Humanity is waging a war against nature. Nature always fights back, and is already doing so with increasing force and anger. This is evident in the blatant effects of climate change, including rising temperatures, prolonged droughts, floods that affect crop production and lead to crop failure, low yields, loss of income for farmers, food insecurity, hunger and starvation.
These facts affect the achievement of the sustainable development goals and, in particular, efforts to end poverty and hunger. It is in this context that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP ) the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries supported by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) initiated the “Improving the Resilience of Landscapes Agriculture and Value Chains in Eastern Uganda” to promote climate-smart agricultural (CSA) best practices that farmers can adopt to build resilience in such conditions.
Implemented in the districts of Kamuli, Kaliro, Buyende, Bugiri, Busia, Budaka and Namutumba between January 2018 and December 2021, the project sought to increase land productivity by promoting the conservation of soil and water resources, building the capacity of farmers, school students and extension workers at the local government level and strengthening resilience to climate change and increasing the number of farmers using CSA practices.
The project has had multiple benefits. Before the project, farmers in Bulondo Village, Kamuli District, suffered from food insecurity, poverty and prolonged drought. This has been mitigated through the adoption of CSA practices.
“From the project, I learned many CSA methods and technologies, and chose to start with permanent planting basins. Because these are deep, they collect and save water for plants, they prevent runoff water from leaving the garden, thus trapping any nutrients that may be running with it and trapping it in the basins. This helps crops grow healthy even when there are low levels of rainfall,” said Sharifa Ntono, a young farmer and president of the Young Generation Bandela Farmers Center International, based in the village of Bulondo.
Ntono, who has been with the project since its inception in 2018, adds that many other farmers who have adopted CSA practices are reaping higher yields compared to those who have not. Before the adoption of permanent seeding basins, Ntono harvested between 300 and 500 kg of maize per acre, but when he used permanent seeding basins, he now harvests between 1,500 and 3,000 kg.
Solution to the scarce rains
However, Ntonto is not alone. In Namutumba, a district known for erratic rainfall marked by a series of droughts and sandy soils that affect crop production because they do not hold water for long, CSA approaches such as spot application of organic fertilizers and the use of harrowing have helped farmers escape dry spells. , expand the existing cultivation surfaces and commercialize the corn production.
The use of cutting lines has been a game changer in this area and has helped farmers plant early as they are done in the dry season before the rains start to harvest and conserve rainwater as soon as it arrives. . This helps crops escape short-season soil moisture deficits. Cutting lines allow plant roots to grow deeper into the soil and use stored dry-season soil moisture to meet crop water requirements.
The use of tractor-pulled rippers to make cutting lines and herbicides for weed control has made land preparation, marketing, planting and weed control work easier and has allowed farmers to plant early and expand acreage. These practices have enabled farmers to engage in large-scale production and increased crop production.
A combination of permanent planting basins, rippers, contour strips, and mulch have reduced soil erosion in the area. According to Moses Kidangole, maize and soybean farmer and president of the Bukenga Akanabala Farmers Cooperative Society, Bugobi City Council, Namutumba District, nothing compares to CSA practices when it comes to increasing crop productivity.
“For me, I don’t know what our great-grandchildren will eat if they don’t adopt CSAs. Only CSA can improve crop production, improve food security and improve farmers’ income in Namutumba.” The rippers have transformed Kidangole’s farming capacity from subsistence farming to commercial farming.
Good nutrition improves learning and school performance
In the Budaka district, where lack of food was one of the causes of school dropout and poor academic performance, the project helped improve school feeding programmes. The availability of food for learners improved school performance because children did not have hunger as a reason for not going to school.
At Suni Elementary School, one of the beneficiary schools, project activities have expanded food production according to David Mbayo, CSA Club Secretary and Director of Studies. He says the $10,000 grant the school received as part of the project allowed him to fence off six acres of school land to prevent theft and grazing animals, and also purchased all the agricultural supplies needed to start the school garden.
As a result, Mbayo says the recent reopening of schools found them ready because they had enough food in storage. He revealed that even during the closure of schools due to COVID-19, the school continued to farm with the students of the neighborhood and cultivate corn, potatoes and vegetables. These students, in turn, have taught their parents how to use CSA technologies, thus creating a full cycle of food safety.