Vulnerability of smallholder horticultural farmers to risks in the Nabuyonga Valley in Mbale City Region.
Nagawa, Patricia Kiggundu
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Smallholder horticultural farmers face a mix of linked risks and challenges that jeopardize their livelihoods, food security, and nutrition which have made them increasingly vulnerable to a spectrum of emerging climatic, health, price, and financial risks. Mbale City has a significant number of smallholder horticultural farmers (comprising about 60% of the population) whose livelihoods depend on agricultural produce which they sell within the Mbale City region. However, these farmers face numerous risks like pests and diseases, inadequate market, extreme weather events, market shocks, and others, yet they have limited resources and capacity to cope with risks, and any reductions to agricultural productivity can have significant impacts on their food security, nutrition, income, and well-being. This study aimed at contributing to a better understanding of the vulnerability of smallholder horticultural farmers to risks so as to enhance urban food system resilience in Mbale City Region with specific objectives of determining Mbale City Region’s horticultural food shed in terms of production, location, travel routes, market, and consumption points, assessing the risks experienced by smallholder horticultural farmers at household levels in the Nabuyonga Valley and evaluating the effectiveness of risk reduction strategies adopted by smallholder horticultural farmers in the Nabuyonga Valley. Seventy-seven households were randomly and purposively selected for the study. Flow maps were generated to show horticultural food in and outflows within Mbale city Region depicting travel routes, consumption, and market points. Data were analyzed using inferential statistics, independent t-tests, and analysis of variance. Results revealed significant risks such as floods and dry spells (88.3%) which mainly affected tomato gardens (72.7%), followed by price fluctuations (76.8%) and stealing of already grown crops (66.2%). It was established that the effectiveness of risk reduction strategies adopted was significantly influenced by education levels, income sources, and gender (p-value < 0.005). The study recommends several interventions including enhancement of stakeholder engagements, exploration of new technologies, effective mainstreaming of disaster risk management, and others. If implemented through a coordinated process, these recommendations could significantly lead to enhanced agricultural productivity and value addition, as sustainable livelihood/employment opportunities, while concurrently promoting the economic prosperity of the wider Mbale City region.