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How to help farmers in Uganda adapt to climate change?

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How can farmers in Uganda prepare for global climate change? “One acre fund” is a non-profit organization that specializes in helping smallholder farmers living in remote areas to learn about: financing of inputs, training on agricultural techniques distribution and market integration. The agricultural sector employs most of the population of Uganda (close to 80%) [1] and the effects of global climate change (rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns) affect not only the farming output but also the accessibility and quality of water, which is further exacerbated by the lack of the appropriate infrastructure in place.  [2]

The organization employed a cross functional approach between food security, sustainable development and climate change by focusing on: the quality of soil and fertilizers, adapting crops to new conditions (such as flood resistant rice), helping farmers to store produce preparing them for difficult years and using mobile networks to keep farmers informed of the weather conditions. [3]

Focus on information dissemination: One Acre Fund has extended its focus on using technology in remote areas by facilitating data collection and information dispersion. Given that 70% of the population of Uganda has access to mobile networks, information is collected and dispersed to farmers in various districts using text messages (regarding weather, rainfall, crop and livestock market information).The market information is used to inform farmers of the existing shortage of supply and demand trends thus allowing them to price their produce at a market efficient amount.[4] The weather/rainfall progress report allows farmers to adjust their crop selection based on the current conditions (eg. During rainy season, farmers will invest in rice whereas during arid times, they will opt for matoke).

Use of alternative energy: There is a heated debate in the global community regarding the expected contribution to the global carbon emission from developing countries. Some argue that the lack of a pre-existing infrastructure in developing countries can be beneficiary, since they can by-pass the fossil fuel intensive infrastructures and instead focus on building alternative energy facilities. One Acre fund concluded that investing in solar energy is financially feasible, optimal (given the lack of electricity in remote areas and massive cash outflows associated with connection to traditional sources) and environmentally friendly. Thus, farmers can charge their phones, pump water for irrigation and use lights at nighttime. This area can be further explored, as One Acre fund can scale up the solar energy initiative by congregating small farmers in communities which would invest and benefit from the newly built infrastructure. [5]

Crop planning advice: Crop and livestock management under unfavorable weather conditions (such as heavy rains, floods and strong winds) helps farmers minimize crop loss and damage. One Acre Fund provides planning advice for crop selection and administration to ensure farmers are prepared for extreme weather drought, severe rain falls, storms etc. [4],[5]

Steps to be taken in future:

Focus on drip irrigation: Given that global climate change leads to erratic patterns in temperature and decrease in quality and quantity of water, having a robust irrigation system in place would allow farmers to hedge against periods of drought. Drip irrigation is a method that saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, through narrow tubes that deliver water directly to the base of the plant. [6] One acre fund should integrate in its training and scope, the drip irrigation system (especially given that the arid season is East Africa extends to 6 months) which will decrease the effect of severe weather variability.

Raising awareness and focus on technology innovation: East Africa has two major advantages that can streamline innovation: entrepreneurial drive of its population and great potential for technology innovations. The technology landscape is starved despite the fact that most existing technology innovations were scaled up at an incredible rate (eg. The uptake of mobile phones is close to 53%,  a reasonable proxy for the dispersion of mobile banking [7]). Actively investing in technological innovations (by providing incentives to university graduates) and integrating their discoveries in climate change management can lead to smart and sustainable solutions. An example is “Eco-Fuel Africa” a company that turns farm waste—coffee husks and waste from sugar cane and rice—into charcoal which is turned into briquettes for cooking that burn cleaner and cost less than wood. [8]

Cooperating with local governments: One of the main issues that farmers struggle with, is the ambiguous guidance provided by governments. Since neither national nor regional authorities are knowledgeable about the impact of climate change on their microeconomies, they cannot convey the message to farmers. One Acre Fund should concentrate efforts on the education of the local governments about the latest innovations, the expected impact of weather variability and ways to accommodate changes. It is especially imperative to partner up with governments, given that they have the power to impose carbon taxes or implement a cap and trade system.

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[1] Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment. 2014. Guidelines for Integration of Climate Change in Sector Plans and Budgets  [ONLINE] Available at:http://ccd.go.ug/images/Publications/Uganda%20National%20Climate%20Change%20Mainstreaming%20Guidelines%20.pdf. [Accessed 3 November 2016].

[2] Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment. 2016. Background Adaptation of Climate Change in Uganda. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ccu.go.ug/index.php/adaptation/50-background-adaptation-to-climate-change-in-uganda. [Accessed 3 November 2016].

[3] One Acre Fund. 2015. Blog Tag Climate Change. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.oneacrefund.org/blogs/tag/climate+change/400.[Accessed 3 November 2016].

[4] United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. 2014. Enabling Farmers to Adapt to Climate Change. [ONLINE] Available at: http://unfccc.int/secretariat/momentum_for_change/items/9256.php. [Accessed 3 November 2016].

[5]One Acre Fund. 2014. Sustainability Blog- Solar Surveys Yields Valuable Insights. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.oneacrefund.org/blogs/information/post/solar-survey-yields-valuable-insights/916. [Accessed 3 November 2016].

[6]UNESCO. 2014. Fresh Perspectives on Drip Irrigation in Agriculture. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.unesco-ihe.org/sites/default/files/flyer_waterandenergy.pdf. [Accessed 3 November 2016].

[7] Monitor UG. 2015. Mobile phone users grow to 19.5M. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.monitor.co.ug/Business/Technology/Mobile-phone-users-grow-19-5m/688612-2636032-xhy53bz/index.html. [Accessed 3 November 2016].

[8] Eco-fuel Africa.2016.Eco-fuel Africa. [ONLINE] Available at: http://ecofuelafrica.co.ug/.[Accessed 3 November 2016].

 

Cover Image:

Can Africa feed itself in spite of climate change?

4 thoughts on “How to help farmers in Uganda adapt to climate change?

  1. From reading this article, I’m curious to learn more about how effective the One Acre Fund (OAF) has been and where it obtains its capital. Does the OAF foresee any financial constraints or shortages on the horizon? Is the OAF looking to expand beyond Uganda, or does it have a goal of how many farmers it plans to educate?

    While I think the future opportunities identified are extremely important, especially the partnership with local governments, one opportunity I’d like to learn more about is whether the OAF has explored disseminating information in packets to a particular area and allowing the farmers to train or educate each other (similar to a farmers’ co-op). Is this a feasible solution in this market? Technological innovation and dissemination, especially by telecom companies, may take a long time to come to fruition.

    Overall, an interesting topic of discussion that will continue into the future!

  2. Hi Ina! Cool post – I’ve been a casual follower of One Acre Fund’s work and am very impressed by their model!
    Just a quick thought on your last suggestion re: local governments. I am a bit skeptical that local governments will have 1) the mandate to legislate policies like carbon taxes and 2) the capacity to actual implement the changes. My sense is that collaboration on these kinds of issues (carbon taxes, cap and trade) would most likely have to be at a national or maybe sub-national level. That said, I think there is good potential for the organization to partner with local governments on more micro-level issues like resilience, and tactics to ameliorate some of the most intense impacts of climate change. I wonder also if One Acre Fund can use its voice to serve as more of a convening power on these issues, for instance, bringing together the farmers in its network to advocate to national governments about the urgency of climate-friendly policies for their future well-being.

  3. This was so interesting- I’m particularly amazed by the ingenuity of companies like Eco-Fuel Africa that are taking such regionally focused and relevant steps towards combating the problem in a way that is so locally effective.
    I was curious to know whether you were aware of if there are any existing metrics at the moment that can help us measure the current adaptability of the Ugandan Farmer vis-a-vis the recommendations you suggested for the future. Additionally, how would you recommend they collaborate effectively to leverage the local government support you mentioned?

  4. I love this! and I love how many of the same practices could be applied beyond Uganda to help farmers around the world. Particularly, I find it terrifying that 70% of fresh water in the world goes to agriculture – and your suggestion to look into a further step of drip irrigation is compelling. I would like to encourage farmers through education to use irrigation in a better way to avoid poor resource management. Given that water is limited, we need to make it work harder and go farther than it has in the past! I read a little bit more about the history of drip irrigation and came upon this Israeli company that pioneered it – http://www.netafim.com/ very interesting and worth having a read!

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