as well as enrich ways to boost nature-positive production.

“The outcome of this intervention should be for the benefit of both nature and people, to restore and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems and soil function for sustainable food production,” Mr. Okidi explained.

Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi, The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water and Environment. Photo: UNDP Uganda


Voice from the community

Mr. Elia Onziga, an Agricultural Engineer from Arua district, believes that Uganda needs to plug the gap that exists between policy formulation and education for sustainable food production. He calls for massive “mindset change campaigns” to promote nature-sensitive food production “This will help the population to understand that it's not business as usual, and they embrace modern farming practices and climate-smart agriculture.”

UNDP Support

For over two decades now, UNDP has been supporting the government and the people of Uganda to develop an integrated, resilient and climate-smart national food system. UNDP doesn’t tackle climate change or food security as stand-alone issues but applies approaches that improve productivity, profitability and sustainability from farm to fork.

UNDP’s work has thus focused on reducing agricultural emissions, promoting renewable energy, integrated pest-management, livelihoods diversification and supporting decision-making on land management with improved data and climate information to ensure transparency and consistency. 

Former Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Hon. Vincent Sempijja inspecting a demo farm under the Integrated Land management (ILM) Project in Mbale district, Uganda. Photo: UNDP Uganda

UNDP has also supported efforts geared towards greening value chains, popularizing climate-resilient agricultural practices and improving storage, while limiting carbon output with green approaches to transport and refrigeration. Others are helping farmers rethink the way they do business, reach markets, process goods, and adapt their enterprises and livelihoods to the unique realities of the 21st century.

Highlights of UNDP support to strengthen food systems in Uganda

Integrated Sustainable Land Management

To support Ugandan farmers, withstand climate change shocks, principally drought and flooding, UNDP supported Government in implementing the Integrated Sustainable Land Management (ISLM) project in the cattle corridor. Water-retention dams were established in Nakasongola district and several water-harvesting tanks at household level. Under its gender component, the project sensitized the community about the risk women face grazing animals at night especially during the dry season.

By the closure of the project, the breeds of the livestock had improved and the diversification of products produced helped sustain livelihoods and to strengthen the resilience of the community. Milk and milk products were available throughout the year for both household consumption and sale. Women groups were also empowered on preserving, packaging and marketing ghee. 

Cows drink water from a trough filled with water pumped from a valley dam in Nyakakoora in Nakasongola. Photo: UNDP Uganda


Integrated Landscape Management in the Mt Elgon region

The ecosystem of Mt. Elgon in Eastern Uganda faces serious land degradation challenges mainly caused by the negative impacts of climate change and human ecological footprint on the terrestrial systems of the area. The population pressure has led to land fragmentation and unsustainable farming practices, exposing the highland area to landslides. Farmers would cut trees to clear land for farming and settlement, encroaching on fragile protected areas and silting of critical wetlands.

With support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UNDP, working with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), launched the Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) for Livelihoods Improvement and Ecosystems Resilience in the Mt Elgon Region project to help communities cope with climate variability and harness their land and natural resources in a planned way. With this approach, they would envisage the balance between values, risks and trade-offs.

A farmer displaying a typical Bogoya bunch from the ILM demo garden in Mbale Photo: UNDP Uganda

Implemented in the districts of Mbale, Manafwa and Bulambuli, the three-year project enabled the communities to control soil erosion, rehabilitate the degraded soil, leading to increased productivity and environmental protection biodiversity conservation and reduction of green-house emissions.

The project directly benefited at least 1,251 people (600 men, 651 women) covering 290 villages in 33 parishes and 6 sub-counties comprising over 17,300 households.

Through the CBO grants approach, 21,474 hectares (ha) of land were put under conservation agriculture and soil and water-saving technologies, using integrated approaches and 21,925.7km of soil erosion control measures including hedge rows, contour bunds, grass bunds and stone bunds that were established in project communities.

“The productivity of my land has increased,” Mr. Michael Shikumba, a beneficiary of the project from Mbale district, proclaims. Mr. Shikumba intercropped coffee with bananas and established contour bunds, applied manure and mulched his plantation as he has learned from the technical team. “The coffee production increased from 100kg to 500kg while the banana production increased from an average of four clusters per bunch to 10 clusters per bunch. I am now food-secure and my household income has drastically increased,” Mr. Shikumba, says with a smile.

Ms. Evelyn Katami, another beneficiary of the project, says she learned that contour bunds are the best way to control surface water run-off to halt soil erosion and the susceptibility of the area to mud and landslides. “With retained fertility in the soil, crop yield and general productivity of the land increases,” Ms. Katami says. She used to reap 20 small banana bunches of matooke (bananas) in three months and sold each at from UGX 3,000 ($0.85) to UGX 6,000 ($1.69). Now she harvests 50 bigger banana bunches within the same period and sells each of them at UGX 10,000 ($2.82) to UGX 30,000 ($8.45). “I can now count myself among the commercial farmers. Thanks to the ILM project,” Ms.  Katami says with a tinge of confidence.


Uganda NAP-Ag

Climate change threatens one of the most important sectors in many developing countries -agriculture. A 2015 FAO report titled, The Impact of Disasters on Agriculture and Food Security, estimates that the agriculture sector absorbs 25% of the total climate change related damage and losses. Yet for Uganda, 64.6 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, according to the 2016/17 Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS). Uganda's vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by food insecurity, poverty, weak social institutions and a rapidly growing population.

To tackle this development challenge, UNDP in collaboration with FAO and with support from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment and Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to develop the National Adaptation Plan for the Agriculture Sector (NAP-Ag).

The NAP-Ag presents 21 priority adaptation options in the key areas of: Crop Production; Livestock Production; Fisheries Management; Climate Information, Early Warning and Disaster Preparedness; Forestry, Land and Natural Resources Management; and Research and Knowledge Management. The strategic framework will guide mainstreaming of climate change in agriculture sector policies, plans and budgets.


Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)

As a State Party to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Uganda made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 22% by 2030. This means Uganda needs to embark on a low-carbon development pathway. Consequently, with support of UNDP, Uganda set up the National Determined Contributions (NDC) Support Programme as a vehicle for mobilizing resources and implementing measures and policies that build resilience.

The programme, which has also received funding from the NDC Partnership, is supporting community-based projects with innovative enterprise works to decrease the carbon-intensity of energy at the household and small-to-medium enterprise levels in Uganda and beyond. NDC is also promoting renewable energy use and has trained the private sector to stimulate their interest to see the business sense in climate action activities and investments.

Wetlands Restoration Project

The project focuses on providing alternative livelihoods to communities currently living within or around degraded wetlands in 24 districts of Eastern and Western Uganda. The communities, in search of water and pasture, descended on many critical wetlands in the two regions, growing rice, yams, vegetables and grazing cattle, draining the fragile and distinct ecosystems of water and useful aquatic life.

Projects that allow the sustainable use of wetlands like mini-irrigation schemes, water troughs for livestock and fishponds have been established. The populations had been educated on the wise use of wetlands and those that have voluntarily vacated the wetlands have been provided by alternative livelihoods like cattle and poultry.

The Green Climate Fund, UNDP and Government of Uganda funded project is expected to impact on four million people and to directly benefit up to 50,000 households. To date, 11,792 hectares of the targeted 64,370 hectares of wetlands have been restored and 5,050 hectares of associated catchments have been restored. The implementation of the project has a strong component of ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women. The project is contributing to the achievement of to SDG2, SDG13 and SDG15 through preservation of ecosystems, maintaining biodiversity and increasing access to highly nutritious protein sources.


Climate-smart agriculture (CSA)

UNDP promotes the adoption of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices in several districts of Eastern Uganda. The actions included the promotion of agroforestry, minimum tillage practices and use of improved crop varieties and fertilizers. A total of 20,000 hectares of formerly degraded land has been rehabilitated, boosting yields of maize and beans in the districts of Kamuli, Kaliro, Namutumba, Busia, Buyende, Bugiri and Budaka. The programme reached out to 44 schools and benefited 25,000 pupils, 40% of whom were girls. Teachers as well as parents learned from their children as well. In addition, communities were trained on how to reduce post-harvest losses through the construction of grain cribs or granaries. The programme contributed immensely in the reduction of hunger (SDG2), responsible consumption (SDG12), climate action (SDG13) and life on land (SDG15).


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