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Coronavirus hits farmers

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Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Ugandan farmers are among the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures

in Africa according to research released on Oct.16 by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), an independent international development organisation that works to empower communities in developing countries.

The VSO survey which was published to coincide with World Food Day was conducted in June and July across Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria. It asked 1,800 farmers and SMEs to rate how the pandemic has affected their livelihoods on a scale of not at all to severely. A significant percentage of farmers told the researchers that they are facing huge financial challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures.

Twenty-three per cent of those interviewed across the five countries said a lack of cash had reduced their food intake. The highest proportion was amongst Ugandans where more than 38% of the respondents reported reducing their food intake. The respective figures for reducing food intake were 25% of Tanzanians, 24% in Nigeria, 21% in Kenya and 15% in Ethiopia.

Other coping mechanisms included taking out loans or borrowing, using up previous stocks, and relying on government and NGO support. Twenty three percent of the respondents relied on borrowing, another 24% consumed previous stocks, over 9% received government support and over 7% received support from NGOs. Of those who rated the issue as severe, 15% were receiving no support at all from governments and NGOs.

“What comes through in our surveys is a sense of urgency, people are telling us they will soon run out of options, their current coping strategies such as reducing food intake or borrowing money from friends and family, will no longer be feasible within a short time, certainly by the new year,”said Ruchi Tripathi, the Global Practice Lead for Resilient Livelihoods at VSO.

“In the short-term, urgent action is needed in terms of food and cash assistance to the most marginalised communities, women and other groups around the world,” she said, “There is an opportunity to ensure any food purchased is from local smallholder farmers to support their livelihoods and revive local economies. But beyond that, we need to build a more food secure future for the long term.”

In April this year the government distributed relief food to about 1.5 million urban poor who were affected by the lockdown as a measure to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. But it appears it needs to do more.

The VSO study follows another recent nationwide analysis by the Uganda government and UN humanitarian agencies which found people in nine urban areas to be at “crisis level” of food insecurity thanks to negative impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Kampala Capital City Authority, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and WFP participated in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.  The European Union, World Bank and UK Aid funded the exercise.

The analysis was informed in part by real-time data gathered by remote telephone monitoring of households in 13 urban areas, refugee hosting districts and Karamoja region in the northeast.

According to the analysis, one in three people in the towns of Gulu, Jinja and Kasese struggled to find nutritious food on a regular basis during the lockdown.  The IPC attributed the crisis food insecurity to the loss of livelihoods in the informal sector, tourism, the travel and events industry and the education sector, reduced remittances and reduced commercial networks due to the closure of borders.

Using real-time and other data, the IPC found that refugees in all 13 settlements in Uganda along with more than 1.4 million Ugandans in refugee-hosting districts and Karamoja region experienced crisis or worse levels of hunger between June and August. In Karamoja, all districts had worrying levels of malnutrition among young children and pregnant and nursing women, with malnutrition above emergency levels in Moroto and Napak.

The assessment also found that between February and August, rates of life-threatening malnutrition were above emergency levels in Moroto and Napak in Karamoja. The rest of the region’s districts were in Alert, meaning they also have relatively high levels of malnutrition.

Poor diets, chronic food shortages, poor sanitation and high levels of diarrhoea and malaria were cited as major contributors to the situation. High workloads for mothers and therefore reduced time for breastfeeding and other childcare were also cited as driving malnutrition.

Original Post: New Vision Wire

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Access to land, capital hampering youth’s involvement in agri-business

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Stakeholder engagement with governments to support the youths should be a component of every programme

Young people in sub-Saharan Africa have keen interest in agriculture especially with the use of technology but are hampered with numerous challenges including limited access to land, skills set, sustainable financing and access to markets, a new report has revealed.

A new study carried out by Heifer International in 21 African countries titled ‘The Future of Africa’s Agriculture – An Assessment of the Role of Youth and Technology,’ reveals that 10 out of 11 countries, with the exception of Tanzania agreed that the most important support required is funding.

However, more training and mentorship were seen as more important than funding in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The survey also reveals that whereas more youths in Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe stressed the need for support in the area of access to markets, their counterparts in Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana prioritized the need for support in agri-technologies. Access to land was the major concern for the youth in Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The organisations working in the sector suggested that the best way to engage youths in agriculture is through technological innovation (39%), government support for young farmers (32%) and inclusion of youths in agriculture policy formulation (21%).

“Most youths in Africa also do not have access to land for agriculture.  59% of youths surveyed do not have access or own land. Land ownership amongst young people is lowest in Ghana, Zambia, Senegal and Rwanda,” the survey notes. “Youths in Malawi seem to have access to land, with only 14% having no access, the lowest among countries surveyed.”

Technology adoption

Overall, technology adoption in Africa too remains low, with Ghana, Senegal and Zambia having the lowest agri-tech adoption rate.  Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria have the highest technological adoption rates, according to the survey that featured 30,000 youths, stakeholders in innovations and small holder farmers.

William Matovu, a director at Heifer International-Uganda said the paradox of Africa’s economic development is that the continent’s urban and rural populations who produce most of the food is mostly comprised of smallholder farmers practicing subsistence farming while living in extreme poverty.

“This scenario scares away the continent’s youth from careers in agriculture, yet ordinarily Africa’s youth should be replacing the aging farming population but this generational shift is not happening fast and well enough to secure Africa’s food security goals,” he said.

He reckoned that Africa’s youths disapproving attitude towards agriculture is mainly a result of lack of funding which is the biggest barrier towards their interest in the sector.

Africa’s agricultural sector accounts for nearly 30% of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa and employs 54% of the work force, but it is still underdeveloped.

Mondo Kyateeka, the Commissioner for Youth and Child Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development said unfortunately, young people are selling off the only available land to migrate to cities or go abroad for low-skills jobs

He said there are also feelings that older people are not willing to relinquish the land they can no longer use, to the younger persons to use it.

He, however, said the government is seeking ways of curbing the sale of agricultural land, saying the position is that agricultural land should remain for that purpose.

Key recommendations

As a result, the survey recommends a review of existing programmes that targets smallholder farmers and that youths must be conducted to determine if the current strategies support the African farmer with the use of technology.

“Innovation must be viewed within the context of the current realities,’ the survey notes. Beyond a smart App, the survey says providing linkages to local and regional markets will go a long way in improving the financial bottom-line of every farmer. The survey says digital literacy must also be a key consideration.

The survey says while smallholder farmers in rural areas do not have access to smart phones or Internet access, a basic phone is a good starting point in introducing the use of technology, through weekly SMS on prevailing market prices and best input bargains.

Furthermore, youths with a keen interest in agri-tech must work collaboratively with smallholder farmers to get a better understanding of their challenges and how to provide sustainable and affordable solutions.

“There is also need to capture data to provide evidence-based results on the immediate benefit and long-term impact of the use of technology by smallholder farmers,” the survey notes, adding that stakeholder engagement with the governments to provide access to land, tax waivers and fiscal policies that deliberately support youths in the sector should be a component of every programme.

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Butaleja farmers oppose govt ban on growing rice

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Farmers in rice gardens in Hisega Village, Butaleja Town Council, Butaleja District last week.

Farmers in Butaleja District have opposed the government’s decision of banning the growing of rice and other crops in wetlands across the country, saying they should have been consulted.
The farmers say the decision will affect their livelihoods and push them further into poverty.
Last week, the government banned the growing of rice and other crops in wetlands.

In a resolution passed by Cabinetand communicated by the Minister of State for Water and Environment, Ms Beatrice Anywar, the government said the move will restore the environment that has been degraded by farming activities.
Ms Anywar said Uganda’s wetland coverage has dropped from 17.5 per cent in the early 1990s to 8.5 per cent, while forest coverage has dropped from 24 per cent to 12.4 per cent.

Mr David Mulabi, a rice farmer and former contestant for Bunyole East MP,  last week said the decision is inhuman and one of the examples of the many discriminative and recklessly managed policy processes.
“The government has been giving out forests to foreigners to build industries. They have not said anything about urban encroachment on wetlands for home construction. Why target the poor farmers who have nowhere to go and have been farming in  these wetlands for over 50 years,”Mr Mulabi wondered.

He such a policy with a huge potential for social impact should have gone through long studies and consultations before its implemented.
Mr Mulabi said this could be another  government ploy to marginalise the rice farmers in the district, which is about 40 per cent covered by water bodies and wetlands.
“They j simply need to drop the whole thing and start afresh with proper policy consultation with a view of not evicting farmers but to get sustainable and practical solutions,” he said.

Mr Mulabi also accused government for giving a tax waiver to traders to import rice, something he said has led to price drop and has affected the farmers’ income.
“Instead of giving such money to our farmers to improve output, they supported foreign farmers at the expense of Ugandan farmers,” he said.
Ms Sarah Nagawa, another rice farmer, said the decision should be shelved, saying they earn their livelihoods from wetlands.

“These wetlands have paid for my children’s school fees including myself.They should think of better ways instead of taking decisions without consulting us,” he said.
Mr Abdu Walubya, a resident, said the district has  been depending on wetlands for farming.
“Almost 70 per cent of the homesteads of the population generate their income through use of these wetlands.Others live and sleep in wetlands. How will the government handle those who sleep and stay in wetlands, ”Mr Walubya said.
The district chairperson, Mr Micheal Higenyi Bory, said if the government takes over  wetlands without a clear plan, it will  lead to bloodshed.

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Raw deal for Sebei as Irish potato prices drop

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Farmers in Sebei Sub-region are counting losses following a drastic drop in the prices of Irish potatoes

Farmers in Sebei Sub-region are counting losses following a drastic drop in the prices of Irish potatoes.
A bag of Irish at a farm gate costs about Shs30,000 from Shs70,000 and a kilogramme goes for Shs300 from Shs700.
Farmers attribute the drop in prices to the Covid-19 disruptions, poor road network and the surplus harvest of Irish in neighbouring Kenya, which has now ended in the Uganda market.

In an interview with Daily Monitor at the weekend, the farmers said they were expecting to make fortunes out of the bumper harvest.
They have asked the government to start up a processing plant so that they can add value to the irish.
Mr Isaac Sande, a farmer in Chemonge Village, Kapchesombe, East Division in Kapchorwa District, said they were giving away their produce to middlemen.

“We are just dumping our produce because we don’t have any other alternative. We are making losses and yet we had anticipated better prices,” he said.
Mr Sande said this was the worst price they had experienced in a decade.
“I had invested about Shs3 million as part of a loan from a savings group, expecting to get Shs7 million, but this is now impossible,” he said.
Mr Satya Malewa, the vice chairperson of Kwoti Kapenguria Farmers Group, attributed the low prices to an influx of Irish from Kenya.

“Buyers would easily move here for potatoes, but it is now hard because of hiked transport costs,” he said, adding: “The government should provide us with soft loans.”
Mr Joshua Cherotich,a farmer in Kamakunga, Kapchesombe Sub-county, Kapchorwa District, said he is stuck with about 2 tonnes of irish.
“I invested a lot of money, but the middlemen are giving us peanuts. But by all means, I will give it away because it will rot,” he said.
Mr Joseph Mangusho, a resident of Benet Sub-County in Kween District, said the government should improve the transport network.
“We also don’t have warehouses from where we can store our Irish,” he said.

Production capacity
Ms Susan Chemutai, the secretary for production of Kapchorwa District, said the district produces between 400 and 500 tonnes of Irish potatoes per season.
Ms Everlyne Kubarika, the chairperson of Kapchorwa District, said Sebei Sub-region produces a lot of Irish, which if processed can lift the farmers out of poverty.
Mr William Chemonges, the MP for Kween County,  who also seats in the Parliamentary Committee of Science, Technology and Innovation, said they made a presentation to the line minister (on value addition for Irish) who will brief them next month.

“Our farmers face a major challenge of prices. We need a processing plant and machines that can transform the raw Irish into other products in powder form. The Irish should also be preserved for two to three years,’’ he said.

Original Source: Daily monitor.co.ug

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