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Forget oil, agriculture remains real game changer in Uganda



By Edward Makobore

History, going back to biblical times, is heavily laden with stories demonstrating food as an ultimate game changer.

In Genesis, there was the story of Essau selling his birthright to his younger brother for a bowl of food. He was very hungry after a hunting expedition that his birthright meant nothing in the face of hunger.

In more recent times, oral history tells of how the Basiita of Ankole handed over kingship to the Bahinda clan for a bowl of millet. Again like in the case of Cain and Abel, the throne or kingship meant nothing to Kasiita in the face of hunger.

In Uganda, there has been a lot of hullabaloo about the discovery of oil, but there is one major game-changer that is not being given the required attention. And this game-changer is food.

In the Budget of 2019/2020, agriculture was allocated Shs900 billion behind health, infrastructure and other service sectors. This allocation is not only insufficient to cause the desired change, it is also below the 10 per cent budget allocation to agriculture agreed upon by African nations during Maputo Declaration.

Any nation, family or individual who does not plan their food supply risks not only being exposed to hunger, but they also risk being subjugated by those who have planned their food supply. This has happened in the past and can still happen.

Uganda may be lucky not to have faced a major countrywide drought in recent years, but we have not leveraged well on our God-given advantage.

To illustrate this point better, we can compare two nations Uganda which has a comparative advantage in agriculture and Isreal which doesn’t.

Isreal is much smaller than Uganda, actually it is 10 times smaller than Uganda. Israel’s land surface is 20,770 square kilometres while Uganda’s land size is 200,520 square kilometres. The arable land in Israel is 20 per cent of the land while Uganda has 34 per cent of its land as arable land.

Uganda, therefore, has 6.5 million hectares of arable land while Israel has only 215,000 hectares of arable land. The arable land in Uganda is 30 times more than the arable land in Israel.

But how have the two nations performed? From the 215,000 ha of arable land Israel has, it is one of the world’s largest exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also one of the leading exporters of agriculture produce.

Israel currently exports about $2.5 billion worth of agriculture produce per year while Uganda, which has 6.5 million hectares of arable land exports $840 million of agriculture produce per year. This is about three times less than what Israel exports and yet we have 30 times more arable land.

If Uganda was as efficient as Israel, we should be able to export $75 million worth of agriculture produce every year. Uganda ought to be an economic power house.

Many developed nation’s and a few developing countries with foresight have not only stopped at driving for greater agriculture production, but they are also storing in food reserves.

In Empires Of Food, authors Evan D. G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas discuss how the establishment of strategic grain reserves has been by-key to food security since Joseph advised the pharoah on the meaning of his dream. “The first rule of a successful food empire is to keep the larder stocked”.
Without secure food supply even the stoutest ring of fortification won’t protect a society from being overrun by Huns.”

On top of feeding, it is more than 1 billion people, China currently has grain reserves of about 200 million tonnes. They hold 48 per cent of the global wheat reserves.

In contrast Uganda has storage capacity of 920,000 MT. This storage levels not only make us vulnerable in case of famine, but it also compromises our economic strength.

Nation’s with foresight know that much as other sectors such as the service sector are important, agriculture sector still retains the top spot.

A human being can do without other services or even the much hyped about oil, but cannot do without food for more than a week.

Therefore, prudent planning for a nation, Uganda inclusive, should prioritise agriculture or food planning for present and future food needs to avoid a possible Cane-Abel scenario.
Uganda has all it takes to be an economic powerhouse if it focused most of its energy on food production. Oil is important but food still remains Paramount.

Original Post: Daily Monitor

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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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