Known as the “food basket of Africa,” Uganda is blessed with fertile soils and two rainy seasons. This provides the perfect conditions to produce a variety of crops, which are both for household consumption and commercial sales. To explain these crops better, this post will look at four different categories: staple foods, cash crops, and other vegetables and fruit.
Like anywhere that practices any sort of food production, such as agriculture, there are key foods that tend to be grown. Uganda is no different. Here, these staple foods grow across the country, with some being more prevalent in some areas than others.
Regardless of where in the country you might find yourself, the main staple foods grown in Uganda are (in no particular order of importance) banana/plantain, beans, cassava, groundnuts, maize, millet, rice, sorghum, and sweet potato. Each of these crops can be found at pretty much any local market, although some, such as rice, are more expensive and therefore are generally reserved for special occasions.
Items such as plantain (a member of the banana family that is sometimes sweet, but usually requires cooking before consumption), cassava, millet, maize and sweet potato are all starches. In Uganda, “food” is often the term used to describe the starch portion of the meal, making these crops especially significant for farmers to grow.
Beans also serve as one of the main sources of protein, aside from meat. However, meat can often be expensive, so, like rice, it is treated as more of an item for special occasions. In Uganda, beans are typically served in a soup, along with the starch and other vegetables.
Groundnuts, which are also lovingly referred to as g-nuts, are similar to a peanut, only smaller. They are sold roasted as a snack, or crushed in a sauce. Gnut Sauce goes perfectly with matooke, which is a dish made from mashed plantain.
Outside of the staple foods that are consumed by the typical Ugandan, are those that are grown more specifically for commercial markets. These are known as cash crops.
In Uganda, coffee is the country’s biggest export. It is such a key player in the export market, that in 2013 alone, it brought in an estimated US$425 million.
Tea and tobacco are the next biggest exports. Ugandan tea is widely consumed throughout the country, although it is usually found at a super market, rather than at the market. Tea estates can be viewed from the roadside along many highways.
Sugarcane is another of Uganda’s infamous cash crops. However, unlike the previous three mentioned, sugarcane can often be found for sale as a snack or treat in the market or on the roadside.
Cocoa beans and cotton are the other two major cash crops, and simsim (sesame seeds), is as well, but to a lesser extent.
Moving on from the typical top sellers on the local and commercial markets are the other categories of crops grown in Uganda, starting with vegetables. As noted previously, Uganda is home to extremely fertile soils, meaning the crops capable of being grown in the country are seemingly endless.
If you ever find yourself in a Ugandan market, you will be welcomed by the sight of beautiful, fresh vegetables, such as: cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, onion, green pepper, Irish potato, cucumber, peas, pumpkin (or squash), and a variety of greens.
Tomatoes and onion seem to be the most widely used for a variety of dishes. Carrots, and cabbage are usually served as a salad, sometimes with green pepper and/or cucumber. Eggplant, pumpkin and greens are also usually served boiled and as a side dish.
The peas noted are typically served as a form of protein, in a soup. This pea mixture tastes similar to pea soup, and goes well with any of the foods served.
The final category of Uganda crops to be discussed are the range of fruits available. In any market or roadside stall, you can frequently find a variety of fresh fruits from pineapples and watermelons, to mangoes and passionfruit, jackfruit, pawpaw (or papaya), and even avocados. There’s also a range of citrus grown in the country, such as oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes.
Each of these crops are delicious on their own or enjoyed as a salad. They are also frequently sold as individual or cocktail fruit juices, which can be refreshing on a warm day or as an accompaniment to your morning breakfast!
Regardless of your taste preferences, there is plenty of variety to choose from when in Uganda. Of course, nothing tastes as good as fresh off the tree or from the ground! There are also likely several crops that were not mentioned, which further proves just how great the range in offerings are.
The Youth in Agriculture Initiative will be planting many of these mentioned varieties throughout the 12-month training program. The first cohort is scheduled to begin their training in February 2018, and we can’t wait to see their harvests!