New research released by international development organization, Heifer International, revealed 97 per cent of smallholder farmers in Uganda have seen their income drop since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 86.6 per cent of farmers seeing their income plunge by more than half. The findings were part of a survey of 448 farmers and interviews with 10 Agri-hubs, four private sector partners and three district local governments.
The survey also showed 87 per cent of farmers reported eating less than three meals per day since the onset of COVID-19, with 31 per cent eating only one meal per day and 40 per cent at times going days without food.
“The report shows that COVID-19 is hitting rural communities around the world hard. We are seeing signs of a hunger pandemic, hot on the heels of COVID-19 and that’s a source of great concern,” said Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari. “The findings are informing our response to COVID-19 and the investments we are making in support of farmers, ensuring the agribusinesses Heifer International works with can withstand future crises, protecting the farmers who grow the food we eat.”
Heifer International’s programs in 21 countries, including Uganda, support farmers to close the living income gap by building sustainable farming businesses that prevent families from slipping back beneath the poverty line when hardships occur.
“Savings and loans programs provide essential funds for farmers to invest in building their businesses, but they also provide much needed funds at difficult times,” said Heifer Uganda Country Director William Matovu. “This survey clearly shows the importance of strong mechanisms, including community level support systems, to increase the resilience of farmers to withstand unexpected shocks. Building and strengthening these interventions is a core part of Heifer International’s work and is critical to the success and wellbeing of smallholder farming families.”
Food security in the family: Nearly half (48 per cent) of the families that previously ate more than three meals now eat two meals per day; 62 per cent that ate three meals now eat two meals per day; and 39 per cent that ate two meals now eat one meal per day.
Agriculture activities: 79 per cent of all respondents experienced difficulties getting their products to market due to COVID-19 movement restrictions to enforce social distancing. 71 per cent of farmers surveyed also reported limited access to farming inputs, including seeds, feed and vaccines and said the price of farming inputs increased by almost half. 66 per cent of farmers reported other COVID-19 effects on farm or off-farm production, including high transport costs due to the restrictions imposed on nonessential vehicles such as buses, minibuses and private cars, which were all used to transport products to markets before COVID-19.
Domestic conflict and impact on women: The report revealed that 42 per cent of respondents experienced domestic violence or conflict and that 46 per cent of women have lost access to land, utensils or other household items like bicycles since COVID-19.
Coping mechanisms for income losses: The report indicates that a vast majority (96 per cent) of respondents belong to a savings groups or association, however 83 per cent reported that savings have slowed down or stopped indefinitely due to the COVID-19 restrictions. 44.3 per cent of farmers are surviving on savings, while 27.6 per cent have received financial loans from family members, neighbors or friends. 58 per cent of farmers have actually given money to neighbors.
Only 6 per cent of respondents are surviving on business capital, and 73 per cent said they need access to lower interest loans in order to return to business and revitalize their incomes. 34.9 per cent of respondents made adjustments to their businesses to cope with the new challenges, and 37.3 per cent are undertaking casual labor to supplement their incomes.