Towards a common agenda on Trade and Agriculture: Lessons from the Ugandan experience

4 April 2011

Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices are the foundation of sustainable agricultural production as well as crucial determinants of the productive capacities of a given country's agricultural sector.  By examining Uganda's experience, this article argues that in order to improve policy coordination and coherence between trade and agriculture, from the part of both national ministries and from donors, it is critical that all the relevant sectors engage in joint planning exercises to harmonize their sectoral trade priorities.   This would facilitate the matching of supply and demand in agricultural products, thereby leading not only to improved overall aid effectiveness, but also to a greater impact of Aid for Trade on poverty reduction.

The benefits of SLM practices in a context of land degradation (1)

Agriculture is the main source of food and income in developing countries. The degradation of natural resources is still mostly perceived as a strictly environmental concern. The reality however is that natural resources like land are of key economic importance, notably for the agricultural sector. Indeed, the quality of land and other natural resources available to rural communities determine the quantity and quality of agricultural production, and consequently impact the capacity of these communities to generate and diversify their income.

In Uganda, land degradation is undermining future productivity growth in the agriculture and forestry sectors. This is particularly serious because of the limited scope for bringing additional land resources into production, especially in the most affected areas of Uganda. The only viable option in these areas is sustainable intensification, that is reducing land use conversion and increasing the productivity of land and genetic resources in ways that do not compromise the quality and future productive capacity of those resources. The urgently needed productivity revolution in Uganda must be based on a technological change that systematically integrates SLM.

The adoption of SLM practices in Uganda is low, despite the country's capacity to reduce the variability of agricultural production through, for example, soil/water conservation and organic improvement practices that enhance soil moisture holding capacity, or through integrated pest management practices. SLM can also contribute to agricultural income diversification, through agroforestry practices with non-timber forest products, or crop rotations. SLM can also combat the different manifestations of climate change: many SLM practices, especially those that increase soil organic carbon, can simultaneously achieve both adaptation and mitigation goals.

The Ugandan experience

According to OECD's statistics, Uganda received USD 151.9 million in Aid for Trade (AfT) in 2007. AfT was mainly allocated to the energy sector (72%), followed by the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors (12%)(3) .

As a least developed country, Uganda is also a beneficiary of the Enhanced Integrated Framework(4)coordinated through the recommendations of the Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS)(5)and the resultant Action Matrix.

One of the main challenges for trade development has been weak coordination with the productive sectors, particularly with the agricultural sector. Indeed, a country's ability to trade depends on its capacity to integrate and work in a coherent manner with a broad range of issues (e.g. production, processing, transport, storage, infrastructure, trade policy, trade agreements etc.) enabling it to link supply with the demand side. Many of these issues fall under the regulatory responsibility of various non-trade ministries (e.g. agriculture, environment, energy, infrastructure, etc). The harmonization of sectoral trade priorities is therefore fundamental, but challenged by the division of competencies among ministries.

In 2007 the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) of Uganda initiated a multi sector platform to develop a Strategic Investment Framework on Sustainable Land Management (U-SLM SIF). The platform was developed under the TerrAfrica Partnership(6), with the objective of reducing land degradation through multi-sectoral interventions. The Strategic Investment Framework for SLM involved initially four sectors: agriculture, energy, water and environment, and land. Trade joined as the fifth sector in 2008. The Strategic Investment Framework for SLM points out the different sector priorities, and how each of the sectors involved is responsible for advancing and implementing the priorities identified.

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry (MTTI) became a partner of the Strategic Investment Framework for SLM through the National Implementation Unit of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) to harmonize the trade priorities across the five sectors involved in the U-SLM SIF.

Building on a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade(7), the harmonization process entailed the following exercise:

  • facilitating dialogue between the sectors of the Strategic Investment Framework for SLM
  • supporting the sectors to identify common trade priorities and develop a joint trade agenda
  • identifying the activities contributing to the implementation of the common trade agenda
  • identifying the resources for financing the implementation of such agenda

The achievements to date

The exercise has been quite useful for the Government of Uganda, helping it to identify the possible trade interventions with cross-sectoral linkages to agriculture, water and environment, energy and land which would complement the national trade priorities in the DTIS of Uganda and in the related Action Matrix.

The Ministry of Trade takes in consideration the identified cross-sectoral interventions for DTIS review process, where it is also expected to take stock of the externalities such as land degradation, climate change and migration that have affected trade development. Such interventions have also become a useful reference for the development of integrated project proposals based on sustainable production principles and for targeted support to SLM and agriculture. While exploring opportunities to mobilise resources for the implementation of cross-sectoral projects, the Government has identified a number of trade-related donor-funded programmes already addressing cross-sectoral issues, and has started to negotiate specific and targeted assistance programmes to fill identified gaps.

The increased interaction between the ministries has also contributed to an improved policy environment for cross-sectoral cooperation. Non-trade ministries have demonstrated increasing appreciation for the importance of trade as a means to promote investment in sustainable production. For example, the Ministry of Environment submitted an official request to the Ministry of Trade to consider the inclusion of Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFPs) in the next DTIS review, based on a study demonstrating the market potential of these products, and their expected benefits for sustainable forest management and livelihood diversification for rural communities.

The Ministry of Trade has also increased its efforts to integrate sustainable production in the national trade development plans in view of its potential to increase trade sustainability. In this regard, the role of the EIF national implementation unit has been fundamental. A clear sign of the MTTI/EIF commitment to sustain the improved interaction with the other ministries has been the appointment of a programme officer tasked to ensure the complementarity and harmonization of trade interventions across the various sectors of SLM's Strategic Investment Framework, and to explore pool-funding opportunities for the implementation of the cross-sectoral trade priorities.

The lessons learned

The experience of Uganda obviously holds some interesting lessons for other countries, all the more since the progress made to-date by this country in harmonizing its trade priorities across sectors in order to build more coherent policy frameworks, has been (and could) be replicated elsewhere(8).

The linkages between trade, agriculture and natural resources are "obvious" in theory, but in practice sectors tend to work independently from one another. Harmonizing priorities across economic sectors requires dedicated efforts and resources.

Dialogue across sectors must be facilitated for the sector's stakeholders to realise that their individual goals are interdependent, and can only be achieved by joining efforts. This includes strengthening the institutional mechanisms for cross-sectoral coordination and supporting information sharing on the different sectoral processes and their related synergies. Furthermore harmonisation is increased through the building of networks and partnerships with donors and development partners, to mobilise technical expertise and financial support for the development, implementation, and replication/up-scaling of cross-sectoral initiatives. In this regard, improved donor coordination and increased use of pool funding arrangements tapping on different sectoral programmes are also needed to address the necessities of cross-sectoral cooperation.

The capacity to develop cross-sectoral project proposals is also an area that requires additional support, especially in terms of human resources. National experts knowledgeable of trade, agriculture and natural resource management could act as intermediaries between the sectors/ministries to facilitate coordination as well as undertake technical assignments, ranging from supporting the design and development of cross-sectoral project proposals, to analytical studies on Aid for Trade flows to the different sectors. These "multi-competency" profiles might be difficult to find therefore more investments in building such profiles would also be important.


Harmonizing priorities across economic sectors requires dedicated efforts. While sectoral processes often foresee cross-sectoral collaboration and coordination, and often see them as key elements of success, practical implementation remains a challenge. The longstanding culture of working in restrictive sector boundaries is a major barrier to overcome and has often resulted in sectoral processes unknown outside the sector itself.

The exercise described above continues to improve the awareness of sectoral processes and the understanding of how they could match the development goals of other sectors. While attention so far has mainly focused on the EIF and on embedding sustainable production concerns in its national implementation structures, the government of Uganda is already taking actions to build on this experience's achievements to strengthen the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the CAADP Pillar II  focusing on trade and market development.


This article was prepared by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD based on extracts from the Uganda Case Study. For the full case study please visit A complementary article on Mali can be found at:


[1] In general terms, land degradation means impoverishment of the land by human activities (such as industrial agriculture/monocropping, deforestation/logging, and overgrazing) and by natural causes (due to wind, water and climate).

2 WB, GTZ, CDE, 1999

3 Aid for Trade at a Glance 2009, Uganda Country Factsheet

4 The EIF is the overarching framework for Aid for Trade (AfT) implementation in LDCs. It is a mechanism for coordinating the delivery of AfT technical assistance and the channelling of AfT funds.

5 The Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) is a diagnostic tool used under the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) to assess the status of the trade sector in a given country. The DTIS evaluates internal and external constraints to a country's integration into the world economy, analyses specific sectors of the economy as well as cross-cutting

6 TerrAfrica is a partnership that aims to address land degradation by scaling up harmonized support for effective and efficient country-driven Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices in Sub-Saharan African countries.

7 A "Trade & SLM Advisor" was hired to facilitate the process.

8 In this vein, the progress made by Mali in coordinating trade investments in agriculture to promote SLM is a case in point. For more information about the case of Mali, please read the recent publication by Global Mechanism: "Vers un agenda commun de l'Agriculture et de l'Aide pour le commerce pour la Gestion Durable des Terres (GDT) : L'expérience du Mali", available at:$uid$_$llid$_254361_298_139

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