How climate change affects farming practices - Daily Monitor

How climate change affects farming practices

Wednesday June 5 2013

Farmers prepare their cattle for a dipping.

Farmers prepare their cattle for a dipping. With changes in weather patterns being experienced, such farmers have had to adapt their farming practices as well. File photo 

By Lominda Afedraru

There is evidence that the world’s climate is changing and threatening the world’s environmental, social and economic development, including the agricultural sector.

In Uganda, climate change and increased weather variability has been observed and is manifested in the increase in frequency and intensity of weather extremes, including high temperatures leading to prolonged drought and erratic rainfall patterns.

This changing weather patterns is making it difficult for farmers in the country to plan using the traditional knowledge the two planting seasons which seemed much easier to predict.

Adverse effects
These changing weather patterns have come with challenges such as tropical storms, wildfire, siltation, soil erosion, pests and diseases which are causing devastating loss to farmer’s yields.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that the earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 0.76 degrees Celsius and will continue to rise and cause adverse effects on the agricultural production of most farmers in the country and elsewhere.

A senior meteorologist at the Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr Khalid Muwembe explains changes in climate is a big hazard to the farming community because its effects lead to poor yields which affect farmers’ livelihoods.
He said previously the weather pattern indicated two good planting seasons, March to May and September to November which were timely and would enable farmers to follow the traditional trends of planting.

Plan well
However, this trend has since changed because sometimes there is continued rainfall during the dry seasons and pronged dry spell occurrences during rainy seasons making it difficult for farmers to plan well.

“The onset of the rainfall pattern in the olden days were timely and it was easier for farmers to follow the traditional planting trends but the extremes are now frequent with prolonged dry spells and heavy rains resulting into flooding which leads to poor yields and the disease burden is on the increase,” he said.

According to him, if farmers carry out planting exercise in times of heavy rains, their crops will be washed and during times of drought the episodes of the pest and disease burden are high.

A farmer who depends entirely on proceeds of his or her crop as well as animal husbandry will encounter loss leading to hunger, starvation, limited pasture and low production; farmers are therefore advised to rely on expert advice as to when they could engage in the planting exercise depending on favourable climate conditions.

The principal climate change officer at the Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr Lawrence Aribo advises farmers not to plant on farm land with clogged water and for farmers living in mountainous areas, they are advised to practice terracing and lay farrows to reduce run offs from heavy rains.

According to him, a good number of farmers living on the slopes of Mountain Elgon in Eastern Uganda and those from Mountain Rwenzori have been sensitised by his team to grow grass on the steeps of the mountain which is a modern practice of stopping run-offs from heavy rains.

Forecasting changes
According to expert opinion lowland ecosystems in most districts in Eastern Uganda are prone to floods and semi-arid areas like in Nakasongola District are prone to drought.
This, therefore, means farmers residing in the cattle corridors will suffer in terms of looking for pasture for grazing their animals and those affected with floods will suffer loss of their crops.

The climate change team is mandated with forecasting the changes in the weather to guide farmers and last forecast was done for the planting season March to May, the next forecast will be for the months June and July. In case the rains continue, experts will advise farmers on what best to do.

However, the climate change experts are advising farmers to grow quick maturing crops such vegetables when there is prediction of prolonged dry spells and they are further advised to grow cereal crops which are tolerant to drought.