Constructing Kampala’s pathway to becoming a Food Smart City

Constructing Kampala’s pathway to becoming a Food Smart City

Building Kampala's future as a sustainable and inclusive food system

The buzzing city of Kampala - with its 1.6 million people in its centre - is the biggest city in Uganda, located close to Lake Victoria. With a population growth rate of around 5% every year, it is among Africa’s fastest growing urban areas. Accounting for more than half of Uganda’s GDP, it is no surprise that this capital city is growing so fast.

Rikolto’s ambition is to turn Kampala’s food system into a sustainable and inclusive food system that is able to provide healthy, sustainable and nutritious food for all its citizens. Together with Arusha, Mbeya and Mbale in East Africa, Kampala is part of Rikolto’s global Food Smart City programme.


Building a sustainable and inclusive food system is however not a simple task. In Kampala, there are many challenges that need to be addressed:

  • Rapid urbanisation: By 2050, at least 50% of the country’s population will be living in urban areas. Most people live in informal settlements with inadequate housing, poor health care services, lack of access to education, lack of access to safe drinking water, and lack of infrastructure. 

  • Poor market infrastructure and practices: Absence of cold storage facilities, hygiene challenges, traders spraying pesticides on vegetables and fruits in their stalls to prolong shelf life, unclear waste disposal, poor display and packaging techniques, poor handling. techniques for fruits and vegetables, and unfavourable food environment among others. 

  • Limited consumer awareness on safety of fruits and vegetables: Consumers mainly judge the safety of fresh produce based on the looks. 

  • Absence of local standards or policies to regulate food safety risks

  • Export rejects: Many fruits and vegetables meant for export never reach their destination due to rejections because the produce does not live up to the standards in the destination market. For instance, the European Union often rejects fruits and vegetables from Uganda because the chemical residue level exceeds the maximum allowed or because there are some living organisms present, such as the false coddling moth. Improving practices for the domestic market would therefore also reduce the number of rejects on the export market and reduce food waste.

One common goal: Changing the system

Rikolto believes that cities can play an important role in sparking a shift towards a fundamentally different food system by creating a platform for all food actors to develop common strategies and actions, but also to transform urban food environments for improved consumption of healthy, sustainable and nutritious food by all urban citizens, regardless of their level of income.  

It is against this background, that a Food Smart City (FSC) programme is set up in collaboration with city authorities to make healthy, sustainable and safe fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to all.  

We cannot do it alone: Involving everyone to reach this ambitious goal

The overall goal of the Food Smart Cities programme is to support city-regions in implementing both policies and practices that contribute to sustainable, fair and healthy food systems. To do so, Rikolto and its partners will be working on the following objectives:  

  1. Include smallholder farmers, women and youth in sustainable urban food chains based on fair principles 

  2.  Increase the affordability, availability and acceptability of healthy, sustainable and nutritious food to city dwellers

  3. Reduce the environmental impact and increase the resilience of urban food systems  

  4. Set up participatory governance mechanisms for urban food systems

What we've achieved so far....


The main achievement happened under the framework of an urban farming project funded by UN Environment Programme and implemented together with Kampala Capital City Authority).

  • 50 urban farms with innovative technologies set up in 5 divisions of Kampala. These farms are open for visits and aim at bringing urban farming technologies closer to the communities in Kampala.

  • As a result of setting up new urban farms and increased community awareness, the demand for inputs (seedlings etc) for urban farming from the big Kyanja Agricultural Resource Center in Kampala has tripled according to Dr. Kamugisha, representative in charge of the charge of the resource center.

  • Overwhelming interest from local council authorities and city division planners to include urban farming in the budgets for the next financial year.

The change we expect to see

1. A thriving multi-stakeholder food governance platform in place to organise collective action towards a sustainable food system in Kampala

  • A shared vision to improve the food safety of urban food chains

  • Jointly identify bottlenecks and risks and develop shared solutions while being part of the implementation and monitoring efforts

  • Design and facilitate action plans to create regulations or incentives fit to speed up the enabling environment based on a comprehensive analysis of the current policy framework, business models related to food systems in the city  

2. A supply chain of fruits and vegetables in Kampala that is centred around ‘inclusive business’

  • Business models integrate more vulnerable chain actors - smallholder farmers, low-income consumers, youth, and women - into markets

  • Infrastructure improvement of market stalls, establishment of direct commercial relationships between suppliers and market vendors, awareness creation on food safety and general improvement of the market regulatory policy to support the horticulture industry

3. Better access to safe and quality fruits and vegetables consumed in Kampala city 

Urban farming systems have been promoted through a multi-stakeholder driven risk analysis approach: 

  • Assessing the risks along the main fruit and vegetable supply chains

  • Communicating the risk to various stakeholders

  • Controlling the risks

One of the urban demonstration farms in Kyanja managed by our partner Kampala Capital City Authority

4. Improved food safety promotion and awareness

  • Stakeholders and all operators in the entire fruits and vegetables chain receive valuable food safety information and sensitization

  • Food safety standards have been developed, consumers have been educated about quality and safe food, basic food hygiene practices and how to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses

  • Food safety awareness will have been raised within communities and the general public focused on the importance of food safety and how to ensure food safety, plant and animal health, appropriate postharvest practices and implementation of quality standards for food products and consumer goods

5. City learnings

Kampala’s Food Smart City programme promotes the exchange of lessons and good practices regarding food governance, innovative business models and technology with other cities in East Africa.

Kampala Capital City Authority

Kampala Capital City Authority

Uganda Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Exporters and Producers Association

Uganda Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Exporters and Producers Association

Uganda National Bureau of Standards

Uganda National Bureau of Standards

Food Safety Associates Limited (FSA)

Food Safety Associates Limited (FSA)

Belgian Directorate General for Development

United Nations Environment Programme