22 March 2019

Uganda: Losses As Heat Wave Destroys Crops

Kampala — Light showers in mid-February enticed Mr George Lubale, a peasant farmer in Nawasango, Namutumba District, to plant ground nuts on his four-acre piece of land.

Mr Lubale was hoping to get a good harvest after the seeds germinated but a dry spell started scorching his crops.

"I am now counting losses. All the ground nuts had germinated, but have withered because of the sun. We have not received rainfall for a month," Mr Lubale said.

It is not only Mr Lubale who is counting losses. Ms Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance, a coalition of civil society organisations that works with farmers in different parts of the country, said the drought has hurt many farmers.

"We may have a repeat of 2016/2017 scenario when farmers were frustrated with produce prices in the last season. They may not plant again after their crops have been scorched," Ms Kirabo added.

Uganda experienced a long dry spell in 2016/2017, resulting in massive crop failure and famine in most parts of the country.

Last year was characterised by good weather and a bumpy harvest.

The prices of cereals plummeted, with a kilogramme of maize costing Shs200.

The first planting season that stretches from March to May should have started with rainfall early this month. Instead the country has been battered by a heat wave.

The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) in a March 12 statement, attributed the dry spell and searing temperatures to the tropical cyclone, known as Idai, which wreaked havoc in Mozambique and Zimbabwe last week.

"Idai led to the development of low pressure system around the Mozambique channel which resulted in the weakening of south easterly trade winds. These winds became diverted towards the channel, depriving moisture laden winds to reach our country which is why we have experienced the dry spells that disrupted the onset of March to May seasonal rainfall," Mr Festus Luboyera, the UNMA executive director, stated.

Ms Gorreti Kitutu, the State Minister for Environment, has previously said 60 per cent of rainfall received in Uganda is influenced by the Indian Ocean and natural features.

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