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Towards a community-based model for agricultural development in Uganda: A case study of Kumi and Gomba districts

This study intended to design a community-based model for agricultural development in Uganda, using Kumi and Gomba districts as case studies. The surge in attention towards community-based development is attributed to the growing challenges posed by the traditional approaches to community development, dominated by top-down mechanisms during the planning, implementation, management, monitoring, and evaluation phases of community development programmes. Driven by Robert Chambers and Conway’s theoretical perspectives, this study discusses that a community-based model is capable of filling knowledge gaps, not only in scientific research, but also in the community development process of many developing nations, such as Uganda. In this study particularly, a community-based approach has been identified as the better option in aiding and facilitating the current government efforts to transform the agricultural sector from its predominantly subsistence nature to commercial orientation. It has been acknowledged that the Ugandan government and its development partners do realise the significant role agriculture plays in directly or indirectly impacting the social welfare of Ugandans. The agricultural sector has been identified as a major source of livelihood for most rural Ugandans (over 95% depend on it for food, employment and income). Unfortunately, even with such recognition, coupled with many reforms initiated by government and supported by various development partners who have invested huge sums of money into the sector, agricultural productivity and profitability has remained extremely low. Most rural Ugandans still languish in abject poverty, hunger, malnutrition, vulnerability and powerlessness. This study has established that, while the agricultural sector in Uganda suffers from enormous institutional, technological, market, research and land-oriented challenges, if all these factors are kept constant, an effective community-based approach is capable of facilitating effective planning, implementation, management, monitoring, and evaluation of agricultural reforms, for increased agricultural productivity and profitability hence the improved quality of life of Ugandans. A qualitative elicitation interviewing technique involving in-depth discussions with agricultural extension workers, community development officers, representatives from NGOs, local farmers, farmers’ associations, local and religious leaders as well as key persons from the Ministry of Agriculture and other line ministries was conducted. The participants were selected through chain referrals until the level of theoretical saturation. In addition, directed field observations, document analysis and key informant interviews with other respondents selected through theoretical sampling enhanced the robustness of data acquisition methods. Group-based participatory data analysis and reflexive pragmatism also enhanced the rigour and quality of research findings intended to balance the knowledge generated from the recognised scientific audience and the views of the important but unknown “knowledge generators” (the local experts).The key findings indicate that, historically and currently, agriculture has been and is the predominant community development activity at household, community and national levels in Uganda. It is also anticipated that agriculture will remain a major contributor to the national economic development of Uganda even over the next hundred years. The efforts by government and its development partners to transform the sector are therefore justified by the sector’s strategic importance. It has been found out that although the sector faces huge challenges, there are numerous opportunities for the sector to become a driver of Uganda’s socio-economic development. A community-based model has been proposed as a viable option for facilitating faster agricultural development in Uganda, where technocratic developers tend to impose development reforms on local people. With the traditional approaches to planning and implementation, it was thought that local people do not know what they want, they are illiterate and ignorant and therefore incapable of driving government crafted programmes for effective change. From the proposed model, government technocratic development agents should engage local farmers who practically experience poverty, powerlessness, hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability, to jointly craft effective agricultural reforms that are not only life-changing, but also relevant and sustainable within the confines of community needs. Under this approach, the designers, planners, implementers, monitors, and evaluators, whether of government-initiated reforms, or initiatives from other development agencies, should learn to treat local people as subjects of the community development processes, as opposed to the traditional top-down mechanisms which view them as objects to be used and abused. The involvement of local experts during the planning, implementation, and management of development reforms, should cease to be applied as merely routine fulfilment of donor conditionality and requirements. Rather, the participation of local farmers during all phases of community programming should become intentional and consciously aimed at empowering local people to actively participate in the making of decisions critical to their own development.

Full Name
Dr Joseph Kiggundu