The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in Uganda, in partnership with an iNGO Alliance made up of CARE, Oxfam, World Vision and CRS, has produced a Community of Practice Guide on climate smart agriculture in Uganda.
Climate smart agriculture is an approach to farming that increases productivity and resilience to the impacts of climate change, and where possible reduces emissions. The recently published guide features a range of projects, best practices and programs to support the scale-up of these sustainable agricultural practices.
Agriculture is one of the most important sectors for Uganda’s economy. It employs approximately 70% of the population and contributes roughly a quarter of the national GDP. The sector is vital for food and nutrition security and household income, while raw materials contribute to local industry and are exported to regional and international markets.
Over 96% of farming households in Uganda depend on rainfed agriculture, which is very sensitive to climate change. Climate conditions are a critical determinant of productivity, and unpredictable changes like rising temperatures, poor rainfall distribution, drought, floods and landslides, coupled with pests, diseases, and poor adaptive capacity, have had far-reaching social and economic impacts in the country, and contributed to a need for resilient agricultural practices.
Improved maize production in Otuke
In one such climate smart agricultural program, CARE International in Uganda worked with ATAAS/SLM to support farmers in Otuke, northern Uganda, establish a maize garden to demonstrate how producers can successfully grow cereals and legumes with the soil they have while contributing to improved resilience for the local farming system to future climatic shocks.
Northern Uganda typically experiences a long rainy season during May to September, and then a prolonged dry season from November to March. The dry season means high temperatures, a loss of savanna vegetation and land degradation.
Otuke district also has a unique challenge of being mostly flat, with low agricultural productivity potential. Poorly drained soils get waterlogged for most of the rainy season, making it especially hard to grow cereals and legumes such as maize, beans and peas. Dry seasons are long, lasting over four months, and the poor crop harvests mean famine and food and nutrition insecurity, pests and diseases, and low household incomes.
Newly dug basins helped to concentrate plant nutrients and harvest and store adequate soil moisture in the rooting zone to support plant growth during the dry season. Contour bunds drained away excess water during the rainy season and conserved sufficient water in the soil to adequately support crop growth to maturity. Fertilizers added plant nutrients and grass mulch conserved soil moisture, minimizing the impacts of mid-season droughts, halting soil erosion and improving soil health. During the following season, the farmers rotated maize with beans to ensure balanced nutrient utilization and to break any pest and disease life cycles.
As a result, the farmers reported yield increases of more than 100% during the first planting season of 2017, compared to what they were getting previously.
The host farmer benefitted from the income from the sales, and other farmers adopted the technologies the following season.
Female small-scale farmers
One of the challenges highlighted in the guide is that while women and youths make up the majority of small-scale farmers, their involvement in climate smart initiatives is limited by a lack of tenure security over their farmlands and few measures that increase gender equity in either participation or skill-sharing.
The Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD) Western Regional Office supported women’s groups in Mbarara Municipality to participate and skill-share by establishing backyard vegetable gardens integrating climate smart agriculture practices.
Mbarara Municipality in the southwestern part of Uganda is severely affected by climate change impacts, experiencing drought during the dry season and flooding during the rainy season. The prolonged dry spells make it difficult for farmers to grow vegetables and the low-quality produce is attacked by pests and disease.
“The vegetables have improved my family nutrition, increased household income and give me self-satisfaction when other farmers come to learn about better farming practices”
The project demonstrated that despite the area’s high vulnerability to the climate change impacts, vegetable growing was still a viable farming business.
One of the group members grew early maturing, high yielding and disease tolerant cabbage and spinach varieties, establishing a nursery and transplanting the seedlings to her quarter-acre back yard garden. She prepared the garden, dug contour bunds and planting basins, and applied a handful of manure into the planting basins. One seedling was planted in each basin for both crops and the gardens mulched to ensure water conservation in the soil. Whenever the drought became serious, she would use a watering can to irrigate the vegetable gardens to improve their resilience to the prolonged dry seasons. The vegetables gave high yields and the irrigation improved soil fertility, enabling her to grow vegetables throughout the year.
“The cabbage yielded very big sizes averaging 4 kg, and the spinach leaves were also big. Off- season harvesting of the vegetables gave maximum price,” the farmer said. “The vegetables have improved my family nutrition, increased household income and give me self-satisfaction when other farmers come to learn about better farming practices”.
Vegetable growing improved her income and livelihood, especially at peak demand during the dry seasons. Income from the vegetable sales enabled her to pay school fees for children and reinvest into growing more vegetables the following season.
For more examples of successful, scalable, sustainable climate adaptation practices relating to agriculture, you can see the full Community Practices Guide HERE.