Uganda strives to beat climate change impact on agriculture

by Ronald Ssekandi LIRA, Uganda (Xinhua) -- As the world marked World Food Day on Sunday, farmers in Uganda with the help of government are adopting new farming technologies to beat the wrath of the adverse effects of climate change.

World Food Day was commemorated here in the northern Ugandan district of Lira under the theme "Climate is Changing. Food and Agriculture Must Too."

After counting losses over the seasons, farmers argue that it is no longer sustainable to stick to the old farming practices as rain seasons change.

Experts argue that increasing temperatures and unreliable rainfall that the country is facing are signals of the effects of climate change.

They argue that the changes are expected to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts, floods, and landslides, which will significantly impact on the livelihoods of local communities, who largely depend on agriculture and natural resources.

Agriculture in Uganda is mostly subsistence and dependent on rainfall, which makes it highly vulnerable to climate change.

Those that are likely to be most affect are vulnerable households and small holder farmers.

Alhaji Jallow, UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Country Representative in Uganda, said agriculture should evolve in order to face the impacts of climate change.

He said over the next five years, FAO is going to focus on five strategic objectives, which include ending hunger, promoting sustainability, reducing rural poverty, improving markets, and building resilience.

"We need to waste less food, save our forests, protect the earth’s precious natural resources like water and land, and consume less energy or use energy sources that cause less pollution, among other things," Jallow said.

Vincent Ssempijja, Uganda’s minister of agriculture, said the government is undertaking feasibility studies for irrigation schemes countrywide.

"Irregular and erratic rains due to climate change calls for investments in irrigation.

At individual farmer level, small holder family irrigation schemes are also being promoted to support crop, fisheries and livestock production throughout the year," he said.

Ministry of agriculture figures show that the government since last year has constructed 531 valley dams, providing one million cubic meters of water in the 56 water stressed districts.

Farmers are also being trained in hay, silage making and zero grazing to improve their skills in mitigating adverse impacts of climate change.

Ssempijja also said the government is promoting the use of drought tolerant, high yielding, pest and disease resistant crops and animal breeds.

Use of fertilizers to increase productivity per unit area is also being promoted.

He said the government is recruiting extension officers to offer farmers with crop and livestock technical support.

"The extension staffs are to integrate natural resource management and climate change adoption interventions in district and sub-county development plans," he said.

Government figures show that Uganda is food secure.

A food security report completed in August by the country’s agriculture ministry shows that 83 percent of the population in Uganda is generally food secure.

Uganda also exports food to her neighboring countries that mainly face food shortages.

According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), Uganda is playing an important role in supplying food for the agency’s life-saving operations throughout East Africa.

The food relief agency in a statement on Sunday said it has injected nearly 60 million U.S. dollars into the Ugandan economy this year through local food purchases, transport contracts and warehousing.

"By purchasing food within Uganda for distribution to needy areas within and beyond its borders, WFP is empowering small-scale farmers and private sector traders, and helping Uganda achieve the Sustainable Development Goals," said Mike Sackett, WFP Acting Country Director.
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Reviving fading folk courtship dance in northern Uganda

GULU, Uganda (Xinhua) -- Sounds of strong drum rhythms, whistles, and calabashes hit with spokes are signal that someone is in love or is looking for a marriage partner among the Acholi tribe in northern Uganda.

Among the Acholi people, whose ancestral land straddles the Uganda-South Sudan border, the Larakaraka dance is performed in the villages to signal that some young people are ready for marriage.

Whenever the sounds of drums, whistles and calabashes would go off, youths donned in their traditional wear would gather at the village square to dance and impress their potential lovers.

If one was impressed, then that could flourish into a romance and might eventually lead to marriage.

However, when a two-decade long war by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels broke out, the dance started fading as people were shifted from their homes to Internally Displaced People’s camps.

The social fabric was disintegrated as the war made people homeless.

In times of war, it was hard to perform the dance mainly for purposes of courtship.

Children born during war had little understanding of what the dance meant.

The onset of modern dances coupled with the stigma associated with folk dance has affected the appreciation of the Larakaraka dance.

To revive the glory of the courtship dance, a young graduate in the region has started a theme night in dance clubs.

While it was a rare thing to have traditional troupes perform in a dance club in this part of the country, that is not the case any more these days.

As the club manager of Pier 1 in the northern Ugandan district of Gulu, Frank Laker pioneered the theme night, 'Luo Night'.

During the 'Luo Night', the Larakaraka dance together with other traditional dances are performed.

They have a six hour slot once every mid-week.

Other dance clubs in the township and down south in the capital Kampala have soon followed suit.

"Whenever we present this dance I see a huge crowd coming in, that is what makes me think our dance is one of the best," Laker said.

The intention is aimed at encouraging young people to love folk dance and also understand their heritage.

Of late the dance is also performed on state functions, weddings and other events.

"Whoever comes to see the dance goes away with a message.

"Marriage is not about man and woman but it is a broader event that units families.

"If the new family gets problems it can fall back on the bigger family," Ochora Emmanuel Lagedo, deputy prime minister of the Acholi chiefdom told Xinhua in an interview.

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