Modernizing Agriculture Impact on Land Use

The President Museveni led National Resistance Movement (NRM) Administration promotes a single story that there is a need to modernize Uganda’s agriculture from ‘subsistence farming’ to commercial farming.

This single story suggests that commercialization of agriculture will usher in better utilisation of Uganda’s land that is claimed currently underutilized by the majority who are categorised smallholder subsistence farmers.

President Museveni in “Statement by the President given to the Conference on Modernization of Agriculture, Entebbe, State House – 13th August 2011

One of the modernization views that they promote is that smallholder farmers, if allowed to continue producing, should be grouped in zones (zoned/zoning) so that farmers within a particular zone should mono-crop and all produce a single crop. Apparently, zoning will ensure farmers produce significant bulked quantities of produce from that single crop in order to supply it to industrialists for value addition.

Photo credit Amatheon Agri

Another modernization view that they promote is that smallholder farmers should be replaced on the land by large scale farmers. Large scale farmers in this context are often viewed as those who have the capacity to produce large quantities, usually through mono-cropping and through the use of high technology – including machinery, artificial fertilisers and pesticides and perhaps even genetically modified crops.

The premise of that single story – modernizing Uganda’s agriculture – is the idea that it is better for Uganda’s farmers to grow to sell and then buy to eat.

The rationale for that single story hinges on reasoning that if Uganda’s farmers move away from ‘subsistence farming’ into commercial farming then Uganda will become primarily an exporter of value added products as opposed to being mainly an exporter of primary products; thus earning more through international trade.

Inbuilt within the modernize agriculture paradigm’, most importantly, is the acceptance, consciously or sub-consciously, of covert agrarian reform – changes in the way Uganda’s agricultural land is used and by whom.

Changes in the way that agricultural land is used normally have a knock on effect of changing the status of smallholder farmers to something else. For example, through land alienation, they become landless urban dweller service providers, who are net buyers of food; or food traders, etc.

A male beauty salon service provider (Photo credit: Amy Fallon in take part)

The problem is that the long term impact of the change in status for smallholder farmers is rarely and is scantily accommodated within the dominant discourse of that single story.

  • What is the long term impact on Uganda’s smallholder farmers of ‘modernization’ interventions which change the way in which Uganda’s agricultural land is used?
  • Are all Ugandans equally impacted – positively or negatively?
  • If negatively impacted, what legal recourse is provided within the Laws of Uganda and international law for those so impacted?
  • How may those who are negatively impacted be assisted to seek redress and justice?

16 responses to “Modernizing Agriculture Impact on Land Use”

  1. Talk of value added! You want add value, then do it the right way like our great grand parents did it:

    Imagine some muzungu coming from overseas to tell our educated law makers about passing policies that take us back to the benefits of our traditional ways of our grand and great grand parents of fermented foods/milk to improve our health –

    For the city kids or those who have never had or looked down on fermented milk, eshabwe or other traditional fermented foods will have to either agree that their great grand parents were right or disagree with the following findings –

    Whichever the case, how ironic it is that every time a scientist comes up with some discovery and claims it is better than our traditional foods, soon or later the truth comes to bite them if they are still alive. We were told our gee was unhealthy because it contained too much saturated fat and saturated fat was bad. So man made oils with less saturated fats were promoted as much healthier –

    If you remember, I pointed out that U.S. diet wouldn’t be what it is without Uganda. Dr. Trowell and Dr. Burkitt who learned from Ugandans the importance of eating foods rich in fiber, went ahead and explained to the Western world health benefits of eating foods rich in fiber like Ugandans.

    Now, it is us who have decided to follow the processed food diet of the West and in process we are acquiring what Dr. Trowell termed – ‘Western Disease’, now some people want us to get our main source of nutrition from GMO foods, an experiment that has never been done on any society or anybody for that matter.

    Lead researcher Stephen O’Keefe said: “These findings are really very good news. In just two weeks, a change in diet from a Westernized composition to a traditional African high-fibre, low-fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk.”

    What do obesity, constipation, heart disease, some common cancers, tooth decay and diabetes have in common? –

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seriously? Modernised agriculture? Save for the machinery! But with wat t comes along with? Like use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers n genetically modified crops? do we have the knowledge of both long term and short term negative effects that these three cause before we can even talk about “underutilation of land by subsistence farmers” that the govt is claiming to have under the spotlight?
    How would you define the act of producing to sell and buy after? Remember the farmer will be buying at the cost of a value added product! And what is “value added” are we talking about the primary producer buying “processed products and brand names” do we know what processed food products are in anyway? These are questions i am putting forward as an organic farmer and advocate for the total revival embrace and protection of organic farming in uganda whether for large scale or small scale, local consumption or industrialisation purposes! If i may ask was anlysis done before and after the so called NAADS Programme that the government initiated and implemented a few years back?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andrew you mean like the moringa and vanilla sagas. An no economist, but the premise of the economic laws of supply and demand is that they dictate the price … excess demand exceeding supply increases the price; while excess supply exceeding demand drastically reduces the price. In fact I seem to recall stories of farmers in Northern Uganda burning cotton in-field or letting it rot rather than harvest it because the prices had fallen so low. Indeed, flactuating prices on the world market is the reason why zonning does not make any economic sense what so ever


  3. Thanks Norah for this urgument. But as you may already know changing agriculture is not just due to government. Naturally times change and farmers by themselves change and want to mordernise in order to maximise profit and pay for their children fees including the any private schools and universities. So as a government we should be working strategically to help the future farmer of Uganda.


  4. Nora, thanks for the article.

    Richard, ask that expert from BOU to explain to you where the money for subsidizing commodity crop farmers is going to come from? U.S. Food aid, yes. Tax Payers’ Money,”NO.” – “These are American taxpayer dollars, and I think these dollars ought to be spent in America on American products,” said Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, chairman of the agriculture appropriations committee:

    So who is left? Just as you may have guessed, – “Private Corporations” like Monsanto and Syngenta that will offer to lend millions of dollars to Ugandan farmers as long as their land titles are held as collateral for loans.

    Then just like Nytil couldn’t stay afloat when Ugandans kept buying very cheap used clothes dumped into the market, the same will happen with local firms growing commodity crops trying to compete against Food aid from without.

    Didn’t the government sell Nytil at a big loss to the same investors who defaulted in the first sale?:

    Another way is Monsantos to influence the governments on what crops get subsides in the name of investment, and of course which leads to “western diseases”, without ability to treat them:

    Could this be another method for:

    Remember, Monsanto drought resistant GMO crops are not working in places that have droughts and without any more irrigation waters:

    That is why Africa, the only continent left with aquifers and fertile lands has a big potential of becoming the bread basket of the world:

    In a speech last year USAID chief Rajiv Shah called the monetization of food aid “inefficient and sometimes counterproductive,” saying that in some cases “evidence has indicated that this practice actually hurts the communities we seek to help.” Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization cautions that monetization often results in “destroying local farm prices” and CARE, one of the world’s largest relief organizations, boycotts all monetization projects.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nora, this is great. You may also ask what is wrong with the culturally based food production that has fed Ugandans for centuries. If change has to happen how would such people be involved? I have been having a row with an expert from Bank of Uganda on the future of Uganda’s economy and I will forward you our arguments in a separate email. r

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Richard – all the reading am doing for our concept on Agriculture in the Context of Uganda provoked it – Back to the concept now …


      • Norah, can I join that concept? I am doing something albeit on a smaller scale focusing on a single district and a single crop.


    • I would like to share the following research by Dillon T. Klepetar, which I found to be one of the best researched on GMO Agriculture and Climate change:

      “Food security poses the most serious risk from climate change fallout and ironically the proposed solutions will make hunger worse and not better. As basic resources become more scarce and lucrative resources more profitable, the possibility of conflict mounts.” – Dillon T. Klepetar


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