Over 2,000 farmers train on smart rice production

Agribusiness specialists train  farmers in Butaleja District at the weekend on utilisation of rice husks to produce biochar, which is used as manure. PHOTO/FRED WAMBEDE 

What you need to know:

  • The farmers were trained on how to utilise rice by-products such as husks and straws.

For the past two decades, Mr Amos Kirya has eked his livelihood through rice growing in a two-acre land he inherited from his late father in Namatala Wetland.

“My father was a rice farmer and I learnt this trade from him. We are rice farmers here but the government is determined to discontinue us from growing the crop,” Mr Kirya said as he stood near his rice garden in Kamonkoli Town Council, Budaka District.

He and other rice farmers across the country are now pondering their next move after the government banned rice farming in wetlands in order to conserve the environment.

However, there is hope for them following the introduction of smart farming.
According to the agricultural and agribusiness specialists, rice growing produces methane gas, one of the green gases responsible for global warming.

“The rice husks produce a substance called methane, which then produces greenhouse gases, which contributes to global warming,” Mr Anthony Mugambi, an agribusiness specialist working with Kilimo Trust, a non-profit making organisation, said.

Mr Mugambi, who works as a team leader for a project dubbed, Reuse-Recycle Rice Initiative for Climate Agriculture, made the remarks during a learning event for farmers at Resort Hotel in Mbale District at the weekend.

Under the project, more than 2,000 farmers have been trained on smart sustainable rice production in the districts of Butaleja, Tororo and Kween.

The project is funded by IKEA foundation and it aims at introducing regenerative agriculture in rice-based farming systems through sustainable rice cultivation.  Mr Mugambi said the farmers are trained to utilise rice by-products such as rice husks and straws, which produce methane, to combat climate change.

“The rice straws can be turned into animal feed and other things and also the rice husks can be turned into fuels to reduce the cutting of trees. We also produce husk stoves that can be used by the food vendors and households, which are environmentally friendly,” he said.

Through the project, the organisation has piloted the utilisation of rice husks in the schools as a source of energy.

Mr Gabriel Ochienge, the programme assistant of Kilimo Trust, said intercropping leguminous species such as cow peas, chick peas in rice production can fix the problem of methane gas from rice by-products.

Mr Moses Higenyi, a rice farmer from Himutu Sub-county in Butaleja, said they have embraced the new farming technologies to mitigate climate change.

Ms Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance, said: “Rice production should coexist with the environment. The government committed itself to prioritising rice as a priority commodity in the national development plan.”

Ban on rice farming
In the February 8 letter signed by the Prime Minister, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, President Museveni directed that rice growing in wetlands must stop.

“To this effect, H.E the President has directed that rice growing in wetlands must stop forthwith and alternative livelihoods are provided by the government….,” the letter reads in part.

The President said the wetlands should now be used for fish farming.