Embracing Climate-Smart Agriculture in Uganda: A Conversation with Annette Bogere

In this Q&A with Annette Bogere, HortiMAP project director, learn how TechnoServe is helping smallholder farmers in Uganda increase their resilience to climate threats.

TechnoServe staff support farmers to monitor their fields on yield performance and adoption of climate-smart practices for passion fruit in Kamwezi Village, Rukiga District, Uganda.

Uganda is home to abundant natural resources, a tropical climate, rich soils, and ample rainfall, all of which provide an ideal environment for farming. Agriculture is the backbone of the Ugandan economy, employing over 70% of the country’s population. However, the agricultural sector is highly vulnerable to climate change

TechnoServe is helping smallholder farmers in Uganda increase their resilience to climate threats through the HortiMAP project. The project aims to improve food security, increase incomes, create jobs, and promote growth in Uganda’s horticulture sector. The four-year initiative is funded by the Dutch Government through the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Kampala. 

In this Q&A with me, Annette Bogere, HortiMAP’s project director, I share strategies for building smallholder farmers’ climate resilience, an inspiring success story, and the importance of creating spaces for people to learn from one another. 

Well-sorted sweet peppers from a farmer group in Wakiso, Uganda. TechnoServe helped farmers in the program access export markets.
Well-sorted sweet peppers from a farmer group in Wakiso, Uganda. TechnoServe helped farmers in the program access export markets. Photo: Peter Mugisha for TechnoServe


How are smallholder farmers in Uganda experiencing the impacts of climate change?

Annette Bogere: Farmers in Uganda are highly affected by climate change. First, most farmers here only have small plots of land. They are forced to use their land intensively, which can lead to land degradation – the reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity of the land. Climate change accelerates land degradation, which is linked to lowered crop yields. 

Second, smallholder farmers are highly dependent on consistent rainfall patterns. Only a small percentage of Ugandan farmers have access to irrigation technology. Uganda typically has two rainy seasons each year. However, lately, there have been years with only one rainy season, which has led to reduced crop yields. This unpredictability has significant implications for food security and employment across the country, as over 70% of the economy depends on agriculture. Uganda has one of the youngest populations in Africa, and many of these young people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

What is the HortiMAP project doing to help farmers become more resilient to climate change?

AB: First, we offer farmers training on climate-smart agricultural practices. In Uganda, we’re seeing changes in weather patterns, which have led to new and increased pests in many areas. HortiMAP encourages farmers to use an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. IPM is an environmentally-sensitive approach to addressing pests that prioritizes human and ecosystem health. 

As part of this process, we’ve helped farmers conduct soil testing to know what problems impact their crops and what strategies would most effectively address these concerns. We’re also working with farmers to help them understand what crops would work best for their land and how to retain soil moisture without high-tech irrigation techniques. For example, farmers can plant cover crops or use mulch to protect the soil. They can also create terraces on their land to reduce soil erosion

We use demonstration plots to show farmers what works well and what practices will give them better yields. We also use lead farmers, who serve as influencers in their communities, to show other farmers the best practices. Beyond training on good agricultural practices, we’re also linking farmers to suppliers of good quality inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds. Finally, there is an information component to the program. We’re providing farmers with information and awareness about climate change and how it might impact their farms and livelihoods.

A well-managed and mulched tomato garden in Kayunga, Uganda. The farmer participated in the HortiMAP project and uses organic methods for water retention.
A well-managed and mulched tomato garden in Kayunga, Uganda. The farmer uses organic methods for water retention.
Photo: Elly Gugulu for TechnoServe

What other challenges are farmers in Uganda facing?

AB: One of the other challenges farmers face is accessing markets for their crops. Currently, our team is supporting farmers in 10 value chains. A value chain is a series of interrelated processes that bring a product from production to the end consumer. We wanted to choose value chains that were not capital- or land-intensive, which are more suitable for youth and women. Currently, HortiMAP is engaging farmers in growing leafy vegetables, okra, tomatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, pineapple, passion fruit, mango, and jackfruit. 

The HortiMAP project works predominantly with small-scale farmers not yet ready for markets. TechnoServe collaborates with off-takers to help farmers improve the quality and quantity of their produce – important components of accessing markets. An off-taker is the party buying the produce from the smallholder farmer. Currently, 10% of farmers in the program are accessing international markets for crops like pepper, while another 30% are accessing local and domestic markets.

Mike Ssali, a young farmer participating in the HortiMAP project, shows samples of the seedlings he raised in his greenhouse in Nakifuma, Uganda.
Mike Ssali, a young farmer, shows samples of the seedlings he raised in his greenhouse in Nakifuma, Uganda. Access to high-quality hybrid seeds is important for increasing farmers’ climate resilience.
Photo: Elly Gugulu for TechnoServe

In your work as HortiMAP project director, have you met anyone whose story has particularly resonated with you?

AB: Absolutely – there have been so many. One that comes to mind is a 25-year-old man named Mike Ssali. He initially participated in one of TechnoServe’s youth programs in Uganda called Strengthening Rural Youth Development Through Enterprise. More recently, he participated in the HortiMAP training and received a cost-sharing grant, which he used to establish a seedling business. Mike is now successfully producing a variety of hybrid seedlings, including those for tomatoes, pepper, cabbage, and carrots. He supplies the seedlings to over 200 smallholder farmers and covers approximately 50 acres. 

Access to high-quality seeds is essential for farmers, particularly when adapting to climate change. We’ve worked with him to ensure that other farmers in HortiMAP also have access to high-quality seeds. His business has grown rapidly – he now employs five women and four men, and his income has increased significantly. He is also investing in the community by training other farmers on how to plant their seedlings. 

What excites you most about this work?

AB: We’ve been able to try many new things with the HortiMAP project. One element I’m particularly excited about is the value chain platforms we’re developing. These platforms bring together many diverse stakeholders to discuss critical challenges and opportunities for collaboration within a given value chain. By participating in these platforms, farmers and other actors are empowered to make decisions and changes to their practices that can have immense positive benefits. So often, creating a space for people to talk to and learn from one another is the key to success. 

We hope this conversation with Annette inspired you!

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