Poverty Alleviation Leveraging Agriculture in Uganda

By Kirega Alex

There are many definitions of poverty including the recent development defining poverty as a multi dimensional aspect that affects all sects of life including education, access to health care and people’s involvement in decision making.

The general definition however is according to a poverty threshold – the poverty line, which is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living in a given country. The common international poverty line has in the past been roughly $1 a day although in 2008, the World Bank came out with a revised figure of $1.25 at 2005 purchasing-power parity. A poor person under this definition is one living under this thresh hold.

Poverty can be relative or absolute with in ability to afford basic human needs, such as clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. In other words absolute poverty is when some one is deprived to the extent that his survival is at stake where as some one is relatively poor in comparison with another person who is in a better condition of life enjoying better standards of living.

Using the full sample of 2005/06, 31.1 percent of Ugandans were estimated to be poor, corresponding to nearly 8.4 million persons according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2009 statistical abstract.
About 85% of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas with 80% of the poor living in rural areas depending mainly on subsistence agriculture to survive and earn. Agriculture contributed 31.9% to Uganda’s GDP in 2006/2007 making it just second to the service sector which contributed 47.1% according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa including Uganda still use agriculture as a lead sector for poverty alleviation and as an engine of growth and economic development today because it can work in concert with other sectors to produce faster growth, reduce poverty, and sustain the environment. Effective use requires adjusting agendas to each country type and within countries as well. However, despite convincing successes, agriculture has not been used to its full potential according to the world development report 2008 on agriculture for development.

Agricultural products should not be sold directly from the garden to market because in the first instance they will fetch very low prices as compared to their counterparts – the processed and manufactured goods. The level of intake as far as labour absorption and employment creation is concerned will be too low – a major reason as to why the un employment levels in Uganda like other Sub Saharan African Countries have remained relatively high keeping average wages just at subsistence level as compared to the developed world.

A multi dimensional approach should be taken rather than a sectoral approach taking into account all sectors of the economy including the industrial sector, transport sector, education sector and the health sector among others if agriculture is to fully realize its potential in poverty alleviation and economic development.

In the first instance farmers should be provided with relevant information as far a seed selection is concerned, availability of better varieties of seeds, other planting materials and animal breeds. They also need information on care for growing plants and animals in order to realize quantity and quality in out put.

After harvesting, agricultural produce should be stored properly which, calls for development of proper and modern storage facilities so as losses incurred by farmers at this stage of production.

From the stores, the products should be processed, packed, branded this calls for development of a sound industry base with factories and processing plants. This adds value to the agricultural products enabling them to fetch higher prices not only at the domestic market but also at the world market.

Efficient marketing infrastructure such as wholesale, retail, assembly markets and storage facilities is essential for cost-effective marketing, to minimize post-harvest losses and to reduce health risks. Markets play an important role in rural development, income generation, food security, developing rural-market linkages and gender issues. Planners need to be aware of how to design markets that meet a community’s social and economic needs and how to choose a suitable site for a new market.

In many cases sites are chosen that are inappropriate and result in under-use or even no use of the infrastructure constructed. It is also not sufficient just to build a market: attention needs to be paid to how that market will be managed, operated and maintained according to John Tracey-White in the market extension guide of the Food and Agricultural Research Organization entitled planning and designing rural markets. Virtual or on line markets are also relevant as the literacy levels of the country improve.

The transport sector should also be developed with a good road transport net work connecting rural areas to enable smooth transportation of the products to the market.

In addition to farmers having an easy access to production inputs, the financial system, the market and agricultural knowledge, education can also improve agricultural productivity. The education sector should also be integrated into the process to produce skilled personnel to work in the industries, work on the roads, carry out research on better varieties and breeds, agricultural inputs, product development and market the products amongst others. It also equips learners with fundamental knowledge about advancements in the field of agriculture an opportunity for modernization of Uganda’s agricultural sector making it more profitable.

The health sector should also be efficient so that the productivity of the workers not only in the gardens but also in the industries and factories is not compromised.

In this way the absorption capacity of the agricultural sector increases at every stage of production creating more employment opportunities in the country – a crucial factor in poverty alleviation and economic development since employment generates incomes, which enable individuals and their dependants to purchase goods and services necessary to meet their basic needs. Similarly availability of productive employment opportunities greatly reduces poverty. Besides the agricultural products will then fetch a higher price just as labour since it will no longer be unskilled but skilled given an efficient education system that not only provide theory but also practical lessons.

This is the seal of economic development and poverty alleviation not only in Uganda but also in other Sub-Saharan African countries through leveraging agriculture.

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