Tackling regional inequalities that impede equitable food and nutrition security in Uganda
Florence Nakazi 20 May 2024

Uganda has an uneven capacity to produce and distribute food due to regional differences in food production. The 2023 report titled "Food systems profile - Uganda: Catalyzing the sustainable and inclusive transformation of food systems" outlines various institutional, sectoral, and policy challenges to the establishment of sustainable food systems in the country. The schematic representation below illustrates a comprehensive perspective of the drivers and components within the food systems that contribute to notable regional differences in food and nutrition security across Uganda. To mitigate these differences the deeply ingrained systemic issues that fuel and perpetuate inequalities need to be addressed, including factors such as land tenure systems, infrastructural development, and urbanization within the food system.

Figure 1: Systemic view of the drivers and elements of the food systems that lead to regional disparities in food and nutrition insecurity across Uganda
Figure 1: Systemic view of the drivers and elements of the food systems that lead to regional disparities in food and nutrition insecurity across Uganda, Source: FAO, European Union and CIRAD (2023)[1]
Regional Inequalities in the Food Systems

Uganda has an uneven capacity to produce and distribute food due to regional differences in production, transportation, communication, energy, and digital infrastructure. If not addressed, this will prevent the allocation of available food across the country. Such differences are exhibited in the food security indicators including malnutrition. Making progress in reducing inequalities for food and nutrition requires efforts that can address differences in the land tenure systems, infrastructure development, urbanization and a growing influx of refugees.

Land tenure systems

Differences in land tenure systems refer to the various ways in which land ownership and use are regulated in different regions or countries. Uganda’s customary land tenure where access to land is “governed by the rules, customs and regulations of the community”, poses varying levels of tenure security and land rights. It affects marginalized groups in particular such as women, despite their essential role in farming. An insecure land tenure system implies that regions face land-related conflicts that affect investment in the land and reduce agricultural performance, worsening the situation of food and nutrition security. To address these challenges, steps can be taken to reduce inequalities. For instance, the issuance of certificates of customary ownership through government bodies could enhance tenure security. This could lead to collective efforts to invest in land and ultimately reduce food insecurity and malnutrition.

Disparities in infrastructure affect food security

Over 95 percent of Uganda’s cargo, including agricultural products, relies on roads for transportation, but only 16 percent of the roads are finished.  The poor quality roads hinder farmers from transporting or selling their produce to distant markets, holding back their ability to attain a steady income. Furthermore, it also restricts the flow of agricultural produce to resource-deprived regions exacerbating food and nutrition insecurity. Even though there would be efforts to preserve food for regional distribution in deprived regions, electricity supply remains concentrated in some regions. As identified by the Global Hunger Index (WFP, 2022)[2]  regions with poor infrastructure are the most affected by hunger. The wide regional disparity in infrastructure influences not only food and nutrition security but also undermines potential human resource capital and creates an additional burden on the healthcare sector.

Rising urbanization is a potential risk for nutrition security.

Urban consumers are more vulnerable to unsafe foods, owing this to their high reliance on food markets, as well as to prevailing unhygienic and non-standardized post-harvest practices (FAO, European Union and CIRAD,2023). At the same time, the urban poor cannot afford sufficient and diverse, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. The dietary deficiency is partly attributed to consumer preferences, as urban consumers opt for processed, ultra-processed and fast foods due to their convenience and cost-effectiveness, coupled with their sedentary lifestyles. This calls for the need to create awareness among communities on better food choices and nutritional practices. Consumers should also be made increasingly aware of the benefits of consuming wholesome and nutritious, indigenous foods.

Population dynamics

With its rapidly growing population that is expected to reach 100 million by 2050, integrating large numbers of refugees into Uganda poses an additional challenge in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of zero hunger. By the end of 2023, Uganda had approximately 1.5 million people from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi seeking refuge in the country (UNHCR Factsheet, Uganda June 2023).[3] These high numbers have in some cases led to increasing land fragmentation, stress over natural resources and disputes among host and refugee communities (Barasa et al., 2023)[4]. With the rising population, food demand is also expected to increase by nearly 3.5 times by 2050. This increased need for more food may add additional pressure on natural resources already under stress, and, thus, negative impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human health.

Many of the inequalities in the food system are caused by existing conditions of land tenure systems, unbalanced regional infrastructural development, urbanization and population pressures. To tackle these challenges effectively, policy actors must understand them better to design appropriate policy interventions. The following policy areas could be vital for action.
  1. Promote effective implementation of regional investments in supportive food security and nutrition infrastructure, including strategic seed systems, food reserves, irrigation, production, marketing and agro-industrial development to address regional imbalances.
  2. Increase education and awareness campaigns on sustainable food production, food choices, food security, and better nutritional practices.
  3. Address inequalities in land tenure systems through the issuance of certificates of customary ownership through the Ministry of Land, Housing and Mineral Development to enhance collective actions in investing in land for food production.



[1] FAO, European Union and CIRAD (2023). Food Systems Profile - Uganda. Catalysing the sustainable and inclusive transformation of food systems. Rome, Brussels and Montpellier, France.  https://doi.org/10.4060/cc4051en

[2] Word Food Programme (WFP). 2022. Uganda. In: World Food Programme. Cited 8 ‘April 2022. https://www.wfp.org/countries/ uganda

[3] https://reliefweb.int/report/uganda/unhcr-uganda-factsheet-june-2023

[4] Barasa B., Mwiru A, , Turyabanawe, L., Nabalegwa W. M. & Ssentongo B (2020): The impact of refugee settlements on land use changes and vegetation degradation in West Nile Sub-region, Uganda, Geocarto International, DOI: 10.1080/10106049.2019.1704073


Photo credit
Photo by Random Institute on Unsplash
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