Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Agriculture can provide jobs to Uganda’s unemployed youth if well harnessed, according to the twelfth Uganda Economic Update published this week by the World Bank.
According to a World Bank statement, the report, “Developing Uganda’s Agri-Food System for Inclusive Economic Growth,” notes that the sector’s economic contribution extends well beyond the production sector into the wider food system, including related processing, manufacturing, and services. However, the employment potential of Uganda’s agriculture and agri-food system remains largely untapped, despite providing 70% of the country’s employment opportunities, contributing more than half of all exports, and about one-quarter of gross domestic product (GDP).
“To realize agriculture’s potential, the report points out that the country will need to overcome a range of challenges. National agricultural output has grown at about 2% per annum over the last five years, which is well below the population growth rate and below the 3-5% growth rates in other East African countries. In the medium term, the agriculture growth rate is expected to remain around 2.5%, assuming reasonable weather conditions and no army worm infestations,” the World Bank statement concluded.
The economic update report identifies four areas for immediate attention:
- Fostering sustainable agricultural total factor productivity growth. To increase agricultural productivity, providing effective advisory (extension) services to smallholder farmers is important to enable them adapt quickly to new production technologies, regulate the markets for agricultural inputs to ensure their quality, and to help smallholder farmers to access inputs through targeted mechanisms, such as e-vouchers.
- Promoting commercialization of agriculture, and private sector led value addition and trade. Smallholder farmers need to be assisted to invest in agriculture as a business, meaning producing surplus for the markets, to improve their incomes and livelihoods. To achieve this, access to markets and agro-processing facilities is key through their farmer or producer organizations.
- Building resilience to agriculture production systems and managing related risks – climate change, disease and pests. Investing in irrigation and water harvesting technologies to combat climate variability and climate change is critical; as well as putting in place early warning systems (EWS) and emergency response mechanisms (ERM) for managing disasters, such as droughts, floods, and outbreak of pests and diseases.
- Improving policy and regulatory environment and strengthening institutions.To attract private investments in the agriculture sector, the government needs to create an enabling business environment. This include addressing institutional capacity gaps at the national and district level, so that they are able to provide advisory and regulatory services; and adopting policies that will enhance competitions in the input (particularly seeds and fertilizers) and output markets, as well as value addition or agro-processing.