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Uganda: Shift in crops boosts fortunes of farmers (Global Press Journal)

It’s 9 a.m. in Amola village, and Alfred Ojok keeps busy trimming branches of coffee plants on his farm in Nwoya district, about 45 minutes from Gulu town, Uganda. His 22-acre piece of land is flat, with rich black soil, and has produced a range of crops, from pine to citrus trees. Mr. Ojok started farming in 2014 because he didn’t have tuition fees to attend university. After seeing his peers waste their lives due to drug and alcohol abuse, he vowed to do something better in his life.

He planted pine trees on the family land, and then added avocados, bananas, coffee, and oranges. Bananas and coffee were new to the northern region, and Mr. Ojok was not sure how they would turn out.

He recalls, “It was a lot of trial and error at the beginning.” The 30-year-old once tried to grow chili peppers, but lost all the produce.

But the shift to crops that were not commonly grown in the area changed Mr. Ojok’s fortune.

He explains: “One day, I saw an old man growing coffee and bananas in my village. I was shocked and asked myself how this was possible. This was new in my area, so my curiosity led me to him. I learned more about the crops, then later got some seedlings from him and started planting coffee, which currently sits on 17 acres of my land, alongside bananas.”

With income from selling coffee and bananas, Mr. Ojok built a house and bought a bike. Last year alone, he sold 2.3 tons of coffee. He says, “My next step is to plant more coffee and diversify in agriculture.”

Mr. Ojok is one of many farmers in northern Uganda whose lives changed for the better after switching to crops that were not commonly grown in the region.

Western Uganda is known for producing green bananas and Irish potatoes, while drought-tolerant crops such as sorghum, finger millet, sesame, cotton, groundnuts, and cassava are commonly grown in the Northern region. In recent years, however, farmers in the north have embraced other crops, such as coffee, bananas, maize, beans, sunflowers, and soybeans. This change, partly due to changing weather patterns and the release of early-maturing varieties, has led to better yields and higher household incomes.

Paul Kilama is the assistant district agriculture officer in Gulu district. He says at least 80% of farmers have adopted new crops. A 2022 study surveyed 600 small-scale farmers in northern Uganda about climate change and the measures they are taking to cope with its impact in this arid region. According to a study published in the journal Land Use Policy, the most common measure taken—by more than 95% of farmers involved—was to change crops.

Regional affinities for certain crops has largely been linked to the climate, Mr. Kilama says, and farmers are now realigning their crop choices to fit with the changes in climate.

He adds, “Weather patterns are not as they were, as we are experiencing prolonged drier or wet spells. Farmers are educating themselves on the weather.”

This story is adapted from an article written by Patricia Lindrio for Global Press Journal, called “Shift in crops boosts fortunes of farmers in Northern Uganda.” To read the full story, go to: https://globalpressjournal.com/africa/uganda/shift-crops-boosts-fortunes-farmers-northern-uganda/ [1]