While the agriculture sector in Uganda has grown steadily by nearly 4 percent for more than 10 years, real agricultural GDP has still not achieved the level reached in the 1970s. Over the last 10 years, the main sources of growth–which are expansion of area under cultivation and improvement of incentives for farmers to produce–have been played out, meaning that Uganda must look to such alternatives as increasing productivity of land and labor and shifting production patterns from low-value staples to higher value commodities.
Low productivity of Ugandan farmers is attributed to research and extension services that are not adequately demand-driven and low use of new technologies by farmers even when they are available. Uganda's Plan for the Modernization of Agriculture assigns first priority to agriculture extension and research, focusing on achieving greater relevance in both the research and extension programs. This effort is supported by a multi-donor National Agricultural Advisory Services Project (NAADS)–designed to make poor farmers aware of and equipped to adopt, improved technology and management practices. By the end of 2006, the project was operating in 37 districts (of a total of 80). By the end of 2007, it is expected to have reached 64 districts.
The project is ongoing, but initial surveys suggest that farmers in those counties covered by the project are adopting technologies that lead to real improvements in yields and farm incomes. Productivity of those farmers is reported to be 27 percent higher than those in areas not currently served by the project.
- The NAADS project continues to expand rapidly.
- As a result of the confidence in the program, the government budget allocation for the program of agricultural advisory services increased 46 percent in 2006/07.
- 64 percent of farmers groups have reported replicating some aspects of the new project technology on their own fields.
- Total project cost is US$107.92 million, of which US$45 million is from IDA covering the period from 2001 to 2008.
- IDA led an effort among donors to harmonize support through NAADS.
- IDA helped synthesize the experience to date with agricultural services and rural development in Uganda, and to develop guiding principles for agricultural advisory services. The NAADS model is being studied by other African countries and academics worldwide, with aspects being replicated in Kenya and Zambia.
- The NAADS approach involves provision of support to demand-driven activities; farmer empowerment is achieved through direct contracting of advisory services by farmer groups.
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the European Union, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK. Local governments and farmers organizations are also contributing to the project in cash and in kind.
A major challenge for NAADS in the future will be expanding its reach beyond areas initially participating in the program. Marketing and post harvest handling will be increasingly important to sustaining and transforming adoption of technologies into increases in household wealth and income.