Uganda’s agriculture is heavily dependent on small-scale farming. Our farmland most times hardly exceeds 0.5-10 hectares.
This means any innovations by agricultural scientists and extension workers should focus on the small-scale farmer.
Isaac Malinga, a prominent farmer in Kapchorwa district, says the small-scale farmer experiences a lot of pressure and there is always a tendency to plant more than one crop in the same field.
He says this is called intercropping. In developed countries, only 20% of the population is engaged in farming and 80% of that population spends their major income buying from this small community the food they eat.
In Uganda, the case is different. About 85% of the population are farmers and only 15% are buyers of farm commodities.
The 15% are also usually poor earners who cannot afford high prices for food. The farmer cannot risk investing his meagre income in high mechanisation if the commodities he is producing will not fetch him the monies worth.
Moses Kiwanuka, a businessman who does his farming in Luwero, says excessive land use leads to the degradation of soil, affecting the small-scale farmer. However, there are some simple tips to make your small farm more productive without incurring any expenses.
-Select suitable seed varieties for your area
-Prepare your land in time and plant as soon as the rains come
-Practise rotations, i.e do not plant the same crops over and over again in the same field year after year
-Spacing is key; too many crops in a small space compete for nutrients and never get enough for their growth and development.
-Maintain the soil cover throughout the year to avoid losing it through erosion. Cover the soil with straw or dry leaves.
-Keep your crop weed-free; weeds compete for the nutrients too.
-Harvest your crop at the right time.
-Rest your land after every harvest. This is best done by planting plants like beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas and some trees like leucena (leguminous crops and trees) which will fix nutrients like nitrogen back in the soil.
-Practice soil and water conservation measures like digging trenches and terraces to protect the soil against erosion.
-Never use poor seed for planting.