SNV Uganda Country Director reflects on 2020

Blog banner image

SNV in Uganda Country Director Phomolo Maphosa reflects on 2020 and how it has impacted SNV's country programmes. Amidst the challenges, the country office has registered some successes, which she highlights in her blog.

The past year was certainly unprecedented and challenging for all of us, both personally and professionally. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted how we work and how we provide services to those who need them the most. Although it remains relatively unclear how the crisis will evolve, we remain hopeful for better days ahead as we continue working towards making a lasting difference in the lives of people living in poverty.

I am happy to note that despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 that slowed down our country programme implementation, SNV made considerable progress towards improving the lives of Ugandans. With support from our development partners and stakeholders, we managed to shift to the ‘new normal’ while remaining true to our mission of ending poverty through our work in the three sectors (Agriculture, Energy and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). Below are some of the key successes we registered in 2020:

Through our Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) project, SNV successfully partnered with 36 agribusinesses from Uganda (14), Kenya and Tanzania. So far, these 36 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have co-invested over EUR 28 million towards promoting climate smart agriculture that will benefit over 237,000 smallholder farmers working in the common of beans, green gram, sunflower, potato, sorghum, soybean, and sesame across the three countries. In soybean production alone, our partnership with four Ugandan agribusinesses enabled 4,100 soybean smallholder farmers to access 59.7 tonnes of MakSoy 3N (an improved early maturing and drought resistant soybean variety) seed and grain production during the planting season from March to June 2020. Subsequently, the farmers could harvest 1,450 tonnes of soybean from a total acreage of 2,458 acres by August 2020, repurchased by the SMEs. This is gradually restoring farmers hopes in soybean farming because they are registering growth in their yields but have an assured market for their crop.

Under the Sustainable Nutrition for All (SN4A) project, SNV supported the project districts of Kasese, Kakumiro and Kyenjojo to develop District Nutrition Action Plans, a measure aimed to facilitate the rollout of the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP) II. Sub-counties, villages and households were also supported to formulate their own nutrition plans. This has facilitated the effective coordination and adoption of nutrition sensitive agriculture within the communities. By the end of December 2020, more than 17,200 households in the three districts adopted new practices of production and consumption of vegetables, fruits and animal source foods previously neglected. Consumption of three meals with at least five food groups per day also increased from 88% in 2019 to 89.2% in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the economic activities in most rural areas in Uganda.

One of the successes that we also celebrated last year was the qualification of 12 cooperatives supported by our dairy project – The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise Project (TIDE) II project, to access low interest loans worth UGX6.4 Billion (EUR1.46 Million) from the Uganda Development Bank Limited (UDBL). Access to agricultural loans at affordable interest rates has been a challenge to many farmers as financial institutions have remained predominantly risk-averse in developing farmer-centric loans. In 2020, SNV signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Uganda Development Bank Limited that formalised collaboration between SNV and financial institutions (Uganda Development Bank Limited (UDBL), Microfinance Support Centre DFCU Bank). By year-end, 12 cooperatives received loans which they disbursed to 960 of their members. TIDE support to the cooperatives is building bankable cooperatives and dairy farmers to access loans at much lower interest rates than what the commercial banks offer. This will go a long way towards supporting farm investments by dairy farmers and ultimately boosting their productivity and incomes.

The pandemic's key learning has taught us as a nation is the importance of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene in protecting human beings from infectious diseases (and outbreaks). When people’s livelihoods are affected as they have been by the pandemic, it results in loss of revenue which has a ripple effect on their ability to access basic needs like food and water. The Improving Water Supply Sustainability in Northern Uganda (IWAS II) project model is anchored on the principle of budgeting (through small monthly monetary contributions) and scheduling water source maintenance to ensure sustained access to safe water. Despite the drop in monthly remittances in 2020, the four project districts (Lira, Dokolo, Alebtong and Kole) registered an overall increase in water source functionality by 7.4%, up from 86% December 2019 to 93.4% in December 2020. 794 water sources out of a target of 850 are now functional giving 198,500 people access to safe water.

In 2020, we broadened our scope of work having secured three additional projects in youth employment, energy and water, sanitation, and hygiene. Below is a snapshot of the three projects:

  1. Security Protection and Economic Empowerment (SUPREME), a project funded by the European Union and EKN, enables SNV and its consortium partners to support humanitarian efforts to increase access to decent employment and economic opportunities for refugees and host communities in the West Nile sub-region.

  2. Through the Sustainable Energy for Small Holder Farmers, supported by the IKEA Foundation, SNV is working with a consortium of partners to support scalable, innovative businesses cases that use renewable energy services and technologies for irrigation, cooling and drying to improve the production and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the dairy and horticultural value chains.

  3. WASH First, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is a direct COVID-19 response project. This project aims to increase access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities to enhance prevention and build the resilience of targeted communities against COVID– 19.

The future may not be very clear right now, but with perseverance and hope, better days are ahead of us.