BY: Patrick Okino NECJOGHACORRESPONENT LIRA
KAMPALA,UGANDA: With unreliable weather and rainfall pattern, an estimated five million people in Northern Uganda are at risk of severe food shortage. This followed prolonged drought which failed crops yield in the first season.
According to agricultural experts, the first season begins in February immediately when rains return and farmers actively prepare field for planting cereals, beans, soybean, cassava, maize, cabbage and potatoes.
The region which was devastated by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for two decades suffered adverse prolonged drought and soil degradation. The government targets to improve production, productivity and food security.
It is this time (May) when crops are flowering or fruiting but due to abrupt climate change it has drastically affected agricultural production since the society lack the capacity to adapt to these changes.
“We are badly affected by drought since February because we produce crops which are rain fed,” Joe Acut an agronomist in the northern district of Alebtong said.
Acut had planted cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and soybeans which have optimal microclimate temperature and growing season.
“I planted millet three times but failed to germinate because of lack of rain and unreliable weather,” James Onyanga a village chief in the region said adding that last year by this time, beans were flowering and millet as well.
Agriculture is an important versatile sector in Uganda and it employs 68% of the population, supporting millions of livelihoods and contributes substantially to economy.
Uganda being a country that almost entirely depends on agriculture says a lot and thus there is need to ensure proper practices are put in place to ensure sufficient, quality and quantity production that is sustainable.
There are a few shortcomings that hinder effective agriculture from taking good shape such as climate change, subsistence farming which is a generational or cyclic problem because it is not income-focused.
According to National Population and Housing Censure of 2014 the region has the population of 5.841 million with a greater percentage earning their livelihood on agriculture.
Uganda`s assistant commissioner in the ministry of water and environment in charge of water for production, Eng. John Twinomujuni said climate said is real and relying on rain is dangerous. The government has constructed 40 irrigation schemes out of 120 designed.
“We think this is the way to go to empower our people and avert climate change and fight poverty,” he explained.
In another development hailstorm has caused havoc and blown off roof of about 150 classrooms in the region. An estimated 130,000 pupils have been left without learning space.
“If we failed to get intervention from the Office of the Prime Minister, or other development partner, we may be forced to use School Facility Grant (SFG) or District Discretionary Equalization Grant (DDEG) which will not be enough,” said a senior district education officer.
Denis Kiza suggested that the Uganda`s ministry of education and sport has emergency funding through the construction and management units and would also come to their rescue.
According Nelson Opaka the headteacher of one of the affected school said the cost of fixing back the blown roof and renovating the classrooms constructed 54 years ago is very high and the school cannot afford.