Sara Kaweesa, Doctoral Student, Centre for Development Research, BOKU
“Oh Uganda! the land that feeds us by sun and fertile soil grown…” is a line in the third stanza of the country´s national anthem depicting that soil fertility has always been of ultimate importance. However, some regions of the country are already experiencing low and declining soil fertility. Almost 70% of Uganda was degraded by soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion between 1945 and 1990 especially in hilly and mountainous areas and highly populated areas. More than 20% of agricultural land and pastures in the country have been irreversibly degraded[i]. Studies also show soil nutrient depletion, mostly nitrogen among others; mining and little or no replenishment of nutrients [ii]. Ranking 104, food insecurity in some regions is between serious and alarming.[iii] Regional inequalities in food and nutrition security critically persist e.g. those under 5 years, refugees and vulnerable groups. Maize, beans and bananas remain important for food security[iv]. Therefore, in the national development plan, the agriculture sector highlights promoting sustainable land and soil management practices for soil conservation and healthy food production[v].
On the other hand, the tropical climate and two rainy seasons generally give potential for production of healthy food in addition to employing a great portion of the population. Nonetheless the impacts of climate change like floods and droughts have direct and serious consequences on food security. This means increasing resilience is vital as it is one of Uganda´s most relevant approach to climate adaptation.
Area specific soil analyses covering the entire country are long needed to increase agricultural production and productivity. Restoring and or improving land and soil quality and soil pollution have to be dealt with. Food markets i.e. their proper functioning, timely access to market information and notably protection from unfair food price volatility have to be addressed. Other obstacles like high cost of soil analyses, outdated soils inventory/map; expensive soils databases, inadequate knowledge management and implementation of policies to enable farmers to invest in sustainable soil and land use management practices have to be seriously considered.
[i] Dregne, H.E. (1990) Erosion and soil productivity in Africa. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 45, 431- 436.
[ii] Nkonya, E., Kaizzi, C. and Pender, J., 2005. Determinants of nutrient balances in a maize farming system in eastern Uganda. Agricultural systems, 85(2), pp.155-182.
[iii] 2019 Global Hunger Index
[iv] UBOS 2018,Statistical Abstract
[v] National Development Plan II (NDPII) 2015/16-2019/20
Foto: Sara Kaweesa