This paper investigates the patterns and determinants of change in livelihood strategies (“development pathways”), land management practices, agricultural productivity, resource and human welfare conditions in Uganda since 1990, based upon a community-level survey conducted in 107 villages. The pattern of agricultural development since 1990 involved increasing specialization and commercialization of economic activities, consistent with local comparative advantages and market liberalization. This pattern was associated with changes in land use and agricultural practices, including expansion of cultivated area, grazing lands and woodlots at the expense of forest and wetlands; increased ownership of cattle but declining ownership of other livestock; and increased adoption of purchased inputs (though still low) and some soil and water conservation practices. Despite some agricultural intensification, crop yields, food security, and a wide range of natural resource conditions (especially soil fertility) appear to have degraded throughout most of Uganda. At the same time, many indicators of human welfare and access to goods and services have improved. Six dominant development pathways emerged, all but one of which involved increasing specialization in already dominant activities: expansion of cereal production, expansion of banana and coffee production, non-farm development, expansion of horticultural production, expansion of cotton, and stable coffee production. Of these, expansion of banana and coffee production was most strongly associated with adoption of resource-conserving practices and improvements in resource conditions, productivity and welfare. Other strategies are needed for less- favored areas not suited for this pathway. Road development appears to have contributed to improvements in many welfare and some natural resource conditions, except forest and wetland availability. There are thus likely trade-offs among resource and welfare outcomes when pursuing road development where forests or wetlands are important. Elsewhere, road development can be a “win-win” development strategy. Irrigation was found to reduce pressure to expand cultivated area at the expense of forest, wetland and fallow, and is associated with improvement in several welfare and resource indicators; it may also be a “win-win” strategy. Government and non-governmental organization programs were also found to contribute to improvements in several indicators of productivity, resource and welfare, though there were some mixed results. Such programs may cause declines in one area (e.g., yields of a traditional crop or energy availability) by focusing on improvements in another area (e.g., improvement of another crop or protection of forests). Thus, trade-offs appear to be inherent in many efforts to improve agriculture or protect resources. Population growth had an insignificant impact on most indicators of change, though there is some evidence of population- induced agricultural intensification. Population growth had an insignificant association with changes in resource conditions, and mixed association with welfare indicators. In general, the findings support neither the pessimism of some neo-Malthusian observers or the optimism of some neo-Boserupian observers regarding the impacts of population growth.

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EPTD Discussion Paper

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-24

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