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UN warns over looming food crisis in Uganda

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The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi (C) speaks to officials at the event. PHOTO BY RAJAB MUKOMBOZI 

BUSHENYI-The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has warned that Uganda likely to face a food crisis unless it steps up efforts to protect water bodies, forests, and wetlands against encroachers.

The UNDP team leader on Environment and Climate Resilience, Mr. Onesimus Muhwezi said during a groundbreaking ceremony for the restoration of Nyakabirizi Wetland in Bushenyi District, by the Ministry of Water and Environment on Friday.

“Forget sustainable food production if you cannot have access to water. Water stress and scarcity is becoming a major problem in Uganda because water resources including wetlands and forests have been degraded. Unless deliberate efforts and strategies are put in place to restore wetlands and other fragile eco-systems, including tree planting, the country should be prepared for a looming food crisis in the near future,” Mr Muhwezi said.

He said that Uganda is witnessing a great challenge of wetland and forest degradation with prolonged drought and flooding than ever before which calls for a serious action.

Mr Muhwezi warned said if the degradation of wetlands and forests is not stopped, the country should be prepared for food insecurity.

He said UNDP is committed to supporting the country in addressing its climate change challenges but noted Uganda has to show commitment towards the goal.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment, Mr Alfred Okot Okidi, said that despite the existing laws to protect the environment, enforcement is a challenge due to underfunding.

He said that only Shs700 million is allocated towards the restoration of wetlands in a financial year, which is not adequate to carry out serious work.

Mr. Okidi said they are working with local governments to formulate ordinances that can be appropriately and conveniently enforced to protect wetlands and other fragile eco-systems.

Rubirizi Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Ms. Harriet Nakamya said politicians have frustrated efforts to stop the encroachment and restoration of wetlands and other ecosystems.

“These people [politicians] have frustrated our efforts. That’s why I think the mandate to fight encroachment should shift to Chief Administrative Officers and RDCs who are not voted into office,” Ms. Nakamya said.

Nyakabirizi Wetland is one of the 20 wetlands in the country that are being restored with funding from UNDP.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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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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