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Farmers tipped on climate-smart agriculture

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Ms Norah Ebukalin examines a sorghum plant. PHOTO/LOMINDA AFEDRARU 

What you need to know:

  • Agriculture scientists have selected seven crops which areplanted by farmer groups and cooperative unions from region to region.

Climate change is a reality and has adversely impacted agriculture and other natural resource-based sectors of the economy. 

According to the 2017 Uganda Bureau of Statistics more than 96 percent of farming households in Uganda depend on rain-fed agriculture making them highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and variability. 

Climate change distorts the length of rainy seasons, making the farmers uncertain on when to prepare land and when to plant crops. 

This shift in rainy seasons negatively affects water availability for agricultural production leading to reduced crop and pasture yields.

The foreseen challenge is meeting the growing population’s food demand which calls for increased food production amidst a changing climate. 

However, Uganda’s farming systems are not sufficiently developed to adequately adapt to or cope with the impacts of climate change.

In Uganda, the major climate change hazards affecting agricultural production are droughts, floods and extreme temperatures, which must be addressed by farmers adopting climate- smart agriculture practices.

As such the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) is teaming with development partners to put resources on one table in order to address this challenge.

The team is partnering with Foundation of Netherlands Volunteers (Stiching Nedarlandse Vrijwiligers) SNV to form a multi- sectoral platform dedicated to promoting a coordinated climate-smart agriculture initiative in Uganda

This means development partners wishing to implement climate smart practices with farmers will have to join this platform where resources can be put together to address the challenge jointly other than duplicating efforts doing the same thing with same farmers across the country.

The team from MAAIF, SNV, farmer representatives and other development partner representatives met in Kampala to discuss the draft document which will guide them in addressing the topic at hand and below are the details.

The director of SNV, Ms Phomolo Maphosa, giving the background of the platform explained that climate change challenges agricultural productivity, food security and livelihoods worldwide.
Climate change projection by 2050 shows that the whole country will have overall increased temperatures. 

The projections indicate that the increase will be more in Southwestern and Western regions of the country where temperatures are predicted to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius during the long rains from April to May and 2.8 degrees Celsius during the short rains of October – December compared to 2.8 degrees Celsius for the rest of the country.

The projections show increased rains for the northern and northeastern parts of the country by 40-50 percent.

This calls for farmers to adopt practices of climate-smart agriculture today in order to realise better yields.

Addressing these challenges requires innovative, sustainable and inclusive approaches. 
It is the reason the Uganda climate- smart multi stakeholder platform (UG-CSA-MSP was established to facilitate collaboration among state and none state actors involving CSA.

What is climate change?
She defined climate change as significant change in global temperatures, precipitation, wind patterns and other measures of climate change that occur over several decades. Both natural and humans factors contribute to climate change.

Human activities such as agriculture and deforestation are primary causes of climate change. This emits green gasses mainly carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

During the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, this also contributes to greenhouse emission into the atmosphere.

The key greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and some of which occur naturally and form part of temperature control system.

Despite the numerous CSA initiatives in the country aimed at addressing the negative impact of climate change in the agriculture sector there is limited coordination of effort. 

Structure of the platform
The commissioner in charge of Agriculture extension and scale management at MAAIF Dr Henry Opolot addressing the team noted that his ministry and partners are not moving the pace in the agriculture sector as expected due to climate change challenges.

The target for organisations to implement climate-smart agriculture projects in line with governments set agenda of farmer’s agriculture production, processing and value addition to realise increased export in the sector.

He contends that the structure of the platform comprises of the secretariat and various committees handling different topics ranging from sourcing finance, information dissemination to benefit the farmers and productivity, storage and marketing among others.

This he said will enable resources to be utilised adequately for the benefit of the farmers dealing in various commodities including livestock, crops, poultry and fishers.

Projects under implementation 
Mr Bashir Kasekende from SNV with a team of experts are implementing a five-year climate-smart agriculture project where they have selected a range of crop varieties for farmers to grow in various regions in country using climate smart practices.

The project is being implemented under Climate Resilient Value Chains for Improved Livelihoods (CRAFT). It is being implemented in three East African countries Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.  In Uganda the team has selected seven crops which are implemented by farmer groups and cooperative unions from region to region.

These crops include common beans, Sorghum, green gram, Irish potatoes, soybeans, simsim and sunflower. 

Farmers are encouraged to grow soy bean which is a nitrogen fixing crop which they can intercrop with trees promoting agro forestry which is a good climate-smart agriculture practice.

About 248 small holder famers have been trained in climate-smart agricultural practices and technologies out of whom 198 farmers have already adopted this initiative and 131 farmers have experienced increase in their income.

Farmer exprience
Ms Norah Ebukalin is a farmer hailing from Bukedea. He belongs to the Popular Knowledge women farmer initiative with over 2,000 members. Farmers in this group grow and process sunflower, cassava, groundnuts and soybean.

She is growing all these crops on her 20-acre family farm. She explains that experts from SNV came to their group three years to sensitise them on adoption of climate smart agriculture practice to achieve increased yield.