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Covid has pushed more Ugandans into agriculture, says World Bank

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A number of Ugandans have moved into agriculture to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

Job losses and closure of small businesses due to Covid-19 related challenges has forced a number of Ugandans into agriculture, according to World Bank Country Manager Mr Tony Thompson.

However, he noted, this has created a lot of pressure on natural resources as people scramble for available land to manage and survive the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking during the virtual release of the World Bank 17th Uganda Economic Update, Mr Thompson said: “Following job losses and closure of small businesses, many people [have] returned to agriculture and other natural resources dependent activities to manage and survive the crisis.

This has further strained natural resources, which were already under pressure from rapid population growth, urbanisation, refugee influx and the country’s drive for industrialisation.”
The World Bank noted that forests have been the worst hit with an average depletion of 2.6 per cent per annum.

Over the past 60 years Uganda’s forest cover has been declining at an annual rate of 2.6 per cent, which makes it one of the highest rates of forest loss globally.
This presents climate risks, among which include extreme weather exacerbated by natural capital degradation.

Therefore, the World Bank under the: From crisis to green resilient growth: Investing in sustainable land management and climate-smart agriculture report, noted that government must adopt sustainable land management to achieve inclusive economic and social growth.

During the meeting, Ms Rachel Sebudde, the World Bank senior economist and lead author of the report, said increased budgetary support and incentives towards uptake of sustainable management of land, climate and smart agriculture, must be adopted to streamline natural resource governance for consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness.

Ms Sebudde also noted that Covid-19 had presented a number of disruptions, which call for a multifaceted approaches such as stimulus packages and structural measures to sustainably increase productivity and build resilience to enhance livelihoods, the economy and general well-being of Ugandans.

At least 70 per cent of Ugandans, according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, are involved in agriculture. However, the biggest percentage of this is in subsistence farming.

Ms Sebudde said the significant shift of Ugandans to agriculture in response to the crisis has heightened the urgency for the country to enhance sustainable use of land to check encroachment on forests, swamps and other vulnerable natural resources.

According to the World Bank, the combined impact of land degradation and unsustainable soil erosion, is estimated to cost Uganda 17 per cent of gross domestic product while environmental degradation causes a loss of 27 per cent to agricultural gross domestic product.

Therefore, the World Bank noted, there is need to streamline natural resource governance policies and institutions for consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness across all levels, suggesting that natural resource governance policies must be coherent and cross-sectoral coordinated through the green economy focused institutional arrangements and budgeting.

Uganda, the World Bank also noted, must strengthen the link between national, local, and community-based institutions to effectively close the gap between policy and implementation to effectively accommodate customary land tenure and open access to land to a broader set of actors.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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Anti-tick vaccine drive gives hope to farmers

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Dairy farmers in Ankole Sub-region are optimistic that the anti-tick vaccine launched by the government will solve their problem of tick resistance to acaricides.
For the last 10 years, dairy farmers across the country have decried tick resistance to acaricides, which has been ravaging the livestock sector.

Mr Emmanuel Kyeishe, a resident of Rushere in Kiruhura District and dairy farmer with more than 100 head of cattle, says dairy farmers in the cattle corridor have battled the problem of tick resistance for a long time.
“The issue of ticks has been rampant in the cattle corridor to the extent of losing our cows. We spend a lot on treating them because of ticks since they infect animals with several diseases,”  he said.

Mr Kyeishe said he loses at least two cows every month to tick-borne diseases like East Coast Fever and heart water.
“I have lost 180 cows in the last five years due to ticks and tick-borne diseases. If they do not die, they get blind and some lose their skin. But if we get a vaccine, it will have saved us a lot,” he said.
Mr Kyeishe added that he has resorted to mixing agrochemicals with acaricides since the available ones on the market are failing.

Mr Jackson Bells Katongole, a dairy farmer in Kashari, Mbarara District, said if the government’s move to have anti-tick vaccine is successful, quality of dairy products would improve.
“A farmer loses at least two to five cows every month and we have resorted to using different concoctions from Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya because the problem of ticks has made us helpless,” he said.
He added: “We had reached the point of mixing pesticides with acaricides because of tick resistance and in the process our cows have gone blind, lost skin and others died.”

Mr Katongole further said each cow that dies is valued at around Shs2.5 million, which means that a farmer loses Shs5 million every month.
The Mbarara City Veterinary Officer, Dr Andrew Akashaba, said in Mbarara alone, there are about 60,000 head of cattle, mostly exotic breeds which are prone to ticks.
“Most of the exotic breeds of cattle are at a high risk of acquiring ticks and tick borne diseases, which are a major hindrance to livestock development in the cattle corridor,” he said.
Mr Akashaba added that between 2,000 and 3,000 cows die annually in Mbarara alone due to tick-related diseases.

While launching the final clinical trial of anti-tick vaccine manufactured by National Agriculture Research Organisation at Mbarara Zardi on Thursday, the deputy director general and research coordinator, Dr Yona Baguma, assured the farmers that once the vaccine is approved, they will be spraying their cattle against ticks twice in six months as opposed to twice a week.

Original source: Monitor

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Farmers fail to access farm inputs on Ministry e-platform

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About 3,640 model farmers in Nebbi District, who were registered under the Agricultural Cluster Development Programme (ACDP) to access agricultural inputs on E-voucher, are stuck after failure of the system.

The farmers say the system has affected their planting patterns.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry under the Agriculture cluster Development Programme (ACDP) introduced the e-voucher system five years ago to enable farmers access agricultural inputs electronically.

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Farmers on alert as new banana virus hits Western Uganda

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Farmers should stop getting banana plantlets from districts in Western and North-West Uganda to stop the spread of the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) disease, Hebert Musiimenta, the Principal Agricultural Inspector in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries-MAAIF has advised.

The Banana Bunchy Top Virus was first observed in the western Uganda districts in late 2020. In July this year, the ministry raised a red flag when the disease caused havoc on banana plantations in West Nile, Rwenzori and Tooro regions.

An infected plant presents with severe stunting, narrow leaves, chlorotic leaf margins, and dark green streaks on petioles and midribs. The affected plant also shows a rosette-like or bunchy and choked appearance. Diseased plants rarely produce fruit and when they do, the fruit is stunted and twisted.

The disease is spread by aphids and the planting of affected tubers.

The disease has the capacity to wipe out banana gardens within 3 to 5 years unless farmers practice the control measures such as the proper destruction of affected stems, control of aphids, and planting clean materials.

Hebert Musiimenta, Principal Agricultural Inspector in the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), says to contain the spread of the disease, farmers should stop getting banana planting materials from Nebbi, Zombo, Arua, Maracha, and Koboko districts in North-West Uganda and Bunyangabu, Kasese, Kabarore, and Bundibugyo districts in Western Uganda.

He also advises the farmers to be cautious about planting materials from Kisoro, Kabale, Ntungamo, and Isingiro districts since they are near the border.  The disease is suspected to have spread to Uganda from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. Musiimenta advised farmers in an interview with URN that if they are to pick planting materials, they should first consult agriculture officers in their areas to recommend safe planting materials.

Musimenta revealed that a team of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries, and Fisheries is investigating the prevalence of the virus in Kigezi region specifically districts neighboring Rwanda and DR Congo.

He says the disease has the capacity to wipe out banana gardens within 3 to 5 years unless farmers practice the control measures such as the proper destruction of affected stems, control of aphids, and planting clean materials.

Original Source: URN via The independent

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