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Food shortage looms as lockdown hits farmers

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A farmer uprooting weeds from his maize field in Kasese district. The COVID-19 lockdown has prevented farmers from accessing farm inputs. (File photo)

AGRICULTURE

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.

LDU personnel carry food for distribution in Lubiri Roing Road zone in Katwe 1, Kampala. (Photo by Eddie Ssejjoba)

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.

SCHOOLS EFFECT 

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.

Sadala Oforoga, an agro-inputs dealer in Kampala, says the COVID-19 lockdown made it hard for farmers to reach him. (Photo by Shamim Saad)

“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

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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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