7 January 2018

Uganda: Experts Predict a Tough 2018 for Farmers

Almost all the seasoned farmers and agribusiness experts we talked were concerned about the worrying trend of climate change the country is experiencing.

In unison, they believe that for any farmer to improve his productivity this year, he should have a stable water source that can outlive the dry spell.

Until the first rainfall season in April, many farmers have started the year struggling with a damning dry spell whose diverse effects has not spared the farming and dairy sectors.

For Mohammed Kakiika, an intercropping farmer in Mukono District with more than 600 acres of banana, eucalyptus, coffee, Mvule, Musiizi trees and mangoes, establishing a stable water source should be the priority of every practicing and upcoming farmer this year.

"I already have over 10 dams but am still digging more right now. You cannot farm without water and I urge farmers to harvest all the rain water they can," he says.

Kakiika, also the headmaster of Vienna College Namugongo, calls on government to consider reducing taxes on agricultural products this year.

"There should be subsidies on irrigation equipment and water pumps so that farmers can access them. For the corporate elites still locked in offices, I urge you to start looking at farming as a big money making venture that earns more than real estates - if handled with patience," Kakiika adds.

Learning from past mistakes

If he was not strong willed, Aldrine Nsubuga was close to shutting down his two acre passion fruit farm in Kiboga after a virus attack late last year that left half his enterprise affected. "I cut all the affected plants and reapplied pesticides helping me plant the garden again. My simple advice to passion fruit farmers in 2018 is that they should be cautious about the new diseases and they should make research on a routine basis," Nsubuga explains.

He tips corporate farmers to personally visit their farms regularly so that they can detect any abnormality early on before it gets worse. Nsubuga posted losses of more than Shs50m.

Consider group farming

To Tom Omara, an agronomist on root crop research at National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) Namulonge, modern farmers stand to benefit more if they took on farming in a group than individually.

"Farmers should think of growing crops in an organised group (and form farmer SACCOs), harvest as group but most importantly, balance growing crops for food and commercial value," revealed Omara, an expert with a special interest in cassava research and multiplication.

He calls on farmers with challenges to get in touch with researchers at institutes such as NaSARRI, NaLIRRI and NaCRRI because 'they are like doctors at Mulago hospital that give free medication'.

Because more complicated diseases are cropping up, Omara advises farmers to upgrade from the local breeds to the trending Nase11, Nase19, Narocasss1 and Narocass2 if they want to get tangible benefits from growing cassava.

Crop expert Erostus Nsubuga famed for breeding banana suckers using the tissue culture technology at his AGT Company in Buloba, fears the entire Africa is on the brink of becoming a desert because of the unpredictable rainfall pattern these days.

"The only way out going forward is keeping the available water carefully, plant improved and clean seeds which are disease resistant and adapting to good agribusiness management practices," he opines.

The market for various crops seems to be available going by recent research so it is up to active and prospective farmers to harness all the factors of production to get high yields this year.

Standing up to climate change

The worst nightmare to farmers follows them into this year, with the rain pattern becoming harder to predict. "The dry season (January to March) has already rattled many cattle farmers at the start of the new year," says dairy expert Dr Constantine Katongole.

"To me, any successful farmer should have started planning for this situation in 2017 because ours is a 99 per cent rainfall based agriculture system," he added.

He advises dairy farmers to handle manageable herd sizes and plant pastures that can adapt to the climate for better yields this year.

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