How Ugandan farmers are adapting to climate change (By Ndagire Laila for Climate Radio)

| November 14, 2016

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Namata Rosette is a 21-year-old farmer who started her farming business one year ago in Namugongo, in the Central Region of Uganda. She realized that finding a job after she left school would not be easy. So she began farming, growing cabbage and kale and keeping chickens. She says, “The reason why I practice vegetable growing is that vegetables grow very fast and the market is readily available.”

She has faced many challenges in her first year of farming, including poor access to water, particularly during the recent drought. She explains, “I have to look for water, buy [it], or fetch it from far to water the vegetables. The cloudy conditions also affect the cabbages and I make losses.”

Farming is important for many Ugandans, but most farming is rain-fed, making it vulnerable to changes in the climate. As the climate changes, farmers face smaller harvests and food shortages.

Ugandan farmers plan their farming production around two rainy seasons and two shorter dry seasons. They have worked with these seasons for their entire lives and learned from generations before them how to best farm in these conditions. But as the climate changes, farmers can no longer rely on this knowledge or on familiar weather patterns.

Malinzi John Baptist has farmed for more than 15 years in Kabira Kyotera village, in the Central Region. He says, “I have benefited a lot from farming despite the challenges. I stopped farming at the subsistence level and now practice farming as a business.” He plants only edible crops, growing orange and mango trees on his land, rather than planting palm trees.

He told radio station Mama FM: “I see you are surprised and wondering why I have healthy-looking vegetables in such a dry season. In Uganda, we the farmers are facing drought caused by cutting of trees, so if you cannot [afford] the technology for harvesting water, then farming is a challenge.”

Ms. Rosette and Mr. Baptist are doing their best to adapt to the changing conditions. Ms. Rosette says she makes composted manure from chicken droppings to fertilize her vegetable garden. She has also learned the importance of harvesting water. She explains, “I bought a tank and in times of drought, I won’t suffer because I have water to irrigate my crops. I have also planted trees in my garden.”

Deforestation contributes to poor farming conditions. Trees help protect and enrich soil, while deforestation leaves soil vulnerable to erosion from wind and rain.

Mr. Baptist is planting trees to protect his environment, and he has also been harvesting water. He says, “In case of water scarcity, I have developed a water harvest technology of using big polythene bags because they are durable and cheaper than a 50-litre tank.” Farmers can store water by digging a reservoir in the ground and lining it with large polythene bags to stop the water from percolating into the ground.

Kato Godfrey is an agriculturalist working with Kyanja Agricultural Resource Centre, a project of Kampala city council. He trains farmers on many different techniques. He says farmers face challenges related to water scarcity, plant diseases, and pests. These contribute to crop failure, particularly during drought. He recommends that farmers set up an irrigation system and harvest water—or even establish a greenhouse. Greenhouses allow farmers to grow vegetables year round. Farmers can set up irrigation systems inside greenhouses, and the structure keeps some pests out.

As the global community discusses climate change at the UN conference in Morocco, Mr. Baptist says he would like the international community to support farmers with training and exchange programs, so that farmers in different places can share ideas and best practices. age in Fria.

He says: “When you make a chair, you have to wait several months before someone purchases it. This is why we have left that, and we are in the bush…. If they ask us to stop producing charcoal, the state will have to see [what happens].”

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