Horticulture Production Transforms Lives and Livelihoods in Northern Uganda

Ample rainfall and widespread soil fertility make Uganda a prime location for horticulture production. For small-scale farmers like Michael Acire, growing fresh fruits and vegetables offers a pathway out of poverty. Learn how TechnoServe is supporting farmers like Michael in northern Uganda.

Michael inspects passion fruit on his farm in northern Uganda. Horticulture production in Uganda is critical for farmer livelihoods.

As a cool breeze finds its way through neatly planted rows of passion fruit, 39-year-old Michael Acire pauses to examine each plant carefully. Michael, his wife, two daughters, and son live together next to their farm in Gulu district in northern Uganda. The farm is a culmination of many years of hard work and dedication for Michael and his family. In Uganda, agriculture plays a critical role in the economy, providing 66% of the country’s total employment. 

A Dream Realized

Michael had always been passionate about horticulture. He dreamed of owning land teeming with life, filled with rows of passion fruit, watermelon, tomatoes, and cabbage. One day, he visited a local market and spoke with a vendor. The vendor told him of the high demand for these fruits and vegetables and where he could buy quality seeds. Michael was sold and got to work planting. 

But soon after planting, he experienced setbacks. 

“I faced a lot of challenges,” Michael explained. “For example, I did not know how to deal with pests and how to keep proper records.”

Horticulture Production in Uganda

In 2023, Michael learned of a promising opportunity to learn improved agronomic practices that would increase his yields and improve the quality of his produce. TechnoServe’s Northern Uganda Horticulture Market Acceleration Program (NU-HortiMAP) was working with farmers in his district, and he decided to join. 

The program, which ran from 2022 to 2024, was implemented with funding from the Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi) across eight districts in Uganda (Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Kole, Lira, Nwoya, Oyam, and Pader). It promoted holistic and inclusive approaches to sustainable horticulture development for smallholder farmers. 

Michael was one of the 7,642 smallholder farmers (3,064 women and 4,578 men) selected and trained on good agronomic practices and regenerative agriculture. Through this training, he learned the superiority of hybrid varieties and the establishment of plant nurseries. 

Horticulture production in Uganda offers farmers a pathway out of poverty.
Horticulture production in Uganda offers small-scale farmers a pathway out of poverty. (TechnoServe / Nile Sprague)

Improvements on the Farm

“I have discovered that growing fruits the right way brings tremendous results,” Michael explained with a smile. “For example, growing passion fruit the right way is much better than growing many different crops on a lot of land but with poor farm management practices. I see that passion fruit is a high-value crop that will fetch much more money for me when I manage the farm properly.”

Michael is already beginning to see promising results. He shared that his plants are now bearing more and bigger fruits. Additionally, several vendors have visited his farm and bought his produce.

“My hope for the future is to sell the fruit in bigger quantities…I will have the capacity to sell 50 bags of passion fruit per season. Currently, each sack goes at about UGX 300,000 ($80). With that money, I will be able to buy more land. At that rate, I will obtain water for the production of my passion fruit. That way, I will irrigate throughout the dry season and earn from the high prices in the dry season.” 

Lasting Impact of Horticulture Production in Uganda

Michael’s experience in the program has inspired several people, including district leaders in his community and others from nearby communities. They have visited his farm to learn from his farming experience. Michael remembers one memorable day during the visit of the Local Council Five (LC5) District Chairperson (the political head of the district). It was clear that they were impressed with his progress. His success has not only improved his family’s livelihood but also sparked a sense of hope and possibility in the community.

Michael’s hard work is challenging the mindset of his peers. His commitment is encouraging others to explore horticulture production as a viable option to improve their quality of life.

Michael’s story shows that mentorship and coaching can improve farmers’ practices, while individual resilience and dedication can overcome odds and help farmers experience the vision for their farms. Michael provides a positive example to his community and challenges others to overcome their own barriers to success.

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Humphery Rwabugahya is a communications manager for TechnoServe Uganda.