By George Bita
The start of the rainy season characterised by downpours in most parts of Busoga has excited farmers in the sub-region.
According to Alex Alema, a farmer at Kasozi village, Namugongo sub-county of Kaliro district, the rains that started in March are giving farmers a wake-up call to get to the gardens.
“It is time to plant maize, groundnuts and beans that I will sell after harvesting in about three months’ time. These are the first rains of the year and every seasoned farmer looks forward to them after the December to February dry spell,” Alema says.
Gregory Babalanda, a farmer at Mulanga village, Nawandala sub-county in Iganga district narrates that the rains have provided much-needed moisture to ensure healthy growth of crops.
“My coffee and bananas had started getting yellow leaves due to the dry spell. However, the rains have turned this round with green cover taking over,” Babalanda assures.
He notes that his fish ponds depend on a natural water supply from the nearby wetland which must be replenished by rainfall.
David Kyera, a farmer at Bugole B village in Iganga district expressed joy over the rains saying as a vanilla farmer, he was at a loss when shade trees started drying up.
“Now with the rains in place the bananas will have good shade as well as other trees. This makes the vanilla climbers grow healthy away from direct sunlight thereby giving a good yield,” Kyera explains.
Charles Kiwanuka, an urban farmer at Busei zone in Iganga municipality observes that the onset of the rainy season kick-starts the planting period for farmers.
“Our maize, beans and other seeds are now being planted. Those who grow potatoes, watermelon and vegetables are equally busy planting,” Kiwanuka notes.
Patrick Bungu, a farmer at Kidiki village, Kamuli district says his cattle would equally have enough pasture to graze on.
“In the meantime, we have been using silage as a feeding option. When the rain comes, the vegetation increases to significant levels,” he says.
Alema urges farmers with water-harvesting tanks to take advantage of this resource and store enough for future use.
“I have seen farmers who use underground plastic tanks to trap this precious liquid. It is then let out into gardens by gravitational-flow irrigation,” Alema says.
Babalanda says he collects the rain water and gradually makes it flow into his four 30 x 60 ft fish ponds that contain an estimated 2, 000 catfish.
Apollo Musita, the Namutumba district agricultural officer warns farmers against relying a lot on rains which of late have become unpredictable.
“Worse still, the rains may increase to stormy nature after the crops have taken root. In the recent seasons, farmers in the area have lost their crop to hailstorms,” he says.
Kiwanuka says the farm inputs like fertilisers are expensive yet for proper growth the soil capacity has to be boosted.
“Gone are the days when a farmer would keep his maize or bean seeds from the harvest stock to plant the next season. Each season nowadays comes with fresh purchases,” he laments.
David W. Elweru, the acting executive director of Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) notes that eastern Lake Victoria and south eastern region where Busoga lies would experience near normal rains.
He explains that ‘near normal’ doesn’t mean the region would generally have little rainfall as the implication is that the rainfall received is adequate to support normal socio-economic activities including agriculture.
“The onset of the seasonal rainfall is expected around mid-March after dry conditions since January. The peak is likely to be in mid-April with rains stopping around early to mid-June,” Elweru states in a February 28th report.
Elweru urges farmers to be on the lookout for flash floods that may arise due to isolated downpours.
He encourages farmers to prepare their gardens and plant early so as to maximally benefit from all the available water.
What others say
Monica Mutesi, farmer from Namutumba town, Namutumba district
After drying the farm harvest during the dry spell, it is time for rains to come in and we plant again. I am happy that it is planting season once more.
Andrew Tasaga, farmer from Bugodi village, Mayuge district
My banana crops had started drying up as well as orange trees. The rains have indeed come at the right moment.
Jacquilene Nabulumba, farmer based in Iganga municipality, Iganga district Every time it rains, seasoned farmers get elated. The presence of water on the farm is a blessing to proper plant and animal growth.