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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

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Farmers in Napak want security forces deployed in gardens



A section of farmers in Napak District is demanding for the deployment of security personnel in gardens to prevent attacks by suspected Karamojong warriors.

This follows a message that was sent to one of the phones belonging to the community member in Nabwal sub county threatening people to stop cultivation or else their cattle will be stolen. Suspected warriors have also been dropping leaflets in the villages warning farmers of possible attacks in case they risk going to cultivate in their gardens.

Robert Koryang, a resident of Lotome trading center, says that they are worried of going to their farm gardens which are far away from their home because of threats from the cattle raiders.

Koryang said the warriors are still hunting for cattle and they see the farming season as an opportunity to target farmers who use oxen for ploughing.

He observed that the persistent insecurity in the region frustrated their efforts to cultivate last year leading to a hunger crisis.

Judith Anyakun, another farmer recalls that early last year a suspected raider chased them out of their farms before making off with four oxen that were used for ploughing.

She suggested that the security forces should be deployed in their settlements nearer to the fields so that they are able to respond to any attack that may occur during farm activities.

John Paul Kodet, the LCV Chairperson for Napak, says that they are taking the threats seriously because the warriors have been issuing warnings to the communities before attacking.

Kodet said they have distributed seeds to the farmers but he is skeptical if communities shall be able to cultivate due to threats from suspected warriors.

He noted that some villages in the sub-counties of Lopei, Lokopo, and Lotome are very distant from the military installations and this puts them at high risk of being attacked.

Kodet appealed to the government to tighten security in the targeted areas such that people will be able to cultivate without fear.

Denis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the security forces already have the intelligence about the planned attacks and measures have been put in place to protect the communities.

Okori said they have designed strategic plans on how the deployment will be conducted and therefore farmers should not get worried because the government is trying everything possible to ensure there is peace.

He also confirmed receipt of the phone used for sending threats and it has been taken to the Internal Security Organization for tracking.

Okori urged the communities not to worry but instead clear the gardens for farming in order to fight hunger in the families as security does its part to protect them.

Last year, the residents of Napak district suspended the use of oxen for ploughing over fears of being attacked by suspected warriors. The cattle were only kept from the confined kraals and only released during the day for grazing, and returned in the evening when the army took responsibility for keeping them.

Original Source: URN via The Independent

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Mbarara struggling to contain Rift Valley Fever, no livestock quarantine yet



The government is reluctant at imposing the livestock quarantine on Mbarara despite registering five confirmed cases of death among humans resulting from Rift Valley Fever, the Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Turyabagyenyi Kateera has revealed.

According to Kateera , when they informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about the outbreak, they deployed a team on the ground to manage the situation. Mbarara District Veterinary Officer, Andrew Bakashaba, says that registered fifty cows infected by Rift Valley Fever in Rwanyamahembe Sub County on different farms.

He, however, says that they are currently managing the situation through sensitization. Bakashaba has warned residents against eating meat from animals that have died on their own, noting that Rift Valley Fever is only transmitted from animals to humans through infected meat.

He has also asked people to always watch out for meat that has a veterinary medical stamp as proof that it’s been tested and found to be clean. Turyabagyenyi said that they have directed extension workers to hold engagement and sensitization meetings with farmers and livestock traders on how to do self-preservation on their farms and the movement of animals.

PHOTO: The Jenner Institute

He said they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to hold on imposing a quarantine as they monitor the situation on the ground noting that if the situation goes out of hand they would be left without any choice but to announce the quarantine.

He says they have deployed veterinary doctors at all known slaughter slabs and asked them to double-check the meat before and after it is delivered to butchers.  Dr. Richard Atuhairwe, the in-charge of Bwizibwera Health Centre IV, says that the disease was detected among 30 people, and results from Uganda Virus Research Institute returned positive.  He says that five of the thirty have since died.

Rift Valley Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is most commonly seen in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats and can also cause illness in people. It is caused by the Rift Valley Virus. Meanwhile, a Quarantine has been imposed on Byembogo Village in Nyabisirira Town Council after a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on one farm.

Turyabagyenyi says a farm belonging to one Mr. Mungonya with over 1500 cattle had been stopped from sending out cattle and animal products like milk from the farm. He says that they have also temporarily closed the Kyeshema livestock market that is shared between Kiruhura and Mbarara districts noting that Kiruhura had last week closed its side.

He says they are now moving to vaccinate all animals in the village as they monitor the situation.

Original Source: URN via  The independent

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Kamwenge closes livestock markets to halt spread of Foot and Mouth Disease from Kazo



Kamwenge District Veterinary Department has ordered the temporary closure of all livestock markets in the district to curb the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease-FMD to the area.

The District Veterinary Officer, Dr. Paul Mbago told URN that the decision follows the outbreak of FMD in the neighboring Kazo district.

He explains that his office held a meeting with stakeholders and livestock farmers in the district and they came up with guidelines to stop the spread of the disease to the district.

According to Mbago, they have written to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries requesting 10,000 doses of the FMD vaccinate to vaccinate livestock in Bihanga and Nkoma sub-counties, which border Kazo district.

Last week, Kazo district confirmed the outbreak of the highly contagious livestock disease at a farm in Bwatama village in Buremba Town Council.

Original Source:URN via The Independent

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