Uncertainty among Karamoja farmers as dry spell persists.
Karimojong famers prepare their fields for the planting season onset to the rainy period
Kampala, Uganda. There is increasing uncertainty on food security in Karamoja sub-region as crops are beginning to dry up in the gardens due to the prolonged dry spell that has persisted from May to date. The region normally receives one planting season from April to August each year.
Farmers often utilize the season to produce enough food for the whole year. However, with the dry spell continuing to hit the area since the onset of rains in late April, the dry period has stretched unexpectedly until mid-June creating fears of food insecurity among crop farmers in the region.
The dry spell follows heavy rains that also caused crop failure in mid-May due to very wet conditions and waterlogging. Low-lying areas experienced flash floods that washed away seeds. According to some farmers, most of them are waiting for rainfall to resume after ceasing in mid-May. Farmers are hoping to return to their farms despite having gone halfway into the season.
They are yearning to grow crops like sorghum, maize and beans among others. The prolonged drought that is being experienced in most parts of the country is now causing crops to wither in the gardens due to too much sunshine in Karamoja. Veronica Aleo, a farmer from Napak sub county has expressed fears that the situation threatens to leave the region more food insecure compared to the other seasons.
“The dry spell is so long. The problem is drought. We received rainfall for only one week and we planted. Now there is no rainfall. We leave it to God. I hope it will rain. God will not abandon us,” said Lokol who took our reporter to her sorghum garden.
Paul Munyes, another farmer from Lopei sub county, Napak district says that the weather is more unfriendly this year and they are worried that it may be a year of food insecurity and famine. He says most gardens are now drying up. Even with the too lengthy dry spell, Munyes still hopes that the season will improve anytime this month. He is hoping to grow maize, beans and groundnuts if the rains return.
“You wake up thinking … Is the government going or NGOs going to help people? Seeds cannot germinate now as the soils are very dry (you see.) We planted but there was no germination. The gardens are bear. There is nothing,” says Munyes.
John Bosco Akore, a farmer from Panyangara sub county in Moroto district is also concerned about the state of crops following a dry spell. “Crops are almost drying and many families have not grown as yet. Crops would be flowering by now. We are hoping that rains come back soon so that we cultivate. Those weeding are even risking the growth of crops. It’s just too hot now,” he said on phone.
Robert Lokoru, a farmer in Nadunget sub county in Moroto district summed up this year as a dead year for farmers. “We don’t expect much since there is no sign of rainfall in the nearby future,” he said while showing our reporter his brown garden that has no crops because of the dry spell.
Elders from the region are predicting that there may be a long rainy period this year that could go to September. Mzee William Lodou of Rupa sub county in Moroto district says that from experience, if the rains delay starting, they may go some month late than usual.
“It has not been dry for long like this in recent years, but there is the likelihood the rains may go until September this year. If the rains resume, farmers should plant,” he said. On the other hand, a weather forecast by Uganda National Meteorological Authority-UNMA predicted above-normal rainfall in most regions of the country.
For Karamoja region for example, UNMA said March, April and May would experience above normal rainfall. They had warned local governments to prepare for emergencies including disease outbreaks and damaged infrastructure.
Original Source URN via independent
Lack of Agronomists worries grape farmers in Mbarara
Grape farmers in Mbarara are concerned that they are earning less from the crop due to the absence of an agronomist to offer expertise on the processes for growing and harvesting the crop.
There are more than 200 grape farmers in Ibaare, Nyamatojo and Nyakayojo, all in the South Division of Mbarara City, where more than three hills are fully covered with the crop. They are mainly planting Muscat and Karmen, which thrive well in semi-arid areas.
But the farmers said that they are growing the crop without clear information on the ideal varieties of grapes grown in Uganda, and knowledge of soil management, site preparation, planting, pruning, pest and disease control, fertilizer application as well as harvesting.
By nature of their work, agronomists work with farmers to help them grow the best possible crops, based on their extensive knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, earth science, ecology, and genetics. They usually conduct experiments to develop the best methods for increasing the quality and production of crops and develop methods for protecting crops from weeds, pests, and harsh climates.
Alex Asiimwe, the Chairperson of Mbarara Grape Farmers Cooperative Limited said that without a specialist in the region, many of them are left to gamble with the crop. Often, he says, they struggle to manage the spread of pests in grape plantations.
James Mugabi, a grape farmer said he once lost more than 25 tons of grapes to fungus, which he didn’t know and failed to get the best drug. He narrates that once the crop has been attacked by either a pest or disease, the entire plantation is destroyed.
Allan Namanya, a grapes farmer from Katojo said the absence of an agronomist is costing them a lot since grapes are considered the most lucrative crop at the moment. He says that a kilogram of grapes costs between 2,500 and 3,000 Shillings and a bottle of wine costs 20,000, yet it can even cost much higher than this if they are advised on the right farming practices.
Mbarara city Agricultural Officer, Vincent Mugabi, said that the department also has a shortage of personnel knowledgeable about the relatively new crop for the area. He wants the government to consider taking them for training to acquire knowledge.
Grapes are harvested twice a year, in April/May and November/December seasons. They were introduced in Mbarara at Nyamitanga hill the Catholic seat by missionaries in the 1960s.
Original Source: URA via The Independent
Farmers in Napak want security forces deployed in gardens
A section of farmers in Napak District is demanding for the deployment of security personnel in gardens to prevent attacks by suspected Karamojong warriors.
This follows a message that was sent to one of the phones belonging to the community member in Nabwal sub county threatening people to stop cultivation or else their cattle will be stolen. Suspected warriors have also been dropping leaflets in the villages warning farmers of possible attacks in case they risk going to cultivate in their gardens.
Robert Koryang, a resident of Lotome trading center, says that they are worried of going to their farm gardens which are far away from their home because of threats from the cattle raiders.
Koryang said the warriors are still hunting for cattle and they see the farming season as an opportunity to target farmers who use oxen for ploughing.
He observed that the persistent insecurity in the region frustrated their efforts to cultivate last year leading to a hunger crisis.
Judith Anyakun, another farmer recalls that early last year a suspected raider chased them out of their farms before making off with four oxen that were used for ploughing.
She suggested that the security forces should be deployed in their settlements nearer to the fields so that they are able to respond to any attack that may occur during farm activities.
John Paul Kodet, the LCV Chairperson for Napak, says that they are taking the threats seriously because the warriors have been issuing warnings to the communities before attacking.
Kodet said they have distributed seeds to the farmers but he is skeptical if communities shall be able to cultivate due to threats from suspected warriors.
He noted that some villages in the sub-counties of Lopei, Lokopo, and Lotome are very distant from the military installations and this puts them at high risk of being attacked.
Kodet appealed to the government to tighten security in the targeted areas such that people will be able to cultivate without fear.
Denis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the security forces already have the intelligence about the planned attacks and measures have been put in place to protect the communities.
Okori said they have designed strategic plans on how the deployment will be conducted and therefore farmers should not get worried because the government is trying everything possible to ensure there is peace.
He also confirmed receipt of the phone used for sending threats and it has been taken to the Internal Security Organization for tracking.
Okori urged the communities not to worry but instead clear the gardens for farming in order to fight hunger in the families as security does its part to protect them.
Last year, the residents of Napak district suspended the use of oxen for ploughing over fears of being attacked by suspected warriors. The cattle were only kept from the confined kraals and only released during the day for grazing, and returned in the evening when the army took responsibility for keeping them.
Original Source: URN via The Independent
Mbarara struggling to contain Rift Valley Fever, no livestock quarantine yet
The government is reluctant at imposing the livestock quarantine on Mbarara despite registering five confirmed cases of death among humans resulting from Rift Valley Fever, the Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Turyabagyenyi Kateera has revealed.
According to Kateera , when they informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about the outbreak, they deployed a team on the ground to manage the situation. Mbarara District Veterinary Officer, Andrew Bakashaba, says that registered fifty cows infected by Rift Valley Fever in Rwanyamahembe Sub County on different farms.
He, however, says that they are currently managing the situation through sensitization. Bakashaba has warned residents against eating meat from animals that have died on their own, noting that Rift Valley Fever is only transmitted from animals to humans through infected meat.
He has also asked people to always watch out for meat that has a veterinary medical stamp as proof that it’s been tested and found to be clean. Turyabagyenyi said that they have directed extension workers to hold engagement and sensitization meetings with farmers and livestock traders on how to do self-preservation on their farms and the movement of animals.
He said they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to hold on imposing a quarantine as they monitor the situation on the ground noting that if the situation goes out of hand they would be left without any choice but to announce the quarantine.
He says they have deployed veterinary doctors at all known slaughter slabs and asked them to double-check the meat before and after it is delivered to butchers. Dr. Richard Atuhairwe, the in-charge of Bwizibwera Health Centre IV, says that the disease was detected among 30 people, and results from Uganda Virus Research Institute returned positive. He says that five of the thirty have since died.
Rift Valley Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is most commonly seen in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats and can also cause illness in people. It is caused by the Rift Valley Virus. Meanwhile, a Quarantine has been imposed on Byembogo Village in Nyabisirira Town Council after a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on one farm.
Turyabagyenyi says a farm belonging to one Mr. Mungonya with over 1500 cattle had been stopped from sending out cattle and animal products like milk from the farm. He says that they have also temporarily closed the Kyeshema livestock market that is shared between Kiruhura and Mbarara districts noting that Kiruhura had last week closed its side.
He says they are now moving to vaccinate all animals in the village as they monitor the situation.
Original Source: URN via The independent
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