In Uganda, agriculture is king. Almost as if it were designed for farming, Uganda boasts nearly half the arable land in East Africa, abundant rainfall, and two growing seasons throughout much of the country. Its agriculture sector employs more than two-thirds of Uganda’s workforce, and most of the country’s poorest rely on small farms for their livelihood. It is also a significant driver of Uganda’s growing economy, accounting for half of Uganda’s exports and 25 percent of its gross domestic product.
And yet, agriculture in Uganda has never been leveraged to its full capacity. Crop yields are significantly below their potential, and post-harvest losses are as high as 40 percent. Meanwhile, Ugandans continue to struggle with widespread poverty and under-nutrition. With the population expected to double in 24 years, it is critical that the agriculture sector also expand to meet the growing needs of the country.
To help identify and break down the barriers limiting the agriculture sector, Chemonics and its partner, Common Ground Consulting, recently introduced an innovative program to tackle Uganda’s agriculture challenges from a fresh angle. Leveraging Excellence in Agriculture Development for Uganda (LEAD UG) is an exciting new executive leadership program, which allows a diverse cohort of high-profile leaders from the many sectors that touch agriculture to share their experiences and ideas to ignite agricultural growth.
Eighteen individuals have been selected to participate in LEAD UG’s inaugural year. They come from diverse backgrounds and represent the best of their respective sectors. The group includes two former ministers (finance and agriculture), a former Ugandan ambassador to China, the former chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Agriculture, the chief executive officer of Uganda’s largest media group, the chief executive officer of one of the country’s largest grain and coffee trading companies, the managing director of the largest agricultural conglomerate in Uganda, a professor and principal of Makerere University, the founder of a major seed company, and the executive directors of several local and influential NGOs.
The approach of LEAD UG is simple and smart — assemble a power team of bright, successful, and respected industry leaders to work together to help Uganda reach its agricultural potential. Each of the 18 participants brings different skills, expertise, and perspectives. By involving influencers from various sectors, LEAD UG will strengthen the relationships between public and private sector leaders and influencers. So far, participants have accepted the challenge with energy and enthusiasm.
As former chairman of the Agriculture Committee of Parliament and LEAD UG participant, Mathias Kasamba, noted, “I happen to have taken a classical decision to retire from being a member of Parliament after serving for 15 years, and I found the invitation to participate in the LEAD UG program a very enriching and transformative engagement.”
Since its formation, one of the first things the group has done is identify top priorities for action. Making sure these issues align with Uganda’s presidential priorities, group members compiled the following list of issues on which to focus their efforts: agriculture finance, public sector institutional reform, budget advocacy and accountability, enterprise development and mindset change, legal and regulatory frameworks and laws, the value-chain approach, and youth affirmative action.