Heifer International Uganda COVID-19 Impact Study Report

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New Research Reveals Alarming Drop in Farmer Incomes in Uganda

Heifer International study of over 400 smallholder farmers in Uganda reveals 97% have seen incomes reduced due to COVID-19.

By Heifer International September 21, 2020

WASHINGTON — New research released today by international development organization, Heifer International , revealed 97% of smallholder farmers in Uganda have seen their income drop since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 86.6% of farmers seeing their income plunge by more than half. The findings were part of a survey of 448 farmers and interviews with 10 agri-hubs, four private sector partners and three district local governments.

The survey also showed 87% of farmers reported eating less than three meals per day since the onset of COVID-19, with 31% eating only one meal per day and 40% at times going days without food.

“The report shows that COVID-19 is hitting rural communities around the world hard. We are seeing signs of a hunger pandemic, hot on the heels of COVID-19 and that’s a source of great concern,” said Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari. “The findings are informing our response to COVID-19 and the investments we are making in support of farmers, ensuring the agribusinesses Heifer International works with can withstand future crises, protecting the farmers who grow the food we eat.”

Heifer International’s programs in 21 countries, including Uganda, support farmers to close the living income gap by building sustainable farming businesses that prevent families from slipping back beneath the poverty line when hardships occur.

“Savings and loans programs provide essential funds for farmers to invest in building their businesses, but they also provide much needed funds at difficult times,” said Heifer Uganda Country Director William Matovu. “This survey clearly shows the importance of strong mechanisms, including community level support systems, to increase the resilience of farmers to withstand unexpected shocks. Building and strengthening these interventions is a core part of Heifer International’s work and is critical to the success and wellbeing of smallholder farming families.”

Food security in the family: Nearly half (48%) of the families that previously ate more than three meals now eat two meals per day; 62% that ate three meals now eat two meals per day; and 39% that ate two meals now eat one meal per day.

Agriculture activities: 79% of all respondents experienced difficulties getting their products to market due to COVID-19 movement restrictions to enforce social distancing. 71% of farmers surveyed also reported limited access to farming inputs, including seeds, feed and vaccines and said the price of farming inputs increased by almost half. 66% of farmers reported other COVID-19 effects on farm or off-farm production, including high transport costs due to the restrictions imposed on nonessential vehicles such as buses, minibuses and private cars, which were all used to transport products to markets before COVID-19.

Domestic conflict and impact on women: The report revealed that 42% of respondents experienced domestic violence or conflict and that 46% of women have lost access to land, utensils or other household items like bicycles since COVID-19.

Coping mechanisms for income losses: The report indicates that a vast majority (96%) of respondents belong to a savings groups or association, however 83% reported that savings have slowed down or stopped indefinitely due to the COVID-19 restrictions. 44.3% of farmers are surviving on savings, while 27.6% have received financial loans from family members, neighbors or friends. 58% of farmers have actually given money to neighbors. Only 6% of respondents are surviving on business capital, and 73% said they need access to lower interest loans in order to return to business and revitalize their incomes. 34.9% of respondents made adjustments to their businesses to cope with the new challenges, and 37.3% are undertaking casual labor to supplement their incomes.

Note to editors: The Heifer International Uganda COVID-19 Impact Study Report presents findings from a survey of 448 smallholder farmers in northern, eastern, and central Uganda and qualitative data from 10 agri-hubs, four private sector business partners, and three district local governments. Questions that were not answered by all of the farmers surveyed are noted in the report.

The survey was carried out with farmers and agribusiness with whom Heifer International works and reveals that COVID-19 has had a direct negative impact on the incomes and food security of smallholder farmers.


For 76 years, Heifer International has worked with more than 36 million people around the world to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Working with rural communities in 21 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, including the United States, Heifer International supports farmers and local food producers to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a living income.


Heifer International started working in Uganda in 1982. What began as a small project distributing a handful of cows has expanded into one of Uganda’s leading agricultural and community development organizations. Heifer Uganda’s work has supported more than 932,000 families, connecting them with cooperatives to share knowledge and access new markets and financial services. For information, visit