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Barriers to scaling sustainable land and water management in Uganda: a cross-scale archetype approach

Luigi Piemontese, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Rick Nelson Kamugisha, Uganda Landcare Network (ULN), Uganda; College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Joy Margaret Biteete Tukahirwa, Uganda Landcare Network (ULN), Uganda
Anna Tengberg, Swedish Water House | Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Sweden; Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund University, Sweden
Simona Pedde, Soil Geography and Landscape Group, Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands
Fernando Jaramillo, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden


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In African small-scale agriculture, sustainable land and water management (SLWM) is key to improving food production while coping with climate change. However, the rate of SLWM adoption remains low, suggesting a gap between generalized SLWM advantages for rural development across the literature, and the existence of context-dependent barriers to its effective implementation. Uganda is an example of this paradox: the SLWM adoption rate is low despite favorable ecological conditions for agriculture development and a large rural population. A systemic understanding of the barriers hindering the adoption of SLWM is therefore crucial to developing coherent policy interventions and enabling effective funding strategies. Here, we propose a cross-scale archetype approach to identify and link barriers to SLWM adoption in Uganda. We performed 80 interviews across the country to build cognitive archetypes, harvesting stakeholders’ perceptions of different types of barriers. We complemented this bottom-up perspective with a spatial archetype analysis to contextualize these results across different social-ecological regions. We found poverty trap, overpopulation, risk aversion, remoteness, and post-conflict patriarchal systems as cognitive archetypes that synthesize the different dynamics of barriers to SLWM adoption in Uganda. Our results reveal both specific and cross-cutting barriers. Ineffective extension services emerges as a ubiquitous barrier, whereas gender inequality is a priority barrier for large supported farms and farms in drier lowlands in northern Uganda. The combination of cognitive and spatial archetypes proposed here can help to overcome ineffective “one-size-fits-all” solutions and support context-specific policy plans to scale up SLWM, rationing resources to support sustainable intensification of agriculture.

Key words

archetype analysis; barriers to adoption; sustainability science; sustainable land and water management; Uganda

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087