Ugandan oil palm farmers to gain from national initiative

Uganda’s oil palm sector is getting a sustainable makeover from a collaborative project  that is set to promote eco-friendly practices and boost incomes for smallholder farmers. This partnership effort between Solidaridad and the Ugandan government will train farmers in sustainable techniques and create a model for responsible palm oil production in Africa.

A team of Solidaridad staff and government representatives from Uganda and Buganda meet after launching the the National Oil Palm Project.

Despite substantial economic value and the potential for job creation, oil palm cultivation is frequently associated with negative environmental impacts such as deforestation, biodiversity loss and soil degradation; and practices associated with industrialization and mechanization have led to increased greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

A farmer in Uganda’s Kalangala District harvests oil palm.

In Uganda, approximately 5,000 smallholder oil palm farmers are poised to benefit from the newly launched National Oil Palm Project (NOPP), a collaborative effort between Solidaridad East & Central Africa and Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), with 1.2 million US dollars of funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) that is provided through MAAIF. Oil palm cultivation is a strategic component of Uganda’s National Development Plan III, and the government together with Solidaridad and the support from IFAD, have launched NOPP as a ten-year initiative to expand production across the country.

Solidaridad Country Manager, Mr. David Kyeyune, and government officials unveil the National Oil Palm Project.

NOPP underscores a commitment to advancing sustainable farming methods in the oil palm sector in Uganda while reducing its environmental footprint. The project therefore aims to tackle the environmental and social issues associated with oil palm production. It will be implemented in Buikwe, Buvuma, Kalangala, Masaka, and Mayuge district hubs. In addition, the project recognizes the sub-sector’s capacity to spur economic development and generate employment opportunities through skill enhancement.

Through capacity-building initiatives, about 650 farm leaders and Trainers of Trainers (TOTs) will be trained in sustainable practices recognized by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as well as on climate-smart agriculture, carbon farming, climate financing and carbon trading. 

Sustainability in the sector will be enhanced through the implementation of environmental health and safety protocols, which adhere to both local and international regulations, including the National Environment Act (2019), RSPO standards, and IFAD‘s Social, Environmental, and Climate Assessment Procedures (SECAP). The overarching goal is to promote an inclusive, eco-friendly, and financially sustainable oil palm sector in Uganda by 2026, which places a strong focus on agroforestry practices.

An example of oil palm plants growing in buffer zones.

Mr. Robert Charles Aguma, NOPP‘s Environment Health and Safety Officer at MAAIF, reiterated the project’s dedication to environmental protection and ensuring the well-being of project beneficiaries and communities.

In partnership with Solidaridad, NOPP is committed to ensuring that adequate safeguards are put in place to prevent degradation of the environment as well as reduce risks to the health and safety of project beneficiaries and the communities.

Mr. Robert Charles Aguma, NOPP‘s Environment Health and Safety Officer at MAAIF

Additionally, the project seeks to facilitate the participation of farmers in international carbon markets, where they can sell their carbon removal units, thus incentivizing carbon sequestration efforts. Recognizing the extended lifecycle of oil palms, the project emphasizes the importance of adopting resilience-building strategies, including the implementation of climate mitigation and climate adaptation interventions.

Led by Country Manager, Mr. David Kyeyune, a team of Solidaridad staff members meets to celebrate the launch of the National Oil Palm Project.

Mr. Moses Mabanda, a participating farmer from the Mayuge district, shared his enthusiasm for NOPP, and is hopeful it will play a role in restoring environments affected by oil palm cultivation.

As NOPP unfolds, its strategic approach could mean a new era for sustainable agriculture in Uganda, directly impacting the lives of smallholder farmers. By blending traditional wisdom with modern sustainable practices, NOPP aims to transform the country’s oil palm sector into a model of environmental stewardship, economic vitality and social equity. 

National Oil Palm Project participants attend the project’s launch in Kalangala, Uganda.