KAMPALA – The Government of Uganda, with technical assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), have launched a new project titled: “Integrating Climate Resilience into Agricultural and Pastoral Production in Uganda, through a Farmer/Agro-pastoralist Field School approach”. An inception workshop to kick start the project’s implementation was held on 30 June 2020, via an online session involving different stakeholders at national and local government levels.
Although food security continues to be a key aspect for sustainable development, the impacts of climate change are reducing the capacity of natural resources such as soil and water, to sustain food demand of the growing populations globally and in Uganda. A significant transformation is therefore required to enhance agriculture, ensuring continuous crop and livestock production, while at the same time building resilience to climate shocks such as drought, floods and landslides. Agriculture in Uganda is largely rain-fed and many smallholder farmers have limited capacity to shield themselves from weather extremes and climate change effects, which devastate their fields.
The project, therefore, aims to reduce the vulnerability of Uganda’s agriculture sector to the impacts of climate change by disseminating practical knowledge on climate-resilient agricultural practices that can be adopted at community level, and mainstreaming climate resilience into Uganda’s agriculture sector policies and plans. Thirteen districts in Uganda, namely: Abim, Amolatar, Amudat, Amuria, Buyende, Kaberamaido, Kamuli, Katakwi, Kayunga, Luwero, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, and Napak will benefit from this project. The districts represent five Agro-Ecological Zones (AEZ) and three regions, located within Uganda’s cattle corridor –dryland dominated by livestock production with scarce water and pasture resources.
Representing the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) – Pius Wakabi, the Assistant Commissioner for Soil and Water Conservation- Freddie Kabango thanked FAO and GEF for implementing this project in Uganda, where agriculture is mostly rain-fed and farmers are vulnerable to climate change risks. As a result, agriculture production and productivity of farming communities is affected and the impact on food security and household incomes is significant.
“Despite the availability of water resources in Uganda, the current area under irrigation is low”, he said. “There is a desire to have a production area under irrigation at 1.5million hectares by 2040; but to achieve this, we need to sustainably use natural resources and come up with innovations and technologies to help farming communities to cope with climate change while meeting their needs” he added.
He called for the concerted effort of all stakeholders and urged the district leaders to embrace and support effective implementation of the project.
According to Bob Natifu, Acting Commissioner Climate Change Department at the Ministry of Water and Environment, the Ministry wholly associates with the project because it promotes interventions at the core of Uganda’s priorities for addressing climate change. Natifu represented the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary- Alfred Okot Okidi.
“By highlighting the link between agriculture and the environment, the project is timely and will support Uganda to overcome some of the key challenges in implementing climate change adaptation action”, he said.
The workshop involved a number of stakeholders engaged in climate change interventions in Uganda, including government ministries, departments and agencies; district local governments; research institutions; academia; development partners; Civil Society organizations and the private sector. Workshop participants discussed the project’s progress so far and deliberated on different modalities for implementation of the desired outcomes and approaches for using lessons from the project in other parts of Uganda.
By the end of the project (2024), it is expected that farmers, pastoralists, and supporting institutions such as MAAIF and community-based organizations, will have greater access to knowledge on climate change adaptation (land use planning, management of ecosystem services and use of genetic diversity to ensure resilience). About 40 master trainers and 120 Farmer Field School (FFS) facilitators will be trained (including in gender-responsive actions). These will enhance extension services to the target communities. These trainers will then support at least 7 500 farmers and pastoralists in the cattle corridor districts.
In his remarks, FAO Representative in Uganda- Antonio Querido, noted that in light of the current challenges caused by climate change in Uganda, “sustainable agriculture must strike a balance between protecting and sustainably using natural resources while at the same time meeting society’s growing needs by offering decent and resilient livelihoods”.
“The project will promote appropriate sustainable food and agriculture interventions, which recognize that farmers can realize greater outputs if facilitated to learn from each other”, he said. “The Farmer Field School approach, which is the key approach for the project, is a practical training methodology grounded in the principles of adult education will, therefore, support and build the capacities of smallholder farmers and rural communities in the adoption of resilient agricultural technologies and livelihoods practices” he added.
The USD 6.8milion project will use innovative approaches and tools such as the FFS approach to implement climate change-adaptation practices. The FFS approach focuses on group learning by discovery, experimentation and observation, group analysis of results and better decision-making. Through this methodology, the project will support farmers to mobilize fellow farmers and pastoralists to access and adopt new technologies and practices, complement traditional extension services and interventions by different stakeholders. Other approaches include value addition, ICT for community engagement and Gender Action Learning System (GALS) to enhance the role played by women in addressing climate change.
The GEF supported project invests in strategic activities aligned with Uganda’s National Climate Change Policy, building on on-going baseline investments for the agriculture and livestock sectors in the country. It also complements actions already taken by the country, including operation of a Climate Change Department in the Ministry of Water and Environment to coordinate implementation of climate actions as well as submitting results for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).