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Climate Change Threatening Food Security

by Wangah Wanyama
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By Prossy Nandudu 

Hellen Aanyu Awujo, a farmer and member of Kobwin Area Co-operative in Ngora district, said for the last fi ve years, co-operatives have not realised much from their farming efforts, citing the changing weather patterns as their major constraint. Kobwin is made up of six primary co-operatives and 54 women groups, as well as the youth practicing farming. Awujo and her team specialise in oil seeds such as soya beans, groundnuts, in addition to maize, cow peas and cassava.

“At the time of planting when you expect rains, a prolonged dry spell sets in instead, yet the planting season for oil seeds begins from about February 26 to March 15. But also we have had dry spells for about fi ve years now,” Awujo said.

She said the sprouting plants dry up whenever the dry spell sets in, while some do not even germinate because they wither and die.

“When rains start, they fl ood the gardens. Some come with hailstorms which damage even what is left, for example cassava whose tubers rot due to too much water,” Awujo said. She made the remarks during the third National Alliance of Agriculture Co-operatives in Uganda (NAAC) event that took place at Hotel Triangle in Kampala, recently.

ESTIMATED LOSS

Awujo has no hopes of earning from this year’s harvest. “I had planted four acres of soya bean, groundnuts and cowpeas this season. But to my dismay, the plants 45NVMonday, May 15, 2023 COMMUNITY NEWS Climate change threatening food security NGORA

IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Information from the agriculture ministry shows that Uganda is experiencing the impact of climate change through increasing temperatures, frequent dry spells, flooding, hailstorms, landslides, the emergence of pests and diseases for both crops and livestock as well as erratic rains, among others. Information from the World Bank shows that the rate of degradation and soil erosion taking place today is unsustainable and costs about 17% of the country’s gross domestic product. And that the agricultural sector loses up to 27% of its GDP due to environmental challenges. dried up. I was expecting over sh2m from groundnuts alone because a kilo at harvest is sh3000. I was expecting two to three tonnes of groundnuts from one acre,” she said. “For cowpeas, I was expecting more because I had planted the expensive brown ones. A kilo goes for sh7,000 and during scarcity, a kilo goes for sh12,000,” Awujo said.

SOLUTION

The solution, according to Awujo, is for the Government to provide irrigation services to save farmers during the dry spells. She also said farmers should be taught how to manage water in the gardens whenever it rains. For irrigation, Awujo said the Government should use nearby water sources such as Lake Gawa and River Agu, among others, to install irrigation systems in the region. She also asked the Government to support farmers affected by climate change with alternative sources of income such as sheep and poultry farming. “Sheep provide manure, the same as poultry. Sheep produce twice a year, so some could be sold to use the money for other activities on the farm, which also boosts income for the family. Sheep are also environmentally friendly animals,” she said. Another intervention is the management of water logging that affects the productivity of crops such as beans. Other concerns raised by the farmers included the high cost of equipment to add value to their produce, but also the lack of fi nancing for them to acquire solar drying equipment, especially fruit drying and processing. Samuel Sentumbwe, the NAAC executive director, called on farmers to embrace agriculture insurance, which has already been subsidised by 50% by the Government.

 “Climate change is not only affecting our farmers. It is a global issue and we are sensitising farmers on best practices such as intercropping trees with some crops to prevent fl ooding, digging up water channels to create pathways for water, and digging underground water tanks to harvest water,” Sentumbwe said. He added that they were working with research institutions such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the National Agricultural Research Organisation to bring climate change technologies closer to farmers.

REGIONAL INTERVENTIONS

At the regional level, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other development partners are mobilising funds that will be accessed by smallholder farmers to invest in climate change mitigation measures. The president of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Elizabeth Nsimadala, said access to climate fi nance is still a challenge to farmers, hence the low uptake of climate-smart technologies such as improved seed, terracing, digging up waterways, and construction of tanks such as underground water tanks that can store runoff water to be used in times of scarcity, among others. “Climate change fi nancing is a big challenge to farmers, which is why many are not scaling up the technologies that could help. We are working with IFAD to put together a fund, so that it can be accessed at agreed terms to be invested in climate change adaptation measures,” Nsimadala said.

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