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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Investing in sustainable intensification for smallholders: quantifying large-scale costs and benefits in Uganda

Piemontese, Luigi; Kamugisha, Rick Nelson; Barron, Jennie; Tukahirwa, Joy Margaret Biteete; Harari, Nicole; Jaramillo, Fernando


In Uganda, upgrading smallholder agriculture is a necessary step to achieve the interlinked sustainable development goals of hunger eradication, poverty reduction and land degradation neutrality. However, targeting the right restoration practices and estimate their cost-benefit at the national scale is difficult given the highly contextual nature of restoration practices and the diversity of small-scale interventions to be adopted. By analysing the context-specific outcomes of 82 successful case studies on different sustainable land and water management (SLWM) in Uganda, we estimated that out-scaling of existing successful practices to 75% of agricultural land would require a one-time investment of US$ 4.4 billion from smallholders. Our results show that, besides the many social and environmental benefit commonly associated to SLWM, a wide outscale of SLWM could generate US$ 4.7 billion every year, once the practices are fully operational. Our context-specific estimates highlight the profitability of investing in smallholder farming to achieve the sustainable development goals in Uganda, with geographical differences coming from specific social-ecological conditions. This study can guide sustainable intensification development by targeting the most suitable SLWM practices and plan for adequate financial support from government, investors and international development aids to smallholder farming.


Uganda; agriculture; sustainable intensification; archetype analysis; smallholder farming; sustainability science

Published in

Environmental Research Letters
2022, volume: 17, number: 4, article number: 045010
Publisher: IOP Publishing Ltd

Authors' information

Piemontese, Luigi
Stockholm University
Kamugisha, Rick Nelson
Makerere University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Tukahirwa, Joy Margaret Biteete
Uganda Landcare Network ULN
Harari, Nicole
University of Bern
Jaramillo, Fernando
Stockholm University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG2 Zero hunger
SDG1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


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