Engaging business for sustainable sugar production in Uganda

International Water Stewardship Programme
Published: 22 September 2020
Last edited: 05 October 2020
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Kinyara Sugar Works Ltd. is a Ugandan business that produces sugar and grows sugar cane on its estate. Due to increasing demand, Kinyara sought to expand their sugar cane out-grower scheme, which, in addition to the impacts of a growing population, would threaten biodiversity and water resources of the Kiiha watershed, and community livelihoods. Ecotrust provided research to Kinyara on the sustainability threat to their value chain, which depends on water resources. Remedial actions would need to go beyond their nucleus estate; they should consider engaging with outgrowers and the local community on environmental and biodiversity actions. Kinyara now focuses on production efficiency rather than expansion, financially supports community-led restoration efforts, and has adopted the State-led Kiiha Catchment Management Plan for sustainable production and investments. They also signed an agreement, facilitated by Ecotrust, with Kiiha-dependent communities to develop alternative livelihoods. 


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Freshwater ecosystems
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Science and research
Sustainable livelihoods
Watershed management
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Sustainable development goals
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company


Uganda | Kiiha


One of the main challenges in engaging Kinyara was to ensure that sustainable production intervention would need to go beyond the nucleus farm boundary. For this, a strategy was required that reconciles nature, community well-being, and profits both on and beyond the business-owned farm. Ecotrust was able to take actions that simultaneously addressed the risks that Kinyara’s supply chain, Kiiha’s biodiversity, and communities were facing.

Secondly, working with communities to develop alternative livelihoods and help them understand the importance of protecting nature in their area ensures that their well-being and needs are being met in a sustainable manner without degrading nature and affecting the business’ production.


  • Kinyara Sugar Works Ltd.
  • The communities of the Masindi District
  • Ecotrust
  • The Directorate of Water Resources Management under the Ministry of Water & Environment.


How do the building blocks interact?

Both the Kiiha partnership and the Kiiha Catchment Plan provided fertile ground for Ecotrust to engage and support Kinyara, while lessons learned and the research done in the framework of the SRJS Programme, helped the NGO present convincing elements for transforming Kinyara’s practices, subsequently increasing their influence on Kinyara’s practices.


Thanks to Ecotrust’s engagement, Kinyara is now aware of its impacts and dependencies on nature, is making its practices more sustainable, and contributing to biodiversity efforts. The company ultimately decided not to expand its land for production, rather focusing on production efficiency so producing more and sustainably per small unit area. This change in thinking also spread throughout their value chains, with sustainability now integrated at various levels like transport. Between June 2018 to December 2019, the company committed to sustainable sugarcane production by agreeing to adhere to the Kiiha Catchment Management Plan regulation as a tool to guide their investments in that landscape, and provide financial support for its development. It now also supports actions to safeguard biodiversity such as tree planting in the wetlands.

Nearby communities are also more aware of the importance of wetlands, and are using agricultural methods and engaging in livelihoods that are not threatening to the environment.


Henk Simons, IUCN NL

The Kiiha catchment is a biodiverse area of wetlands, communally owned forests, and private and public land. Its ecosystems is threatened by industrial developments, increased immigration and subsequently land use change; which would have been exacerbated by Kinyara’s expansion plans. Although the company had already started investments in sustainable production, their efforts were primarily focused on wetlands and on the activities on the nucleus estate.  With support from IUCN Netherlands Committee through the SRJS programme, Ecotrust engaged with the sugar company to show them how business as usual could threaten environmental and business sustainability, and broaden the scope of their sustainable production.


Ecotrust conducted research including Land Use and Land Cover maps and identified risks to the company’s production. These included losing wetlands on the company’s property due to encroachment through fires that nearby communities start to prepare land for agriculture, which also affects the connectivity between forests and wetlands. Ecotrust also explained to communities the importance of the wetlands and their ecosystem services, and the impacts that their use of fire could have on nature and on sugar fields. Aware of the people’s dependence on the land, the NGO helped develop alternative environmentally friendly livelihoods. Kinyara has reported that the rates at which sugarcane was lost to fires has reduced to almost zero; the incidence of illegal activities like alcohol distillation has dropped, and agriculture in the wetlands has stopped.


The Kiiha partnership, which gathered the Ugandan Directorate of Water Resources Management, GIZ, Kinyara and Ecotrust, provided a platform for these stakeholders to discuss sustainability risks and gaps in sugarcane development, and use recommendations to address identified gaps and attain socio-economic and environmental standards of sugarcane production. These arguments and actions convinced Kinyara that sustainable practices equal business sustainability, and that they should adopt a landscape approach to conservation action. Kinyara also just provided financial support to two wetland associations, KIKAWECA and KAKAMUWECA, to restore 31.5 ha of land by planting more than 12,000 tree seedlings on the buffer line of the wetland.

Finally, Ecotrust will support Kinyara to adopt and implement the Kiiha Catchment Management Plan to ensure continuous sustainability efforts.

Contributed by

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Pauline Nantongo