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African agriculture

Building resilience against drought: the case of Uganda

Barry Maher's picture



“This can’t be Karamoja,” I thought, looking around me.  I had read the reports, which focus on the vulnerability and poverty of this region in northern Uganda, home to the Karamojong, a nomadic people with their own language, traditions, and customs.  But it’s one thing to read about a place, and quite another to visit it. Karamoja was stunningly beautiful: there were boulders the size of mountains scattered across the horizon, vibrant green bushes and pasture atop red clay earth, and uninterrupted blue skies.  

Recently, I had traveled to Karamoja on a field trip to review the implementation of a government safety net, the Third Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF III), which had scaled up in response to the recent drought.  

Uganda’s population is predominantly rural and is limited in its ability to cope with production shocks. The country’s smallholder farmers, and especially the poorest 40% of households, are extremely vulnerable to drought [Uganda poverty study, WB 2016]. Drought response in Uganda has primarily been financed by international donors and delivered through humanitarians and NGOs, with the government playing a coordination role. This ad hoc, reactive approach presents drawbacks, including delayed response. 

Oh no--not another apps challenge!

Maja Andjelkovic's picture


Wanted: Mobile apps for African agriculture (Credit: infoDev)

Today, there are close to 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa. Sixty-five percent of the continent’s labor force works in agriculture or related sectors and it accounts for 32% of the gross domestic product. Mobile innovations are already improving efficiencies in the agricultural value chain; research shows that grain traders with mobile application usage experienced income growth of 29% and banana farmers in Uganda saw their revenues go up with 36%.

The mAgri Challenge, a business competition, has been designed to identify and support entrepreneurs developing mobile apps for agriculture in Africa.  If you have worked with mobile tech entrepreneurs in Africa over the last few years, you might be thinking: “Not another mobile apps challenge!”  This ‘competition fatigue’ is not completely unwarranted.  Too many quick competitions for mobile apps, which at first seemed cool and generated lots of attention, have left in their wake a pool of mobile entrepreneurs confused about the next steps they can take to grow their business.