The frequent droughts that we experienced much of last year have led to poor harvests and acute food shortages in many parts of the country. The rains we are currently getting and the expected bountiful harvest should not blind us to the fact that climate change is already upon us and we must devise ways of doing productive farming despite its ravages.
On Monday this week, the world celebrated International Environment Day and most speakers stressed the importance of climate change mitigation and called for a change in the way smallholder farmers work the land to produce food against the odds paused by climate change. In order to build resilience to climate change, farmers should be introduced to low cost technologies and more efficient farming practices.
What is our strategy in this effort? At two international forums (Maputo and Abuja), Uganda has made a declaration to commit at least 10 per cent of its annual budget to agriculture but we have not even devoted five per cent to the sector in any financial year.
Yet we speak about becoming a middle income country by 2020 and expect agriculture to provide raw materials for the local industries; textile industry, animal feed processing, and milk and meat processing, etc.
In 2015, we launched the Coffee Strategy to boost foreign exchange earnings and we have also kick-started a number of anti-poverty agricultural programmes but prolonged droughts have frustrated the efforts. The country is endowed with lakes, rivers and swamps from which water can be pumped to facilitate irrigation for smallholder farmers but due to low national investment in agriculture and lack of viable water infrastructure, our farmers continue to see their harvest halved by recurrent droughts.
Most of our schools don’t teach practical agriculture and have no functional school gardens. Yet today’s farming challenges have changed with the climatic patterns and will require a new approach. Since the youths are the future of agriculture, the school should be the place to prepare them for climate smart agriculture --- to teach technologies like drip irrigation, mulching, and rainwater harvesting among others.
E-mail: [email protected]