A Review of China’s Support to Uganda’s Agriculture Sector

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“Only when the granary is full will people learn etiquette; only when people are well-fed will they know honor and shame,” says an ancient Chinese adage. One can argue that China put this saying in practice while nurturing her Sino-Africa relations by supporting agriculture sector.

In Uganda’s context, China has been playing a key role for almost 50 years. Indeed, in 1973 and 1987, China invested and supported establishment of Kibimba (Now Tilda Uganda) and Doho Rice Schemes. This increased Uganda’s rice production capacity on top of creating employment opportunities for the many people.

Through the South-to-South Co-operation, China has invested heavily and supported the Uganda’s agriculture sector. In 2009, working with United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China introduced a new programme FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC). Beijing backed this program and created a FAO-China Trust Fund with $30 million to support agriculture in Uganda.

In 2015, China launched Uganda’s FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC) phase II and injected $50million further supporting the country’s agriculture sector. This program received another $50million boost in phase III which was launched in 2021.

During the first two China-FAO SSC phases, China sent 47 Chinese agricultural experts and technicians on a two years mission. The experts are credited to have helped in skills development and exchanges. In particular, they helped to improve technologies used in production of rice, grapes, cherry tomatoes, foxtail millet, and apples. Also, the experts exchanged skills with Ugandan farmers in animal reproduction such as goats, pigs, and in fisheries. This project focused on exchanging mechanization, agro-processing and value-addition.

A June 2020 study entitled “Access and Adoption of Hybrid Seeds: Evidence from Uganda” published in Journal of African Economies credited Chinese agriculture support to Uganda that it has improved innovated agricultural practices. The study further reveals this has helped in addressing poverty challenges in Uganda’s rural areas.  

In October this year, working with Ugandan authorities, China will be Launching phase III of China-FAO SSC. This time, China will inject 2.39 million U.S. dollars in the program. Under phase III, China will send to Uganda 18 Chinese agricultural experts and technicians to agriculture sector. This project seeks to advance and support appropriate and effective technologies with aim of boosting the countries food security. More than 9,600 farmers of whom at least 30 percent will be women are expected to benefit during this phase while more than 200 Ugandan agricultural personnel will receive technical training.

From grassroots, several Ugandan farmers have already benefited from China funded Phase I and II of China-FAO SSC. Under the said two phases, farmers in districts such as Amuriat, Budaka, Kabale, Mbarara, and Wakiso among others. In Kabale, agricultural technology demonstration hubs have been established there which is boosting horticulture. China has also been supporting fish farming in the country. For example, China funded the construction of Kajjansi Aquaculture Training and Development Centre which is key in aquaculture research in Uganda.

Also, China funded construction of Wakawaka fish landing site. All this has seen increase and sustained fish production in Uganda. Uganda’s Fisheries sector is one of Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earners. The sector accounts for about US$200 million annually. The sector is also employing estimated 1.5 million people such as fishermen, boat owners, fish mongers, transporters and processors among others.

On Continental level, China’s support to African countries agriculture sector is also visible. During the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held on 29th November 2021 in Senegal, supporting African countries agriculture was among the nine key areas Chinese president Xi Jinping pointed at where China would cooperate with African countries. The other eight areas are health, poverty reduction and trade promotion, investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, cultural and people-to-people exchange, and peace and security.

Globally, China’s voice in promoting and advancing programs meant to fight famine has been loud. While attending this year’s G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a plea calling for a strong cooperation to ensure a successful global food security agenda and reduce suffering of many due to hunger. Today, many countries are struggling with hunger. Recently, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guteres expressed concern stressing that global hunger levels are at a new high. Guteres observed that in two years, the number of severely food insecure people has doubled from 135m to 276m today.

Also, among others, China’s Global Development Initiative seeks to address challenges like famine to ensure continuous development, with the aim of helping all people realize their dreams. The discussion above is a pointer that food security is key for national and global security and development. Aware that we can only attain food security by supporting and improving agriculture sector, recognising China’s contribution in supporting Uganda’s and Africa’s agriculture sector is prudent.

Ssemanda Abdurahim is a Research Fellow at Sino-Uganda Research Centre.


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