Despite the advance of the sectors such as services and construction, agriculture remains key to Uganda's economy - the source of livelihood for two out of every three Ugandans mainly the rural poor.
The sector has the greatest potential to overcome hunger and lift millions out of poverty, and therefore achieve the first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Experts such as Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, warned that slow growth in agriculture was one of the reasons Uganda might not achieve its target of becoming a middle-income country by 2017.
Mutebile said that for Uganda to modernise agriculture significantly, there was need to put in place a proper extension service, focus on increasing the productivity of small-holder farmers, get them to use modern farming methods and inputs, and have them producing more for the market.
But these interventions need money. Impoverished subsistence farmers look to the government for support. But what do they get?
According to Charles Ogang, the president of Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) they get neglect. Consequently, agricultural output is declining, placing the survival of many Ugandans at stake.
Ogang explains that access to quality seeds remains a big challenge to farmers. He says there are many counterfeit seeds on the market and farmers end up buying them.
"There are farmers who have lost acres (of yields) in counterfeit seeds," he says.
Dr Samuel Mugasi, the executive director of the National Agriculture Advisory Services (Naads), agrees that agricultural productivity is declining, but is quick to attribute it to declining soil fertility, climate and other factors.
Godber Tumushabe, the executive director Advocates Coalition on Development Environment (ACODE), believes that the biggest challenge the agriculture sector faces is underfunding.
He says for many years, agriculture has been underfunded, often allocated less than five per cent of the national budget. This is far below the 10 per cent that African governments committed to allocate to agriculture under the 2003 Maputo declaration.
A study by ACODE, 'Promoting Agriculture sector growth and development: A comparative analysis of Uganda's political party manifestos (2011-2016)', shows that although the country enjoyed good economic growth (average seven per cent) annually in the last 10 years, the agriculture sector has been declining.
Real growth in the agriculture sector output gradually declined from 7.9 per cent in 2001/2002 to about one per cent in the last financial year. The dwindling performance is also reflected in the sector's declining contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), from 39.9 per cent a decade ago, to only 23 per cent today.
Ogang concurs with the report. "Where the funding is insufficient, you can't expect miracles," he explains.
Experts believe Uganda has a huge potential for growth and development in agriculture - with the right policies and investment to harness this potential. Ogang notes most farmers lack the necessary inputs and the appropriate technology that can increase productivity but government has injected in very little in the sector to be able to realise good results.
For instance, agriculture heavily relies on rainfall, making it susceptible to weather vagaries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a world meteorological organization predicts that climate is by far the biggest challenge threatening agriculture around the globe particularly in Africa.
IPCC predicts that in Africa by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people will be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change, therefore lowering yields from rain-fed agriculture by up to 50 per cent. Ogang says the country is already experiencing climate shocks, in form of frequent and severe droughts and erratic rainfall.
"It is suicidal to rely on rainfall to produce," he says stressing the need to embrace irrigation. He says every stake holder should view agriculture as a business.
He says, the beginning point should be to rehabilitate the defunct irrigation infrastructures like Mubuku in Kasese, Doha in Butaleja, Olwenyi in Lira and Agoro in Kitgum, among others and also establish new ones. Ogang has no doubt that if government allocated at least 10 per cent of its national budget to agriculture, the sector would thrive.
The sector remains crucial in improving the livelihoods and stimulating growth in the economy and yet it's characterized by serious challenges such as traditional modes of production, limited attention and insufficient investment on the sector from the part of government. Other constraints are poor image and perceptions of youths about agriculture.
Arua Woman MP Christine Bako Abia argues that the NRM government lacks a coherent and practical agenda for the agriculture sector growth and development. With a country like Uganda, so rich with fertile soils and a promising population our governments have done little to attain this much needed effort and yet Uganda's economy is largely dominated by the agricultural sector.
Dr Mugasi says times have changed and agriculture has to be ICT-compliant. He highlights the need for e-extension services, where farmers would be updated on meteorological information, giving advice on pests and diseases and other related information, through their mobile phones.
Tress Bucyanayandi, the minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), agrees that the sector is indeed unfunded. But he blames this on lack of resources rather than will.
"Agriculture is not neglected; the problem is government's priority now is infrastructure, mainly roads and energy" he says.
He quickly adds that good roads, where the government is spending a lot of money, should be seen as enablers to agriculture.
"The Maputo declaration is just a target and government is working towards that" he says.
Mugasi says government is addressing most of the sector's challenges mainly through the Agricultural Technology and Agribusiness Advisory Services (ATAAS), commonly known as Naads Phase II. The programme, he explains, hopes to revamp agriculture from subsistence to commercial.
He believes that the country needs to urgently embrace appropriate technologies that can move the sector forward. Most appropriate technologies and innovations in crops and other agricultural inputs developed by research institutions like Kawanda have not benefited farmers.
So, government needs to link farmers to research institutions and ensure that these technologies trickle down to farmers and the farms.
He says that research institutions have developed improved seeds and other agricultural inputs that are disease/pest-resistant and high yielding, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs). MPs' approval of the Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill 2012 would therefore be step in the right direction.
"This saying that we have fertile soils is misleading. The issue of fertile soils in Uganda is no longer the case, we have to use fertilizers,"Mugasi says.
Uganda is one of the countries in the world with a low fertiliser usage. This is attributed to the fact that the country imports a bulk of its fertilisers. Mugasi says the lack of a fertiliser industry, partly explains the low fertiliser usage, but hopes one day, Uganda shall have its own plant to encourage large-scale fertilizers in agriculture.
For Bako, the magic bullet lies in agricultural mechanization. The government cannot revamp agriculture when farmers are still using outdated technologies like a hand hoe.
"You can't increase production with a hand hoe, we should be using tractors," she says.
Agriculture in Uganda relies havily on rainfall. However, with climate change, rainfall has become more unpredictable, leading to calls for government intervention to promote irrigation. Such interventions, however, would only be possible if the government allocated enough resources to agriculture.
Ogang says wants the government to introduce a tractor-hire scheme, where farmers can either hire tractors from successful farmers or sub counties. But Mugasi points out that the government is already developing an agricultural mechanization master plan, which will address this.
There are also plans to introduce irrigation, but such grand ideas usually take long before translating in real work. For Bako, an opposition politician, the challenges in agriculture can only go away with the NRM government.
"We need to clear the political deficit the country faces. Without a change in the politics, we can't talk of sorting out agriculture, because all these proposals for reforms require a responsible and accountable government to implement them, yet president Museveni is pre-occupied with his own survival," says Abia, a former Shadow minister for agriculture.
This Observer feature is published in partnership with Panos Eastern Africa, with funding from the European Union's Media for Democratic Governance and Accountability Project