Walking the Talk: Uganda’s Journey to Regenerative Solutions for Agriculture and Farmers

Juliet Kyokunda describes her team’s journey to finding regenerative solutions for farmers in Uganda to build better climate resilience and grow incomes.

Juliet Kyokunda, TechnoServe Uganda country director, describes her team’s journey to finding regenerative solutions for farmers and explains why changing systems should start with us.

Juliet Kyokunda is leading her team to find regenerative solutions for farmers. (Photo: Wayne Sexton)


In 2022, TechnoServe launched a new vision for ending poverty, emphasizing improving incomes while boosting climate resilience and rejuvenating the environment. TechnoServe set a goal that by 2030, at least 80% of all projects will have regenerative targets and practices built into their implementation plans. Regenerative practices are economically sustainable business solutions that mitigate climate issues or reverse nature loss. They are meant to restore people, nature, and climate. So what exactly does it mean to integrate regenerative practices into our work? 

TechnoServe Uganda’s country director, Juliet Kyokunda, has a unique view of the opportunities for regenerative business in Uganda and beyond. Juliet came to TechnoServe in 2022 after working as the executive director for the Uganda Biodiversity Fund, a conservation organization in Uganda. Previously, she worked with MicroEnsure to distribute micro-insurance products and weather index insurance products to farmers in southern Africa. Juliet’s interface with smallholder farmers shaped her resolve to work with vulnerable groups to adapt to the changing climate. Under Juliet’s leadership, several of TechnoServe’s projects in Uganda are supporting farmers in uptaking regenerative practices on their farms and engaging the broader marketplace.

Why are you so passionate about finding regenerative solutions for farmers in Uganda?

I was born into a family of smallholder farmers, so I understand farmers’ struggles and what food actually means to their children’s education and their entire livelihood. Yet, these are the people who are most affected by climate change. 

I’ve also seen the effects of climate issues on smallholder farmers firsthand throughout my career. When I worked for MicroEnsure, I met farmers in different countries across southern Africa. In this region, rain falls only for about five months, and the rest are dry. If you miss that season, you cannot have food until the next season. Working there, I saw firsthand the impact of climate events on farmers and how they were struggling. It was misery all the way through. Sometimes, people would grow maize, but when it began to flower, the sunshine would be too much, and they wouldn’t harvest anything. It was so tough.

Describe the process of realizing that integrating regenerative practices in TechnoServe’s work requires starting with your own office. 

When TechnoServe launched the new strategy in 2022, regenerative business was one of those key components. It was a big elephant in the room, because we didn’t know where to begin. So, we had a workshop to discuss what regenerative work means to us and how we can integrate it into our various projects. 

We all know you can only tell people to do good if you know what good looks like. So we agreed to begin with ourselves and said, how are we protecting the environment? What are we telling our clients to do? Do we do it ourselves? 

For example, we asked some of our food processing clients what their packaging is made of. Can they replace the plastic with other materials? Then at the office, we also looked at how much plastic we use. Before, we were using disposable cups to drink water. We stopped this and bought glasses and gave out reusable water bottles to staff for use in their offices and in the field. The team made a pledge that we would carry our shopping bags for shopping to reduce the number of polythene bags we get. We also bought different colors of garbage bins where we sort our garbage. The biodegradable, the plastic, etc., so even when we are sending the garbage out, we send it sorted so that the biodegradable elements can still be used for composting.


Possiano Teretere, Jenefer Lhughabwe, and Elly Gugulu (left to right) show off their TechnoServe water bottles in the TechnoServe Uganda office. Removing plastic from the office was a regenerative solution the team implemented for themselves. (TechnoServe / Juliet Kyokunda)

How are you implementing regenerative solutions with farmers within your operations?

Working with a group of consultants, we carried out the value chain analysis. We decided to begin with the Northern Uganda Horticulture Market Acceleration Program (Nu-HortiMap) to look for regenerative solutions for farmers. This was a short, one-year program on horticulture, and we focused on soil health, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change adaptation at every node of the value chain.

The team candidly discussed everything we wanted to do in the project with the consultants. We looked at the farmers who wanted to work with catalytic and infrastructure grants, the off-takers we wanted to work with, and the transporters involved in the business. We also looked at the kinds of greenhouse gas emissions that are coming from our operations and how we can reduce them. 

What did you learn?

When the results from the study came, we were amazed that even some of our actions were degrading the environment. For instance, we talk about fertilizers, but does every soil require the same amount of fertilizer? Usually, the recommendation is almost the same, and you say, oh, you apply this fertilizer to the soil, but on which soil? So, doing soil tests taught us the minerals that certain soils lacked and that the same fertilizers should not be applied to every type of soil.

2023 was a year of realization. We have to understand that we have a role to play at every node. Whatever interventions we make, we must think them through properly. 

Why was it important to understand the context and history of the places where you were working?

One of the tasks we gave the team was to read widely on what regenerative horticulture means in the local context. We realized that the history of the areas where we work is important. A lot of what these traditional people were doing was conserving the environment. The methods of cultivation and the crops grown in certain areas were all based on protecting the environment and responding to the climatic conditions in those areas. We started taking steps back to understand what crops were grown where and why. 

As an organization, we know that every recommendation we give to the people we work with should be well-founded. It is important to do tests and analyze the situation before making recommendations. We need to look at the mechanization tools we are recommending to clients and examine the practices in agriculture. In northern Uganda, mulching was one of the difficult practices to introduce. But we have finally succeeded by explaining the benefits. Bush burning was rampant as a quick method to clear their fields and grow crops, but it destroyed biodiversity. With the introduction of mulching, they now preserve the grass for that purpose. 

Farmers in Uganda show off their cotton crop. Growing cotton, which requires less water than other crops, has proven to be a regenerative solution for farmers. (Photo: Shannon Jenson)

What are some other examples of regenerative solutions for farmers that you implemented?

We are asking clients to stop burning the grass and, instead, cut it and mulch their gardens. So if they have been weeding three times in a season, they will only weed once because then the grass will stop the weeds from growing. This has three benefits:

  • It stops bush burning, which destroys microorganisms
  • Clients avoid over-tilling the ground 
  • Clients only use minimal amounts of weed-killing chemicals

We are also showing clients how to create gullies in their gardens so that when there is a lot of rain, these gullies actually keep the water and it doesn’t run off.  This runoff not only takes soil but also moves with the nutrients and seeds in the soil.

We are also showing clients how to plant trees on the boundaries of their gardens. So that first of all, they get shade as they dig, but it is also one way of increasing tree cover. We have set it as a requirement for all the farmers we work with to plant at least 20 trees around their gardens. This seems like it is something so small, but when you add it up, it makes sense.

One other thing we have introduced into our programs is soil testing. We do a lot of soil testing now to understand which nutrients are lacking in which soil, what type of soil, and its capacity to hold water. So we minimize fertilizer usage because only the lacking nutrients are applied to the soil. This saves the soil from receiving excessive fertilizers and also saves the farmers money. 

What are your hopes for the future of regenerative solutions for farmers in Uganda? 

I would really want us to sit and brainstorm. We have different practices that we work in. We can look at, for example, food processing. What are those key things that every food processing program must be aware of that can help protect the environment? We would then build these into the manuals and develop a curriculum. 

Lastly, I would love for everyone to get a better understanding of how they can apply regenerative interventions in their work. I would love to see people understand that taking care of the environment is everyone’s responsibility, which is the first step in analyzing every intervention we recommend.

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