Geography and Economy
The Republic of Uganda is located in East Africa and lies astride the equator. It is a landlocked country bordering Kenya in the east, Tanzania in the south, Rwanda in the southwest, the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west, and Sudan in the North. The country has a total area of 241,039 square kilometres and is administratively divided into 80 units called districts. Since the endorsement and adoption of the decentralised system of governance in Uganda several functions have been ceded to the local governments. However, the central government retains the role of policy making, national standards setting, and over all supervision. National security is also a preserve of the central government.
Owing to its relatively high attitude, Uganda enjoys a highly favourable climate for agriculture and other related activities. The Central, Eastern, and Western regions of the country usually receive two rainy seasons annually, with heavy rains between March and May, and light rains usually from the month of September to December. Due to its proximity to Lake Victoria and thick rain forests, Central Uganda a mean rainfall of 2030mm in contrast with the national mean of 760mm per year. The amount and frequency of rainfall reduces as one goes further north, turning into just one rainy season a year which, on average, usually makes up only 500mm annually.
Uganda's soil fertility and productivity also varies accordingly, with more fertile soils in the Central and Western regions which become less fertile as one moves further east and north of the country. With particular regard to the nature of its climatic inheritance, Uganda exhibits a vegetation of typical tropical rain forests in the south in contrast with savannah woodlands and semi-desert vegetations in the northern half of the country. It is these climatic conditions that partly determine the agricultural potential and the population carrying capacity, with visibly very high population densities in the central and western parts of the country, tending towards sparsest as one moves further north.
The economy has traditionally been largely agricultural, in nature and extent, with approximately 80 per cent of the population entirely dependent on subsistence agriculture and light agro-based industrial practices. Farming is practiced with the use of mainly rude mentally tools the most common of which is the hand hoe, though the ox plough is, to some extent, also used in some parts of western Uganda. Even with considerably very little mechanisation in agriculture the country is largely self-dependent in food, although the distribution is highly uneven. Though the country boasts of a divergence and abundance of many types of natural food including tropical fruits and fish, malnutrition can ironically be witnessed even in communities where these foods are produced. Coffee, a crop grown mainly for cash, has accounted for the larger part of the country's foreign exchange revenue since independence.
By independence in 1962, Uganda inherited one of the most vibrant economies in Africa which flourished up to the early 1970s enjoying a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate averaging 5 per cent per annum and a population growth rate of 2.6 per cent per annum. For one and a half decades right from 1971, Uganda was engulfed in a period of internal armed conflicts that ended up destroying nearly all the internal social cohesion and the economic infrastructure, hence the attendant economic stagnation for most of the following decades. The provision of fundamental social services such as education and health was the main casualty of this period of socio-economic malaise and turmoil.
It was not until the year 1986 that the government started embarking on a holistic programme of social, economic and political reforms that were aimed at reviving the national potential for development. It was due to these reforms that the period between 2001 and 2006 was identified with a GDP growth rate varying between 4.7 per cent and 6.6 per cent per annum (UBOS; 2006). The rejuvenation of the moribund economy enabled different organizations, some of which were non governmental, to play a supportive role to the government in its broad national development strategy but a lot still is yet to accomplished.
17% of the country's area is under water, swaps and wetlands. The largest water bodies include Lake Victoria in the south, Lake Kyoga in the central, and Lake Albert in the west, together with river Nile which drains water northwards. Uganda is also home to many mountain ranges such as the Rwenzori in the south west, Elgon in the east, and Moroto in the north east among others.