Many food poor because of entitlement failure

There is an urgent need for Uganda to move the debate away from the fallacy of: “Smallholder farmers in Uganda are subsistence farmers and that is why they are food poor; needing help to move from subsistence farming to modern farming.” Our smallholder farmers feed our nation and beyond and so it can’t be about poor production.

It is more accurate to look at other reasons as to why thousands of smallholder farming households in Uganda are food poor. According to The Uganda National Household Survey Report 2019/2020, the most recent, “one in five persons in Uganda lives in poverty. There are about 3.5 million persons living below the poverty line.” And that a whopping 39 percent of Ugandans, about 15.9 million people are food poor

Reasons such as the phenomenon that the Philosopher, Economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen baptized: “entitlement failure” make much more sense. As in smallholder farming households in Uganda, the majority of Ugandans, are food poor because of their inability to buy food. And this is because they grow to sell and buy to eat, they are not subsistence farmers, they are net buyers of food.

The reason that they are unable to buy sufficient food is that when they sell their produce they get a bad deal, while the middleman and the end trader gets a better deal. So, when it is time for them to buy back food from markets, shops, etc., they cannot afford the much higher prices as compared to the prices that they sold their produce.

In which case, the much needed interventions are those that enable our smallholder farmers to get better terms of trade for their produce. Case in point, access to credit.

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