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Farmers count losses as drought hits north



Mr Alex Ogwang, a farmer in Alito Sub-county, Kole District, shows his soybean garden that was scorched by the dry spell on August 6.

Thousands of farmers in northern Uganda have witnessed low yields during the first planting season because of a prolonged dry spell that has hit the region this year.
A mini-survey conducted by Daily Monitor reveals that majority of the farmers that planted groundnuts, beans, maize and soybean made  huge losses, with a few able to get excess produce for sale.

The survey indicates that most crops planted in the first planting season withered in the gardens due to the dry spell that lasted almost three months from April.
In Kole, for instance, farmers under their umbrella body – Alito Joint Christian Farmers’ Cooperative Society (AJCFCS) – made a loss of Shs4.8 billion due to low yields.

AJCFCS has 14,815 members scattered across nine districts that make up the Lango Sub-region. Other members are in Omoro, Nwoya, Amuru, Pader and Agago districts in Acholi Sub-region, as well as Abim District in Karamoja Sub-region.
The group specialises in growing quality declared seed varieties of soybean from Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute, Kabanyolo. The varieties of the soya range from Mak Soy 1N – 5N.
However, unaware of the looming weather changes, the group procured 50 tonnes of soybean seeds and distributed them to their members.

The beneficiary members received the 50 tonnes on loan and they were expected to pay back after harvest.
The seeds were planted on an estimated 200,000 acres of land, and each acre was expected to raise at least 1,200kgs or 12 bags of soybean,
But due to the prolonged dry spell experienced across the region between May and July, there was total crop failure.
Mr John Christopher Okwang, the AJCFCS chairperson, said: “Most crops dried up in the gardens and only a few fortunate farmers who have their gardens near wetlands were able to get about 400 – 600kgs per acre.”

Going by the current soybean rice of Shs3,000 per kilo, Mr Okwang said  of the 200,000 acres of soya beans planted, they were expecting to harvest 24,000 tonnes, which would earn them Shs7.2 billion.
“But because of the drought, we suffered a big loss of up to Shs4.8 billion this farming season and we are expecting to get only Shs2.4 billion instead of the Shs7.2 billion we had projected at the time when we were distributing seeds to our members,” Mr Okwang said.  He said because of the crop failure, many group members are unable to pay back the seeds they obtained on loan.

Mr Lino Obaro, a member of AJCFCS, said he got soybean seeds worth Shs250,000 on loan. He planted the seeds in his two-acre garden but harvested nothing as the crop withered away.
“I got another loan of Shs500,000 from a Sacco group for growing soybean, beans and maize but they have all failed and I don’t know how I am going to pay back the loan,” Mr Obaro said.

The 70-year-old, who has been a smallholder farmer for 50 years, said he had never witnessed a total crop failure like the one which happened this year because of the prolonged dry spell.
Mr Raphael Odyeny, another member of Alito farmers group, said he planted soybean in his two-acre garden twice this year. But when it was about to start flowering, the dry spell set in.

Mr Odyeny also said he got the seeds worth Shs250,000 on loan.
“I planted the first crop at the beginning of April, but in May when it was flowering and about to start producing the pods, the crops dried up and I dug them down and started planting them afresh. Again, in June when it was about to start flowering the same thing, happened and now I have given up,” Mr Odyeny said.
The Covid-19 pandemic with the associated lockdown has also exacerbated the food insecurity problem in northern Uganda.

In 2019, Lira-based Ngetta Zonal Agricultural Research Development Institute estimated that four million people in the north lived under threat of hunger mainly brought about by the effects of climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns that Uganda could lose Shs260 billion to rising temperatures by 2050 due to climate change.

What farmers say
Bonny Ocen,  farmer from Lira: “This is a very hard moment for us farmers. I planted soybean, maize and simsim in April, but the prolonged dry spell came and destroyed everything.”

Tonny Ocen, farmer from Lira: “I invested about Shs400,000 in farming during the first planting season while expecting a big harvest. Unfortunately, all crops were scorched by the sun.”

Ronald Otung, farmer: “I planted soybean in a big garden expecting to get a minimum of 10 bags but I ended up with only four basins, yet I spent Shs370,000 on buying seeds, hiring the garden, and labour.

Original Source: Daily


Kigezi In Famine Scare After Drought Hits The Region



Farmers in Rubanda district are living in fear that they may be hit by famine due to the prolonged drought that has greatly affected the area. This comes after the area was hit by heavy rains in the month of May 2023, which left most of the gardens washed away, and since then the dry season has started up to date.

This is the first of its kind for Rubanda district and Kigezi at large to undergo such a prolonged drought.

According to farmers, this is the first of its kind for Rubanda to go through a long drought, adding that they are in fear that they may be hit by famine since they were used to receiving rains at the beginning of August, which is not the case this year. They add that even the seedlings that they had planted excepting that the rains would come have all dried up by the long spell.

Farmers also say that they don’t know what could be the cause that has stopped the rains,adding that the government should come up with a program that provides them with seedlings.

Akampurira Prossy Mbabazi, a woman Member of Parliament for Rubanda District, says that the issue of drought is not only in Rubanda District; however, this is the first of its kind. She adds that the drought comes after the area was hit by heavy rains, which caused a lot of challenges, adding that now it is the drought that may affect the farmers.

Akampurira further says that, as a leader,she will continue to educate farmers on better methods of farming depending on climate change.

Kikafunda Evelyne, founder of Green Environment Promotion (GEP), says it’s sad that farmers in Rubanda district and Kigezi at large are experiencing a long drought. She attributes it to problems of environmental degradation that include swamps being reclaimed, deforestation, and plastic pollution, adding that this is an indication that people don’t mind about the environment.

Kikafunda calls upon all people to take part in protecting the environment, adding that environmentalists should devise means on how to protect the environment.

It’s now been four months since it last rained in the districts of greater Kabale, that is, Rubanda, Kabale, and Rukiga districts, as well as other parts of the Kigezi Subregion.


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Ban GMOs in Africa, farmers urge govts



A cross section of residents from the oil-rich Albertine Region have petitioned African heads of state to ban genetically modified organism (GMOs) and crops across the continent to save Africa’s indigenous crops and animal species from extinction.

The August 26, petition addressed to President William Ruto of Kenya, the Chairperson of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, asks African heads of states who are meeting this week for Africa Climate Dialogue to pass strong resolutions to ban GMOs.

Africa Climate Dialogue kicks off today in Nairobi, Kenya under the theme “Driving green growth and climate finance solutions for Africa and the World.”

Co-hosted by the Kenya and the African Union Commission, it brings together heads of state and Government, policymakers, civil society organisations, the private sector, multilateral institutions and the youth to design and catalyse actions and solutions for climate change in Africa.

The petitioners under the Uganda Oil Refinery Residents, have made a raft of recommendations including passing a strong resolution to immediately ban the use and promotion of GMO products in African countries, a resolution for promotion of indigenous species of plant seeds and animals in all African states and another resolution to increase budget allocation for agriculture with focus on research in preservation and conservation of indigenous species of plants and animals in Africa.

“This will contribute to knowledge sharing and awareness creation on the relevance of indigenous species as a response to climate change,” the petition recommends, adding: “Lastly, pass resolution to integrate indigenous agriculture practices in education curriculum in some relevant subjects like agriculture and biology in all African countries. This will enable preservation and increased knowledge among the young people on the need to preserve and promote indigenous species.”

The petitioners, drawn from Kabaale and Busheruka sub-counties in Hoima District Uganda where there are planned oil refineries and other infrastructure, say GMOs present a number of risks and their introduction onto the continent could have a huge negative impact on food security, indigenous crops and organisms, health risks and associated problems.

The petitioners say while different African states have made a number of policies, laws and commitments regarding climate change, including integrating the aspect of climate justice into their different state legislations, as a grass root community whose livelihood entirely depends on agriculture, they still believe that leaders have not done enough to respond to these calamities.

“The major concern is about the use and promotion of genetically modified organisms [for both plants and animals] in Africa.

Uganda, whose backbone is agriculture, once known for its indigenous plants and animals now faces many difficulties in dealing with these invasive species. Maintenance and management strategies of these species require a lot of capital in terms of purchasing inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, among others,” the petition reads in part.

The petitioners say with the worsening climate change, the introduction of one season fast maturing plants has made it difficult for farmers to plan. They argue that GMOs, which they claim are invasive species onto the continent, cannot withstand climate change and weather vagaries and therefore increase food insecurity on the continent.

“As earlier stated, these species require many inputs in terms of chemicals like fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, processed feeds, and vaccines, among others that are all expensive for the ordinary African farmers,” they add in the petition.

The petitioners also contend that in Africa, more than 85 percent of grass root communities heavily rely on rain-fed agriculture and that the ‘invasive species’ are not resistant and not compatible with the local environmental conditions.

“As such, they require effective irrigation as an alternative, which is extremely expensive for grass root communities. Whereas these GMOs were initially introduced as a solution to enhance agricultural productivity and food security, there has been a concerning trend of a financial strain on communities due to the high costs associated with these invasive species,” the petition states.

“Buying seasonal seeds for planting and agricultural inputs to manage these species among others is not sustainable and oftentimes leads to significant drain of limited financial resources within the communities. The local farmers are often compelled to divert funds from other essential needs such as education, healthcare and basic infrastructure development,” the petition adds.

They also say there is an increased outbreak of pests and disease, which is attributed to the increase in temperatures caused by the changing climate. Unfortunately, they say, GMOs are prone to attack by these pests and diseases.

They also say the GMOs present huge health risks to the local communities, who are illiterate and do not understand the precautions to follow while using these pesticides and herbicides.

This, according to the petition, exposes the users to high risks of contracting diseases through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact that can lead to acute and chronic health related issues.

“These include respiratory diseases, skin irritations, neurological disorders, and even certain types of cancers in the end. Most grass root women are also worried about the consumption of these genetically modified organisms since they are mainly treated with chemicals; others are injected with hormones to increase their shelf-life spans,” the petition states.

Source: Daily Monitor

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NEBBI: Livestock disease kills 14,000 goats



Nebbi, Uganda. The Nebbi district veterinary department is struggling to contain an outbreak of the Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a disease which is highly fatal in cattle and other hoofed animals.

At least 14,650 goats have died and 53,397 goats have been infected following the outbreak of the disease which was first reported in 2022.

According to the local authorities, the disease has since spread to a cross all the sub counties like Erussi, Nebbi ,Alala Jupangira Atego ,Ndhew and Kucwiny as well as Nebbi Municipality.

Moreen Awekonimungu, a livestock farmer in Nebbi Municipality says that she has so far lost three goats since the outbreak was reported a year ago. She further notes that an infected animal dies within two weeks after presenting with signs and symptoms of the disease.

The Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) is an infectious disease caused by mycoplasmas and it mostly affects ruminants.

The diseases are transmitted through direct contact and inhalation of droplets from infected animals. Symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, coughing, difficult respiration, edema, and lung tissue abnormalities.

Emmauel Ongeitho, the Nebbi Municipality assistant veterinary officer blames the persistence of the diseases on the poor attitude of farmers against vaccination of their livestock. According to Ongeitho several farmers shunned the mass vaccination exercise which resulted in a spike in livestock deaths.

According to Dr. William Abedkane, the principal veterinary Officer for Nebbi district, the outbreak which started last year has been killing goats silently since farmers are hesitant to report the cases to the veterinary officers in their respective sub counties.

Abedkane further appealed to farmers to pay attention to animal health just like they do with their own health.

According to information from the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the outbreak of Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP disease was first confirmed in Uganda in 1995 in Karamoja region.

Original Source: URA Via The Independent.

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