Sarah Mawerere | October 13, 2023
Wetlands may be an ideal place to grow crops, as they contain the water that vegetables need, but farmers like Christopher Nsamba have decided to plant at the edge or near wetlands to conserve this valuable ecosystem. Mr. Nsamba farms in Buso-Wakiso district, Uganda. He draws water from his wetlands and stores it in a tank to irrigate his vegetables and fruits. Wetlands help to control floods, purify water for human and wildlife use, provide habitat for wildlife, and store carbon, helping to mitigate climate change. They play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and contributing to the health of surrounding ecosystems.
It’s a bright, hot day in the Namulonge area of Buso-Wakiso district, about 30 kilometres north of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.
Christopher Nsamba is a father of nine who has been growing vegetables in this area since 1975. Mr. Nsamba says, “At first, I grew cabbages and tomatoes in a swamp where I could get harvests almost throughout the year.”
He explains that wetlands were the ideal place to grow crops because they the water sometimes dried up and his vegetables did not perform well. At other times, the fields were so waterlogged that tomatoes rotted in the garden.
Now, he grows vegetables and fruits at the edge of or near wetlands. By doing this, he allows the wetlands to retain water. He draws water from the wetlands and stores it a tank, then uses it to irrigate his vegetables and fruits.
Wetlands are areas of land where water covers the soil, either seasonally or permanently. They include swamps, and typically have unique water circulation, waterlogged soil, and vegetation which is well-adapted to growing in water. Wetlands are valuable ecologically. They help to control floods, purify water for human and wildlife use, provide habitat for wildlife, and store carbon, helping to mitigate climate change. They play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and contributing to the health of surrounding ecosystems.
Mr. Nsamba’s family grows and sells vegetables and fruits throughout the year, giving them a weekly income of almost 500,000 Ugandan shillings ($135 US).
Irrigation, minimum tillage, and drawing water by gravity from the wetlands ensure that they get good yields.
Mr. Nsamba decided to save six of his 30 acres as a natural forest surrounded by wetlands and streams. This is where he accesses irrigation water.
Edward Juuko grows fruits and vegetables in the same district, using land near the wetlands he has been protecting for a number of years.
Mr. Juuko is a vegetable famer and trained agriculturalist. He grows many types of vegetables, including cabbages, cucumbers, and eggplants, as well as fruits like strawberries, papayas, and guavas. He farms near but outside the wetlands themselves to avoid harming these fragile ecosystems.
He says that maintaining the natural wetland ecosystem is very important for sustaining biodiversity, providing ecosystem services like clean water and air, and preserving the beauty and cultural value of the natural world.
He adds that conserving wetlands and other natural ecosystems can play a crucial role in helping farmers like him to successfully grow fruits and vegetables by preserving the health of the ecosystems on which farming depends.
Esau Mpoza is the district environment officer in Wakiso district. He says that wetlands regulate water by absorbing excess water during heavy rainfall and releasing it gradually, helping to prevent flooding.
He adds, “They also help recharge groundwater, and maintain a stable and consistent water supply for irrigation,” among other uses.
Mr. Mpoza adds that, by preserving healthy wetlands, farmers are promoting a balanced ecosystem where beneficial insects help control harmful pests, thereby reducing the need for chemical pesticides.