A farmer uprooting weeds from his maize field in Kasese district. The COVID-19 lockdown has prevented farmers from accessing farm inputs. (File photo)
Food production is often a combination of different factors, ranging from access to the right seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and good agronomical practices, which work together to ensure good yields.
However, restrictions on the movement of people caused by the ban on public and private transport in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic constrained the procurement of farm inputs, including planting materials, fertilisers, pesticides, feed and veterinary services.
Industry players say limited access to inputs has affected a number of farmers around the country, while low supplies of pesticides is hampering efforts to contain pest outbreaks and will likely affect agricultural production, causing food shortage later in the year.
The Uganda National Farmers’ Federation (UNFFE) president, Dick Nuwamanya, said the sector will see food production drop to between 15% and 40% due to the disruption caused by the spiral effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crops he expects to be most affected are pulses, especially beans due to the shortage of bean-seed at the start of the first planting season.
Nuwamanya said while Uganda has 10 ecological zones whose seasons fall at different times, most of them had not yet received seeds by the time of the lockdown and thus farmers did not plant.
He added that planting was not as optimal as usual, even in the districts supported by the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP). The project was put in place to raise on-farm productivity, production and marketable volumes of selected agricultural commodities, including maize, beans, rice, cassava and coffee in Amuru, Kalungu, Iganga, Ntungamo, Nebbi, Masaka, Mpigi, Rakai, Bugiri, Namutumba, Nwoya, Gulu, Kabaale, Bushenyi and Isingiro districts.
The Food Rights Alliance executive director, Agnes Kirabo, also said most smallholder farmers rely on public transport and that its absence meant that they could not access farm inputs and markets to sell their produce.
She added that because of the lockdown, a few farmers were able to plant as expected, which will result in low production, thus limited food supply to markets, which will in turn increase food prices yet many households are struggling financially.
“We have made farmers to rely on the Government or civil society organisations to get inputs; that should change. We need to find other ways to support farmers,” Kirabo said, adding that the Government should supply farmers with inputs early so that they prepare for the next season.
Nuwamanya said while there seems to be plenty of food in the country currently, huge shortages are expected going forward, especially when schools, which are the major consumers of farm output, are opened.
“We seem to have plenty of food considering the circumstances, but this is not going to continue in the next few months, especially if God grants us the opportunity to unlock the country. The current food surplus is because of reduced consumption because of the lockdown,” he said.
Nuwamanya added that about sh500b goes into workshops in Uganda annually, which boosts food consumption.
Edward Katende, the Uganda Agribusiness Alliance chief executive officer, who is also a farmer, said while there is still plenty of food in the country, the Government needs to invest in crop protection to ensure the monitoring of pests and diseases early enough to ensure timely intervention.
For instance, there was an outbreak of destructive caterpillars in Kayunga and Luwero districts, threatening food security and farmers’ incomes.
Katende also called for enhanced investment in postharvest handling practices to curb post-harvest losses. It is estimated that over 30% of agricultural produce in Uganda is lost due to poor post-harvest handling.
The Agrarian Services executive director, Robert Serwanga, said the poultry business has been hit by shortage of feeds and veterinary services in some parts of the country, which is expected to affect production.
“The birds need routine vaccination, but farmers could not easily access vaccines,” he said.
CHEMICALS TO EXPIRE
Agro-chemical dealers at Container Village in Kampala said while the Government allowed them to operate as part of the other essential sectors, they have not benefited and fear that most of their pesticides and other agro-chemicals which they had stocked would expire.
This is because the majority of their customers are from upcountry and could not move to Kampala because of the ban on public transport.
“We are happy to be among the people who were allowed to work during the lockdown although we have not benefited much. Most of our customers come from rural areas in districts like Masaka and Mubende. They could not easily travel here to buy agro-chemicals due to lack of transport,” Swaibu Mulondo, a dealer in agro-chemical products, said.
Sarah Kalande, another agrochemical products dealer, said: “It is our prayer that public transport resumes as scheduled so that farmers can easily make it to town and purchase agro-chemicals. Some farmers had resorted to sending bodabodas to buy the chemicals, which made it expensive for them.”
While the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) spokesperson Khadija Nakakande said they had distributed about 498,000kg of maize seed to farmers in different districts, it was not enough to cover all the farmers in the country.
Nakakande said they plan to distribute between two million and three million kilogrammes of additional maize seed targeting districts in eastern, northern and parts of central regions whose rainy season goes up to July, while the other regions will receive planting materials at the beginning of the second season in August.
She said there were plans to distribute bean seeds, although they are scarce. While there are reports of farmers who have lost animals and birds due to the lockdown, Nakakande said their plan is to ensure that farmers have access to the relevant agricultural inputs during and after COVID-19 for increased production and productivity as well as improved household incomes.
Original Post: New Vision
Report links 1,600 deaths to pesticide poisoning
A total of 1,599 deaths between 2017 and 2022 were linked to organophosphate (pesticide) poisoning, researchers from Uganda National Institute of Public Health (UNIPH) and the Health ministry found.This information is in one of the reports presented yesterday during the 9th National Field Epidemiology Conference in Kampala.
The study led by Mr Robert Zavuga was based on the data from the District Health Information System (of the Health ministry), which is received from health facilities across the country.“A total of 37,883 (average of 6,314 per year) organophosphate (OP) [health facility] admissions and 1,599 (average of 267 per year) deaths were reported,” the report reads.
OP admission was defined by researchers as a hospital stay due to suspected OP poisoning. In contrast, OP poisoning death was defined as inpatient death with OP poisoning listed as the cause of death.The researchers linked the poisoning to the widespread use of OP pesticides by farmers in the country amid limited knowledge of how to use the pesticides safely.
“Uganda has an agricultural-based economy with widespread use of organophosphate-based pesticides. This elevates the risk for OP poisoning in the population,” the report reads further.According to the report, the overall average incidence was 15 organophosphate admissions per 100,000 persons.
On areas, sex and age that are most affected, the report indicates, “residents of Ankole Sub-region were more affected while those in Lango Sub-region were least affected.”“Males had a higher incidence of organophosphate poisoning than females. Children under 5 years had a higher incidence than persons above 5 years (20 vs 14/100,000),” the report said.
Overall, 1,599 (average of 267 per year) deaths were reported between 2017 and 2022. Residents in Kampala had the highest overall case fatality rate (CFR) while those in Teso had the lowest (CFR: 8.5 percent vs 2.2 percent),” the report reads.
According to the report released yesterday, “there was more than 3-fold decline in incidence of OP poisoning admissions per 100,000 population from 2017-2022,” however, the researchers noted, “there was no significant change in the case fatality rate of organophosphate poisoning.”
“The incidence of organophosphate poisoning admissions declined throughout the study period. Since 2014, Uganda has implemented periodic public awareness campaigns about safe use of pesticides for small-holder farmers and pesticide dealers,” the report says.
“These campaigns have included sensitisation about responsible handling to reduce risk of poisoning and environmental pollution.
Additional campaigns targeting government pesticide regulators, non-governmental organisations, and media have also been implemented to address the dangers of organophosphate poisoning,” it adds.
The report says Uganda has also implemented the Agricultural Chemical Control Act to use less toxic pesticides, which may be contributing to the reduction in organophosphate poisonings.“To continue this decline, it is important to monitor and strengthen these interventions,” the researchers from UNIPH and Health ministry recommended.
Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.
From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.
The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.
In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.
The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to
- fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
- avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
- strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.
Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf
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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