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Defects on Agoro irrigation scheme push locals out of farms

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Kampala, Uganda |  Farmers in areas neighboring Agoro river are struggling to access water following a change in the design of channels flowing atop of Langiya hills in Agoro sub-county, Lamwo district.

Stretching several kilometers through the North East and Western part of Agoro, Langiya hills provides a natural shield that separates the area from volatile South Sudan. From the hills, flows Agoro river that has over the years bred life to agriculture, one of the predominant economic activities undertaken by the residents besides cattle keeping.

The area, covered in the lavish green vegetation and outstanding scenery, was the food basket for the region until the recent past when it was hit by the effects of climate change. To address the challenge, the government established a gravity-fed scheme with intake from river Agoro to boost crop farming in the parishes of Pobar and Rudi.

Gaudensio Obonyo, a farmer and resident of Pobar parish in Tegot Kwera North village says the first design of the Agoro self-help irrigation project provided water in abundance to farmers who had lost hope in farming due to prolonged droughts in the area. It gave rise to the production of crops like rice, maize, sweet potatoes, green vegetables and sugar cane.

But the design was changed when the government introduced what they said was a modern scheme for a larger population of farmers. The rehabilitation undertaken by the Ministry of Water and Environment cost about 27 billion Shillings and targeted at least 10,000 farmers.

Obonyo however says that unlike the first design which supplied water sufficiently, the new scheme is of no help since water hardly reaches farms due to the deep concrete water canals. Obonyo says he has abandoned rice farming and currently grows maize and green vegetables which are solely dependent on the rainfall cycles.

Lelo Lukol, another farmer and resident of Pobar shares a similar plight. He says the designers of the irrigation scheme erred and dug deep water channels which cannot supply water to the farmlands which are above the channels.

Lukol suggested that the contractors should consider urgently renovating the channel and water reservoir adding that they should be raised above to match with the levels of the farmlands.

He notes that some people are currently using sandbags to raise the water levels flowing from the channels to match their gardens adding that many farmers have also relocated to farm in different areas.

Lamwo district chairperson John Ogwok acknowledges that the design flaws have had setbacks on the success of the irrigation scheme since its rehabilitation. For instance, Ogwok says it has become costly and tedious for local farmers to fill up bags with sand and build it along the water canals to purposely raise the water levels to flow into their farmlands.

Recently, the government, through the Ministry of Water and Environment announced plans to renovate the Irrigation scheme to address the defects. But Ogwok says the commencement of the renovation is slow. He said that some of the farming equipment at the site including is wasting away.

The Water and Environment Ministry’s Spokesperson for Northern Region Brenda Akao told URN that the process for the rehabilitation of the scheme is on course.

Original Article: The Independent

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FARM NEWS

Strengthening Small-Scale Farming in Uganda through Farmer Field Schools.

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By Witness Radio and ESSAF teams.

In Uganda, the shortage of desired and high-quality plant genetic resources remains a barrier to small-scale agriculture and threatens food and nutritional security, yet small-scale farmers are known for being the highest producers of the world’s food.

Indigenous seeds are vital for ensuring food and nutrition security and play a crucial role in sustainable agriculture. Small-scale farmers rely on farm-saved seeds obtained through farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS).

On the 6th of June 2024, the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESSAF-Uganda) organized a webinar to explore the impacts of participatory plant breeding using the farmer field schools on upholding the farmer-managed seed system in communities.

In this webinar, participants shared the impacts of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) on small-scale farmers’ access to and use of quality seeds and discussed existing opportunities for FFS to upscale their seed work, thereby enhancing farmers’ income and livelihoods.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a Farmer Field School (FFS) is an approach based on people-centered learning offering space for hands-on group learning, enhancing skills for critical analysis, and improved decision-making by local people. FFS activities are field-based, and include experimentation to solve problems, reflecting a specific localized context.

According to Ms. Margaret Masudio Eberu, the National Vice Chairperson, ESAFF-Uganda Chapter, revealed that seeds have transformed into commercial proprietary resources due to technological advancements, market influences, and evolving legal systems forcing small-scale farmers to shift from active producers to passive consumers of industrial goods, including seeds, with modern agricultural practices.

Please find the rebroadcast here:

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FARM NEWS

National Coffee Forum Petitions Parliament Over UCDA Merger

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Coffee stakeholders through National Coffee Forum say UCDA merger will disrupt the coffee sub-sector. Coffee is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange for Uganda

Coffee stakeholders through the National Coffee Forum – Uganda (NCF – UG) has petitioned Parliament through the Speaker over the proposed mainstreaming of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) into Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF)

The government plans to merge a number of Agencies to the line Ministries in a move aimed at saving about Shs1 trillion annually. If the move succeeds, UCDA will be taken to MAAIF.

However, coffee stakeholders through NCF – UG say that they find the proposal to take UCDA to MAAIF untenable and detrimental to the coffee sub-sector.

NCF-UG is a private foundation whose membership includes farmers, processors, exporters, roasters, brewers and researchers, among others.

The Forum Chairperson Francis Wakabi says that mainstreaming the entity will negatively affect the achievements Uganda has attained in coffee production and export.

“This decision will negatively affect our access to the international market and will stunt Uganda’s economic growth opportunities by distorting the functions of UCDA that have stabilized the industry over the years,” said Wakabi in a petition dated February 21, 2024. The petition was copied in to the Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries as well as all MPs.

He adds that Uganda should not risk its achievements by tampering with UDCA that is the main contributor to our coffee success story.

“Mainstreaming it would therefore disrupt the many livelihoods that depend on the industry and adversely affect the badly needed foreign exchange for the country,” the petition reads in part.

As a result of UCDA coffee regulation, Wakabi says that Uganda’s competitiveness was elevated on the global market, ensuring high quality Uganda coffee and enabling Uganda’s coffee to displace that of Brazil and India in Italy and UK coffee markets.

“… World over, coffee is supervised and regulated by a specialized body like UCDA for purposes of institutional memory and specialized focus. Experience from Ethiopia and Kenya who disbanded their specialized coffee authorities and mainstreamed them back into the relevant ministries had to reverse their decisions after registering negative outcomes,” said Wakabi.

The Forum further says that the European Union (EU) buys over 60% of Uganda coffee, making it the biggest market for Uganda.

“The EU has introduced a new regulation called the EU deforestation regulations (EUDR) which bans export of coffee from deforested land, taking effect from 2025. This calls for farmer traceability and the EU commission in Uganda is already working with UCDA to implement the said regulations. They require a country to constantly monitor deforested areas and map all the farmers for purposes of implementation of the farmer traceability program to maintain a high standard of quality. It was reported that Uganda has achieved most of the requirements under the EUDR and required a few steps to be declared compliant. Monitoring and implementing the scheme for the millions of farmers is a tedious activity which requires a specialized unit that can be best implemented using the already established structures of UCDA. Disrupting the current UCDA structure will not only halt the progress made in achieving compliance, but also risk reversing the gains made,” added Wakabi.

He avers that UCDA has been able to greatly contribute to Uganda’s improved Coffee quality through implementation of programs such as certification of Coffee nurseries to ensure quality of planting materials, Provision of Coffee specific extension services and agronomy to improve production and productivity, Provision of technical expertise in Coffee rehabilitation, post-harvest handling practices and pest and disease management and provision of coffee processing equipment like wet mills to farmers and cooperatives to improve quality and promote value addition. The coffee stakeholders are worried that once UCDA is taken to MAAIF which is loaded with many crops and projects, coffee, a key source of foreign exchange for Uganda may not get the necessary priority. Coffee stakeholders argue that if indeed Parliament is a people-centred institution, it should listen to the views of farmers and other stakeholders and retain UCDA as a semi-autonomous agency.

“Given the above position with the attendant reasons, the NCF advises that the proposed mainstreaming of UCDA into MAAIF should not be implemented and that the proposed Bill No. 30 (part VII) be dropped in order not to disrupt the industry and the progress made under the stewardship of UCDA. All coffee stakeholders are unanimously in agreement with this position,” reads the petition in part.

Source: businessfocus.co.ug

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FARM NEWS

Govt to import 10 million vaccines to control cattle disease

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Entebbe, Uganda.  Government is set to import 10 million doses of vaccines to enable scaling up of ring vaccination as the fight to eradicate Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Ugandan cattle enters a new phase.

Cabinet chaired by President Yoweri Museveni on Monday also proposed that once ring vaccination is complete, farmers start paying for the FMD vaccines in a compulsory vaccination scheme, and thereafter, trade in animal products, will be restricted to those adhering to the plan.

Minister of Agriculture, Animal industry and Fishers Frank Tumwebazwe on Monday shared the resolutions after Cabinet laid out strategies to contain the disease that has hit 36 districts.

Cabinet agreed to create a revolving fund to enable procurement of sufficient FMD vaccines to facilitate compulsory bi-annual vaccination of the susceptible domestic animal population. It also approved a plan for farmers to pay for the vaccines while government covers other costs.

“Vaccination is to be made compulsory. Proof of vaccination will be a precondition for any farmer to sell any animal products,” said Minister Tumwebazwe.

“I appeal to fellow livestock farmers and stakeholders to understand and appreciate these effort as we steadily move to eradicate FMD in Uganda just like other animal diesases like rinderpest wre eradicated.”

Ntoroko veterinary disease surveillance team conducting FMD surveillance and sample collection

The 36 districts currently affected and under quarantine are Budaka, Bukedea, Bukomansimbi, Bunyangabu, Butaleja, Fortportal City, Gomba, Ibanda, Isingiro, Kabarole, Kasanda, Kayunga, Kazo, Kiboga, Kibuku, Kiruhura, Kumi, Kyankwanzi, Kyegegwa, Kyotera, Luuka, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Mbarara, Mbarara City, Mityana, Mpigi, Mubende, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Namisindwa, Ngora, Ntungamo, Rakai, Rwampara and Sembabule.

All districts neighboring the affected districts are at high risk, under strict surveillance, and the authorities have been advised to remain vigilant.

These include Apac, Amolatar, Bugiri, Bushenyi, Butaleja, Hoima, Iganga, Jinja, Kabale, Kaberamaido, Kaliro, Kamuli, Kamwenge, Katakwi, Kasese, Kibaale, Kiboga, Kyenjojo, Mbale, Masindi, Mayuge, Mukono, Namalemba, Nakapiripirit,
Palisa, Rukungiri, Sironko, Wakiso and Soroti.

Tumwebaze assured farmers that in the next one or two months, his Ministry expects to receive and dispatch 2.3 million doses of the FMD vaccine to the affected and susceptible districts for ring vaccination scale-up.

He told parliament earlier that as a way of increasing availability of Foot and Mouth Disease vaccines in the country,
Uganda’s National Agiculture Research Organisation (NARO) has started the process of formulating and developing an FMD vaccine for Uganda.

Source: The independent

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