UGANDA: UNPREDICTABLE WEATHER WORRIES FARMERS AS FOOD INSECURITY LOOMS IN UGANDA

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A peasant farmer vending green vegetable to fight food insecurity in Gulu

“Sorry for keeping you wait for this long. I had to complete planting millet in a field by today. Tomorrow I want to begin work on another field. I want to open and plant as many acres of land with food crops as possible before the current rain stops. The weather is unpredictable these days and I am expecting the country to be food insecure this year”

“I lost six acres I had planted with soya beans and maize during the dry spell in March, it was compounded by the intermittent rainfall which came with hail storm. I and my family have opened a total of 35 acres but will not sow any seed in them unless we are sure that rain has indeed come to stay. It is only cotton seed which I have planted. I also lost ten herds of cattle to black quota disease”

LAMWO-UGANDA: Mr. Paul Ojara is a sixty-four year old civil servant who has retired into peasantry farming at Ayuu Anaka village, Palabek Gem sub-county in Lamwo district in northern Uganda, not just to put food on the table but as a means to keep physically fit.

Unlike most of his poor neighbors, Mr. Ojara has bought a pair of oxen which he uses for cultivating food crops like millet, sorghum, sesame (sim-sim), rice, cassava, groundnuts, maize and beans, among others.

Although most peasants who use oxen for cultivation would work in the field from about 06.00 am (03.00 GMT) to about 11.00 am (about 08.00 GMT), Mr. Ojara was still working in this field by 1.00 pm (about 10.00 GMT) when I visited his home on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

When I visited his home at ten o’clock local time on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, I had to sit under a mango tree in his compound and waited for him for over three hours before he could emerge slightly after 01.00 pm. The sun was very hot by that time.

“Sorry for keeping you wait for this long. I had to complete planting millet in a field by today. Tomorrow I want to begin work on another field. I want to open and plant as many acres of land with food crops as possible before this current rain stops. The weather is unpredictable these days and I am expecting the country to be food insecure this year”, he says.

Unlike Gulu district which has had a fair amount of rainfall by May 2019, Lamwo district is still dry where sprouting grass is still about six inches above the ground because of delayed rain. When I was growing up in the early sixties, the region used to have two rainy seasons. The first season normally falls by March 15 to early June where farmers would plant fast growing foodstuffs like beans, millet, potatoes and cassava for food security. There would be about a month of dryness from late June to mid-July. The second season would come around late July/early August until late November. After that, there would be a long period of dry season. People merry make with ceremonies like last funeral rites and dancing parties taking center stage.

Mr. Ojara would like to open up at least ten acres of land for his family consumption before he can now think of hiring out the services of his oxen to other village mates who would like to hire them because the weather pattern has changes in his district for the worst.

“I want to make sure I have enough food for my family before I can think of hiring out the oxen to other people who want me to assist them. I want to plant sesame in June instead of late July because the rain is really erratic. I don’t want to spend a cent on buying food from the market since I still have the energy to work”, says Mr. Ojara.

Another area where rain has delayed to fall his Awere sub-county in Pader district, according to Mr. Okot Isaac Akado (69 years old), who says his district received rain in late February and people thought they were lucky to have rain in February, which normally is a dry month. They were wrong. A long dry spell ensued thereafter with intermittent rainfall in March until May when it began to fall again.

“I lost six acres I had planted with soya beans and maize, during the dry spell in March, it was compounded by the intermittent rainfall, which came with hail storm. I and my family have opened a total of 35 acres but will not sow and seed in them unless we are sure that rain has indeed come to stay. It is only cotton seed which I have planted. I also lost ten herds of cattle to black quota disease”, says Mr. Okot.

According to the Production Coordinator of Gulu district, Mr. Jackson Lakor, the change in weather has also changed planting pattern, impacted negatively on food security where most families are not doing well, as far as foodstuff is concerned. He says water sources have dried up and the worst hit are fish farmers whose fish-ponds are dry.

“Crops will be prone top pests and diseases at this time of the year”, says Mr. Lakor.

Information available in the internet says there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point in time since the evolution of humans due to global warming; which, in turn, is the cause of climatic change.

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