Rural poverty in Uganda
Rural poverty in Uganda
Uganda has made enormous progress in reducing poverty, slashing the countrywide incidence from 56 per cent of the population in 1992 to 24.5 per cent in 2009. The reduction of poverty in urban areas has been especially marked. Notwithstanding these gains, however, the absolute number of poor people has increased due to population growth. And poverty remains firmly entrenched in rural areas, which are home to 84 per cent of Ugandans.
About 27 per cent of all rural people – some 8 million men, women and children – still live below the national rural poverty line. Uganda’s poorest people include hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers living in remote areas scattered throughout the country. Remoteness makes people poor inasmuch as it prevents them from benefiting from Uganda’s steady economic growth and dynamic modernization.
In remote rural areas, smallholder farmers do not have access to the vehicles and roads they need to transport their produce, and market linkages are weak or non-existent. These farmers lack inputs and technology to help them increase their production and reduce pests and disease. They also lack access to financial services, which would enable them to boost their incomes – both by improving and expanding their production, and by establishing small enterprises.
The poorest areas of the country are in the north, where poverty incidence is consistently above 40 per cent and exceeds 60 per cent in many districts – and where outbreaks of civil strife have disrupted farmers’ lives and agricultural production. The greatest number of poor people is found in the east, where the population density in poor areas is 8 to 10 times higher than in the north, although poverty incidence is generally lower, at 30 to 40 per cent.
The vast majority of Uganda’s poor rural people live in fragile, dry and sub-humid regions where the variability of rainfall and soil fertility means that farming presents a challenge. Household-level production often falls short of minimum household needs, rendering families particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. This problem is exacerbated by climate change and a resulting increase in the variability and amount of rainfall, as well as extreme climate events. Uganda is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable and least climate-resilient countries. Changing climate patterns, such as increased droughts, floods and variable precipitation cycles, have a serious impact upon water and other natural resources, agricultural production and rural livelihoods.
Health and social issues significantly affect rural poverty in Uganda as well. The population of about 36 million is growing at an annual rate of 3.4 per cent. Although the country has dramatically reduced the incidence of HIV/AIDS since the 1990s, prevalence rates have begun rising again in recent years. The pandemic has caused the death of large numbers of young adults and orphaned up to 1.2 million children.
The lack of health care and other social services puts rural women at a particular disadvantage. They work far longer hours than men, have limited access to resources and lack control over what they produce. Among their many other tasks, they also bear the double burden of ensuring that their households are adequately fed and caring for the sick, the elderly, and for orphaned children.