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How tractors have boosted yields



Mr Alex Mbagaya, a tractor operator in Mbarara District, boasts of ploughing more than 10 acres of land in a day, a job 10 people cannot do in more than two weeks.

While he credits the tractor for saving time, Mr Peterson Kakuru, the chairperson of Rwanyamahembe Sub-county in Mbarara, spends less on labour.

“It is cheaper because you spend more using labourers to plough an acre with hand hoes.
Besides, the tractor penetrates deeper into the soil than a hand hoe and this improves yields,” Mr Kakuru says.

The two are among thousands of people throughout the country that have benefitted from using tractors distributed by government between January and March in order to promote agricultural mechanisation and commercial farming.

The Ministry of Agriculture under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) supplied three tractors to 114 districts in fulfilment of a 2011 presidential pledge of providing each sub-county with a tractor.
Months later, farmers have realised increased production.

“Some farmers in Kwania are cultivating more than 100 acres of land in a season,”Mr George Ojok Ocen, the Kwania District production coordinator, says. Consumption has also increased on a family scale.
“Many people growing food for home use or selling have embraced use of the tractor. This has increased food as well as income,” Mr Stephen Katanaka, a member of Rubaya Dairy Farmers Group in Rubaya Sub-county, Mbarara, says.

Bumper harvest
In Tororo, the district has registered a bumper harvest mainly in the second season due to the uniform preparation of land.

“We are even seeing prices for hiring the equipment reduce because initially, we had only three tractors serving the district and these would make farmers wait, and sometimes miss out on the season and others end up making losses,” Mr Joseph Okoth, the district production engineer, says.

He adds that the tractors have reduced the pressure on private service providers.

“We see it as leverage for the farmers because some of them (private service providers) used to overcharge. Besides, some of them used to delay cultivation because they preferred upfront payment for hire fees which were more than Shs150,000 but now, the government tractors charge between Shs80,000 and Shs90,000 basing on the work they do,” Mr Okoth says.

In Rakai, Mr Meddy Kanyike, the district agricultural officer, says more than 30 Kenyan trucks move around the area per week to buy cereal crops.

Dr Emmanuel Kawooya, the Sembabule District production officer, says since the acquisition of the tractors, production has almost tripled, especially for maize and coffee since farming groups are growing on a large scale.
He also says farmers started growing pastures which act as animal feeds during the dry spells.
In Nwoya District, many farmers have now opened up their land to take advantage of the tractors.
“There has been increase in acreage opening with each farmer opening more than10 acres per planting season compared to the time they didn’t have tractors,” Mr Alfred Kilama, the district agricultural officer, says.

The situation is similar in Amuru, Gulu, Pader, Agago, Kitgum and Lamwo districts.
However, some areas have few tractors yet their demand is high. For example, in some northern, eastern and western regions, farmers have resorted to using ox-ploughs because they cannot get tractors in time.

Although Apac received two tractors from Naads last year, Mr Charles Ogang, the chairperson of Kungu Cereal Farmers’ Cooperative, says the demand for tractor is always overwhelming.

“Farming is seasonal in Lango Sub-region and sometimes many people are waiting for the same tractor,” he says.

The tractor serves Akokoro and Ibuje sub-counties and sometimes Chegere.
“During the first season, I wanted to open a large chunk of land and I booked a tractor but after waiting for sometime, I resorted to ox-ploughing to catch up with the planting season,” Mr Denis Nengo, a farmer in Akokoro Sub-county, says.

Mr Christopher Okwang, the chairman of Alito Joint Christian Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Kole District, appealed to government to provide more tractors.

“Government should have at least procured 10 tractors per district if it was serious about promoting large-scale commercial farming to increase household income,” Mr Okwang says.

In West Nile Sub-region, farmers want government to provide more and better tractors because they often break down.

“It would be better if the government reduces the rate of hiring these tractors if farmers are to embrace mechanisation. Many of our farmers cannot afford to hire a tractor at Shs90,000 or Shs100,000 per acre because if they are using hoes, it costs about Shs50,000 which is cheaper,” Mr Nason Adiga, a farmer in Owaffa Sub-county in Terego District, says.

Naads officials told farmers in Arua and Maracha districts to buy other complements such as trailers, harrows and planters, among others, after one year to improve the production.

In Yumbe, the district production coordinator, Mr Rashid Kawawa, concurs that three tractors are inadequate.

Mr Ismail Tibo, a commercial farmer at Alinga Village in Kuru Sub-county, says supplying a tractor to each commercial farmer could be the best option to minimise some costs.

Some beneficiaries claim the tractors have developed mechanical conditions despite the one-year guarantee by the supplier.

Poor terrain
However, some technical staff, who preferred anonymity, say government did not consider the topography of some districts, adding that the soils were not tested to match with the tractor strengths.

“Soil testing and terrain are key factors for smooth operation of any earth moving machine, so I don’t think this was done prior to supply of these tractors. That is why some tractors have issues in different areas,” an engineer says.

“We have experienced a lot of breakdowns, especially with parts of the lower left arm, the hub bolts and stabilisers. However, we have bought some of these parts after failing to get them from ENGSOL (Engineering Solutions (U) Ltd),” Bufunjo Concerned Citizens for Development, a community based organisation in Bufunjo, Kifuka Town council, in Kyenjojo state in their Tractor general progressive performance report released on August 6.

For instance, Kabale District received tractors in 2000 but the project failed due to the hilly terrain.

“Due to the rugged terrain, they (tractors) did not perform to the expectations of the farmers,” Mr Beda Mwebesa, the district production and marketing officer, says.

Mr Robert Erisat Okitoi, the Amuria District chairman, says the nature of the machinery is weak, adding that farmers cannot afford to hire tractors since prices are high.

“For each acre, one has to use between Shs120,000 and Shs150,000 yet for animal traction, it is Shs80,000,” Mr Okitoi says.

He adds that about three groups received tractors but they are struggling to maintain them.

Mr Okitoi advised government to purchase strong and durable tractors preferably from Japan, Germany and the UK rather than the brand (TAFE 45 DIModel) they gave to farmers.
Mr Madrine Naziwa, an engineer in the Agriculture ministry, says the tractors were procured through ENGSOL and Cooper Motor Corporation (U) Ltd.

Ms Grace Kazigati, an official at the Naads secretariat, says the average price is Shs62.5m for the 40Hp tractor and Shs77.5m for the 60Hp ones.

However, she says the prices offered in bids do not always reflect market rates.

The tractors were distributed to successful farmers who would use them and hire them to others at a fee of Shs80,000 as and when the need arose.

Each beneficiary group received a tractor, TAFE 45 DI Model together with one disc plough and one off set disc harrow.

The tractors supplemented the earlier batch comprising 280 tractors that the government procured in March last year.

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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