Horticulture in Mountain Agro-Ecosystems of Uganda: Environmental and Socio-Economic Threats and Opportunities

Bob Roga Nakileza

Abstract


Horticultural crops have gained importance over the recent years as a strategy for addressing livelihood improvement particularly amongst both the rural and urban poor in high- and low- mountain areas. Mountain ecosystems in Uganda, however, are under pressure driven by increasing population, urbanisation and globalization.  This has resulted into widely reported environmental degradation. Environmental and social concerns are a reality that needs to be underpinned if sustainable use of these ecosystems is to be achieved. This paper examined the socio-ecological problems, challenges posed by increased shift to horticultural farming and opportunities in mountain ecosystems of Uganda, using a case study of Mt Elgon. Data collection was obtained largely through household surveys, focus group discussions and field observations. Results revealed that household economic gain and unsustainable traditional crop production systems were the main drivers for the recent shift to intensive horticultural system. These changes have caused environmental and social concerns particularly accelerated erosion, health risks associated with increased use of chemical inputs, and conflict largely attributed to encroachment on conservation areas for farming and staking materials.  The study recommends for pro-active measures (e.g. increased investment in horticultural value chain) in mitigating environmental and social problems if future sustainability of the mountain ecosystems are to be attained.

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