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Uganda's fragile recovery is jeopardized by recent tensions in the North where poverty is double the national average. Sorghum, millet and groundnut are major food crops in drier Northern Uganda. Improving smallholder agriculture and creating new agribusiness opportunities could lift many households out of poverty. Understanding the constraints from the field to the fork along each crop value chain will give insights to research and development priorities for the years to come.

>80% - Share of women employed in agriculture in Uganda

38% - Share of Uganda's population living on less than $1.25 a day

77% - On-farm sesame production sold in Ugandan markets [Munyua et al, 2013]

46% - Groundnut farmers in Uganda aware of improved varieties [Mugisha 2014]


General context

Uganda has been notorious for its long civil war that affected many families. Since the 1990s, the country has been recovering but tensions remain in Northern Uganda where rural poverty and malnutrition are high.

Agriculture is a major sector of the economy. Over 80% of women, producing 75% of the total agricultural production, are employed in it. Plantains, cassava, sweet potato and maize are the main subsistence crops. The major export crop is coffee. Finger millet, sesame and sorghum are also important food crops in drier regions in Northern Uganda. Difficult access to better seeds and other inputs, poor extension services to address the knowledge loss within the millions of displaced families, poor infrastructure and disrupted value chains are key constraints to Uganda's family farming.

ICRISAT research in Uganda

ICRISAT works with Uganda's agricultural research institutions such as the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) to help smallholder farmers get more yield and value out of major drylands crops such as groundnut, sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet.

Groundnut is a major legume crop, after bean. A recent extensive study across the main groundnut production areas reveals interesting findings such as the lack of farmers' awareness (46%) about improved varieties and different roles between women (retail) and men (traders) along the value chain. Adoption of improved varieties  depends on multiple drivers. Farmers who are better off are likely to adopt new varieties, and the more farmers adopt, the more they are keen to experiment with other improved varieties.     

In Northern Uganda where annual rainfall is below 800 mm, finger millet is a key food crop. Early-maturing variety Seremi 2  yields better than local varieties and has traits such as ease of threshing and blast resistance. 

Sesame, an oilseed crop, can generate significant income for farmers in the Northern and Eastern part of the country. Uganda is the 5th largest sesame producer. However, an analysis of the value chain shows that farmers could get benefit through better seeds, adequate equipment to facilitate planting at the right time, as well as organizing themselves to fetch better prices.

Promoting more climate-resilient cropping systems such as a sorghum-legume system is important as the Northern region is frequently struck by droughts. Moreover, predictions show that a majority of farmers will be negatively impacted by climate change [ref CCAFS]. 

To improve smallholders' livelihoods, you need inclusive and innovative agricultural value chains. Following a successful model in India, ICRISAT is helping set up a food processing business incubator that links research, the private sector and farmers.

​Uganda is the 5th largest producer of sesame. Shown in the picture is the white seeded farmer-preferred variety Sesim 2-5181.
Farmer participatory assessment of finger millet variety Seremi 2 in Gulu district.
Sesame products in Uganda - A sesame value chain analysis shows that sesame can make significant contribution to household income. Farmers sell on average three quarters of their produce.
A NaSARRI researcher does pigeonpea crossing. Uganda was a pigeonpea exporter before the civil war but now production is half the national demand.