By Sarah Kaudha, AFMC/NECJOGHA, MUKONO
KAMPALA, UGANDA: When Abdallah Kakaire, 35 years set out to plant maize in February he was thinking of the bumper harvest he had made last season.
“As soon as it started raining in February I planted the maize. At first it germinated well because there was a lot of rain. But towards the end of March and into April there was a lot of sunshine and the maize dried up,” Kakaire a farmer at Kiwanga in the central Uganda district of Mukono says.
Kakaire is like many farmers in East Africa who are ruing the last planting season due to the erratic rains especially in the month of April which is supposed to be the peak of the long rain season.
He says when the maize dried up in April he bought his favorite ‘Longe’ and ‘Nabirye’ maize seeds from an agro vet shop and planted again expecting that the rains would come in May.
“Unfortunately the sunshine continued in May and most of the maize didn’t germinate, “Kakaire says and explains that he again had to buy more seeds and replace the maize which had not germinated and it was until June that the rains came that helped it to grow.
He however, says that apart from the increased expenditure on buying seeds he doesn’t expect to get a good harvest like last season.
Kakaire practices climate smart agriculture where he does mulching, early season planting, planting early maturing varieties and when he weeds he does burn the grass but buries it in the soil where it turns into organic fertilizers.
In April the meteorological agencies of the three East African countries issued updates to the seasonal forecasts explaining that the unexpected dry spell was due to cyclone activity in the south especially in Mozambique which drew the rain bearing winds which would have brought rain to the most of East Africa.
“We have never faced pressure like last season. We released five weather alerts in the space of one month. In February the rain started early as we had predicted but by April there was no rain,” James Bataze a senior meteorologist with the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) told participants in a climate café organized by the Network of Climate Journalists of the Greater Horn of Africa (NECJOGHA) held in Mbarara last month.
He explained that the rain for the March-April-May (MAM) season was interrupted by the cyclone activity in the south especially Cyclone IDAI which in March and April drew all the wind which would have brought rain to East Africa.
“Even countries with the most sophisticated equipment like US and Japan can’t predict cyclones (which they call hurricanes). We can only track them and know where they will pass when they start,” Bataze said.