Boosting Agricultural Productivity in Uganda

LINK: Uganda

How might we boost access to nutritious foods in Uganda?

Challenge

In Uganda, over 80% of the population works in agriculture, yet almost half the country’s population is malnourished.  Stark agricultural productivity gaps persist.  Take banana, for example.  It is Uganda’s most important crop in terms of food security and income generation for farmers.  It is plentiful: Uganda ranks second in the world for banana production.  Why, then, does this important staple crop not help mitigate persistent trends in malnutrition and food insecurity in Uganda?  Because up to 80% of Uganda’s banana crops have been destroyed by disease over the past decade.  Tissue culture – a method of cleaning flesh from vegetatively propagated crops such as banana — holds promise for minimizing plant disease and boosting productivity.  While widely accepted globally, tissue culture plantlets have failed to reach widespread use in Uganda for many reasons.  Limited technical capacity, farmer knowledge, and distribution channels restrict uptake of this potentially transformative technology.

Solution

Dr. Geofrey Arinaitwe and his colleagues at BioCrops Uganda Ltd — a Kampala-based biotechnology company — seek to curb Uganda’s food security and malnutrition challenges by boosting adoption of tissue culture plantlets among farmers.  Their target crops include banana and orange-fleshed sweet potato, an underutilized but highly nutritious staple crop.  A seasoned entrepreneur, Dr. Arinaitwe understands this is a multi-faceted ambition.  He and his team face as many challenges in the research laboratory as they do in the fields with farmers.  Dr. Arinaitwe enlisted GKI’s help to build a network diverse and creative enough to help his team overcome what’s stopping them from achieving their goal.

Since 2014, GKI has worked alongside Dr. Arinaitwe and his team as they prioritized needs, identified partners, mobilized resources, and built momentum. A 2015 field visit provided a historic opportunity to connect the BioCrops team with Dr. Nina Fedoroff, a globally renowned biotechnology expert and GKI’s Advisory Board Co-Chair, as well as other local and international experts.

Results / Outcomes

  • Identified 63 opportunities for innovation in propagating and distributing clean tissue culture planting material with international agricultural experts
  • Produced a comprehensive portrayal of the Ugandan agricultural innovation system, including analysis of possible distribution channels
  • Constructed a Collaborative Innovation Strategy for the BioCrops team to guide partnership formation and network alignment
  • Trained BioCrops team in critical skills for management, innovation strategy, value proposition articulation, and network facilitation