Uganda: Covid-19 Has Pushed More Ugandans Into Agriculture, Says World Bank

Job losses and closure of small businesses due to Covid-19 related challenges has forced a number of Ugandans into agriculture, according to World Bank Country Manager Mr Tony Thompson.

However, he noted, this has created a lot of pressure on natural resources as people scramble for available land to manage and survive the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking during the virtual release of the World Bank 17th Uganda Economic Update, Mr Thompson said: "Following job losses and closure of small businesses, many people [have] returned to agriculture and other natural resources dependent activities to manage and survive the crisis.

This has further strained natural resources, which were already under pressure from rapid population growth, urbanisation, refugee influx and the country's drive for industrialisation."

The World Bank noted that forests have been the worst hit with an average depletion of 2.6 per cent per annum.

Over the past 60 years Uganda's forest cover has been declining at an annual rate of 2.6 per cent, which makes it one of the highest rates of forest loss globally.

This presents climate risks, among which include extreme weather exacerbated by natural capital degradation.

Therefore, the World Bank under the: From crisis to green resilient growth: Investing in sustainable land management and climate-smart agriculture report, noted that government must adopt sustainable land management to achieve inclusive economic and social growth.

During the meeting, Ms Rachel Sebudde, the World Bank senior economist and lead author of the report, said increased budgetary support and incentives towards uptake of sustainable management of land, climate and smart agriculture, must be adopted to streamline natural resource governance for consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness.

Ms Sebudde also noted that Covid-19 had presented a number of disruptions, which call for a multifaceted approaches such as stimulus packages and structural measures to sustainably increase productivity and build resilience to enhance livelihoods, the economy and general well-being of Ugandans.

At least 70 per cent of Ugandans, according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, are involved in agriculture. However, the biggest percentage of this is in subsistence farming.

Ms Sebudde said the significant shift of Ugandans to agriculture in response to the crisis has heightened the urgency for the country to enhance sustainable use of land to check encroachment on forests, swamps and other vulnerable natural resources.

According to the World Bank, the combined impact of land degradation and unsustainable soil erosion, is estimated to cost Uganda 17 per cent of gross domestic product while environmental degradation causes a loss of 27 per cent to agricultural gross domestic product.

Therefore, the World Bank noted, there is need to streamline natural resource governance policies and institutions for consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness across all levels, suggesting that natural resource governance policies must be coherent and cross-sectoral coordinated through the green economy focused institutional arrangements and budgeting.

Uganda, the World Bank also noted, must strengthen the link between national, local, and community-based institutions to effectively close the gap between policy and implementation to effectively accommodate customary land tenure and open access to land to a broader set of actors.

Cropland occupies 65.4 per cent of Uganda's agricultural land while pastureland takes up 21.1 per cent.

Protected areas take up 12.7 per cent while forests take up 1 per cent, according to the World Bank.

At lease more than 80 per cent of Ugandans depend on natural resources for their livelihoods.

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