Mechanization: A kick-start to agricultural prosperity.

Inadequate agricultural mechanization is one of the biggest hindrances to transforming Uganda’s agriculture from subsistence to commercial agriculture. The director of National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Dr. Godfrey Asea, recently said that 99.4% of small scale farmers in Uganda use rudimentary and obsolete technologies in agriculture, having tools like hand hoes, hand held axes, shovels, and slashers. Such tools make the cultivation process i.e slashing, digging, sowing of seeds and harvesting very tiresome and frustrating for the farmers. As a result, they end up tilling less land with low productivity.

The introduction and use of machines makes farming much easier than using manual labor. For instance tractors have components like the planter used for planting seeds, fertilizer operators, an irrigation engine, and manure spreader. Other farm tools like grain invaders are used during the harvesting process to pour seeds in silos, and the hay baler is used for parking hay in bales. In addition, these machines also increase the average cultivated farm land per day or in a given time period. This therefore enhances productivity by a great deal.

Modern agricultural mechanization is the way to go because by using mechanized tools, farmers will be able to reap high quantities of improved crop yields. Their household incomes will grow by leaps and bounds as the surplus available for sale will also be in larger quantities. On the other hand, the usual practice of using manual labor and rudimentary tools is rather time wasting and produces low yields.

Until next time…

Low commercial agricultural levels are predominant in Uganda.

Close to 70% of Uganda’s homesteads, that is, aproximately 7 out of every 10 homesteads are not in the money economy. Many families still belong to the pre-capitalist mode of production where people do not produce for money but just for eating and social obligations.

Therefore, despite the fact that majority of the people are involved in agriculture, most of them only practice subsistence farming. This type of farming is a major setback to the prosperity of the sector. There is limited production since all the farmers think about is getting enough harvest to feed their families. As a result, the farmers cannot take advantage of increased demand both at home and in the neighbouring countries in times of scarcity.

The room for profit making in such an environment is quite narrow. Potential investors can hardly give it their time and attention since they are mostly profit-minded. Our potential to export agricultural products like potatoes, beans, grains, milk and its products has also been subsequently undermined. The small scale farmers should be educated and encouraged to look at farming with a broader perspective that is not only limited to consumption.

If only the farmers in Uganda would adapt to commercial farming, there would be a ripple effect on the agricultural sector and entire economy.

Until next time folks…

Hindrances to the prosperity of the agricultural sector in Uganda.

Agriculture has been the back bone of Uganda’s economy for ages. Recent statistics show that over 80% of Uganda’s population is employed at some stage in the agricultural sector. However, the benefits and direct contribution to the economy are yet to be fully derived and enjoyed by the populous involved in this trade.

While doing research on agriculture in Uganda, I found that the following are some of the major hindrances to the prosperity of this sector. Low commercial agricultural levels, lack of linkage between research and farmers, lack of agricultural machinery, pests and diseases, low level of value addition, land fragmentation, high cost of finance, and the poorly structured transport network.

In my next articles, I will explore in detail some of the elements that have continuously held Uganda back in terms of agricultural growth and development.

Until next time…

An alternative to cereals as animal and fish feeds is imminent.

Cereals have for years, if not centuries been used as feeds for animals, fish and chicken. With the current shortage in production being a result of the prevalent drought especially in the tropical regions, it is imminent that a suitable alternative be found as soon as now.

There should be a significant reduction in the use of cereals as feeds. This can be done in a “green” economy by increasing food energy efficiency using fish discards, capture and recycling of post harvest losses, waste and development of new technology, thereby increasing food energy efficiency by 30-50% at the current production levels.

According to The Environmental Food Crisis, increasing the food energy efficiency provides a critical path for significant growth in food supply without compromising environmental sustainability.

As a result, the individuals living in drought stricken regions could have an extra meal or two contrary to what they can currently afford.

A short term move to enhance food security.

Inorder to decrease the risk of highly volatile prices, price regulation on commodities and larger cereal stocks should be created to buffer the tight markets of food commodities and subsequent risks of speculation in markets.

This includes reorganizing the food market infrastructure and institutions to regulate food prices and provide food safety nets aimed at alleviating the impact of rising food prices and food shortage, including both direct and indirect transfers, such as a global fund to support micro-finance to boost small-scale farmer productivity. The Environmental Food Crisis

Being innovative and adapting to the changing times.

We ought to support farmers in developing diversified and resilient eco-agriculture systems that provide critical ecosystem services (water supply and regulation, habitat for wild plants and animals genetic diversity, pollination, pest control, climate regulation), as well as adequate food to meet local and consumer needs.

This also includes managing extreme rainfall and using inter-cropping to minimize dependency on external inputs like artificial fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation water and the development, implementation and support of green technology for small-scale farmers. The Environmental Food Crisis.

Could post harvest preservation systems be a remedy to food shortage?

Food waste contributes greatly to world hunger. One solution includes placing a greater emphasis on post-harvest food preservation methods such as solar refridgeration, intelligent packaging and creating a world food preservation center. Charles. L. Wilson, Ph.D

Drought resistant crops are the way to go.

Drought normally hits crops at the flowering and seed stages, which is critical in determining the size of a crop’s harvest. Therefore, we need to look beyond the traditional food crops that we have become accustomed to, and start growing those that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

According to Science Daily, lead researcher Dr. Kai Xun Chan from the ANU Research of Biology said that the team discovered an enzyme that senses adverse drought and sunlight conditions, and how it works from atomic to overall plant levels.

This way the crops will be able to react and adjust in terms of nutrient intake. In turn, they will be able to grow to maturity despite the harsh weather conditions.

Given that we can only do much to change the current weather and climatic patterns, why not adapt to them accordingly?

 

Irrigation is the long term solution to food shortage.

The talk of food shortage in the tropical regions has dominated headlines of late. This has largely been because of the prolonged dry spell that has of recent faded away.

Irrigation has proven to be a viable remedy to the unpredictable prolonged dry spells across the globe. Many countries that are geographically located in hot and semi-arid regions ,like Egypt have established mega Irrigation schemes that support plantations in the hottest of times.

In my opinion, countries in East Africa with Uganda being the case in point, ought to borrow a leaf or two and go the Irrigation way. This way, production of food crops could be enhanced, especially among the large scale farmers.

As a result, not only will there be increased production, but the surplus produce could also counter increased demand in times of food shortage.

Food shortage: A result of global warming.

Market days were very exciting and filled with lots of anticipation. Trucks loaded with bags of potatoes, corn, huge banches of matooke (green bananas) moving in and out of the market. Men clad in muddy clothes carrying and delivering these bags to market vendors, who were waiting with big smiles on their faces.

This is going to be a profitable day!” One would hear the vendors whisper. That’s me being nostalgic, dwelling on the good old days. Days where having three meals wasn’t a priviledge, because food was in plenty.

“Studies have shown that the combination of increased  levels of Carbondioxide in the atmosphere, rising temperatures and changes in precipitation may result in significantly lower yields for staple crops such as corn and wheat, particularly in the tropical areas where food production is normally high.” Dr. Sam Myers told Live Science.

This is already evident in Uganda today. A local farmer in Agago District, while talking to BBC focus on Africa said that because of food shortage, a cup of beans previously selling at Ushs 800 now goes for Ushs 2700 for half a cup! In many parts of Uganda, lives are in peril with over 1.6 million people facing starvation and close to 10 million others being underfed.

Inspite of the current rains, this food crisis isn’t over yet because it will probably take 3-4 months before the next harvest.

Global warming is definately playing a big role in the food shortage in Uganda.