Farmers lead Ugandan poverty drop

23 September 2016

One of the major factors behind Uganda’s success story in the war against poverty has been the improvement in living standards among families working in agriculture, according to a report.

The World Bank Group’s latest Poverty Assessment said the proportion of the Ugandan population living beneath the national poverty line had declined from 31.1% in 2006 to 19.7% in 2013, and 79% of the reduction was accounted for by agricultural households.

Uganda was one of Africa’s best performing countries when it came to reducing the share of its population living on $1.90 per day or less. This fell from 53.2% to 34.6% over the same period.

Good rainfall and favourable food prices helped smallholder farmers to obtain higher prices for their produce and drove the rise in agricultural incomes in households over the last decade.

Uganda’s spending on road infrastructure, education, urban centre growth as well as promotion of trade and access to new regional markets contributed significantly to reducing poverty.

And the return of peace to the war-torn northern region of the country also helped considerably when it came to improving living standards.

However, the World Bank also criticised lack of access to basic services like electricity and sanitation, as well as low levels of education.

One in three Ugandan children are stunted, an indicator of malnutrition.

Lack of progress in these three areas is holding the country back from its goal of becoming a low middle income country by 2020.

But Uganda has made progress in other areas. Child and infant mortality, as well as maternal mortality, have reduced in the last decade while access to improved water has increased significantly.

Improvement in living standards was slower in the country’s poorer north and eastern regions.

Between 2005 and 2009, for every three Ugandans who were lifted out of poverty, two fell back in, while high fertility rates have held back poverty reduction in the country, by slowing consumption growth among poor households by 15% to 20%.

High fertility has also limited the participation of women in economic development.

The bank said modernising agricultural production and expanding employment income in non-agricultural sectors, as well as lower fertility rates, could significantly reduce poverty even further.

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