One of our social reporters is Margaret Bulamu, who works with Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET). Now, towards the end of the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week, we asked for her reflections on the challenges of agriculture in Uganda.
Q: What do you see as the most important issue today in agriculture?
Margaret: Well, a large percentage of land in Uganda, and in Africa, in general, is owned by men. This leaves the women who are so deeply involved in agriculture without enough land for cultivation.
But that is not the only issue. Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), said in his speech at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week that Africans should not “sell their land blindly, but keep it and use it for farming.” Many Africans have been selling off their land in rural areas to move to the towns, looking for jobs.
In Uganda, specifically, agricultural parcels have also become smaller, making it very difficult for farmers to amass enough land to make a profitable income. Land is normally divided into small portions among the members of the family, which means few people have enough land area for adequate food production.
With the passing of each generation, the land is divided up more and more.
Q: Clearly, land tenure is a problem. What would be next on your “problem list”?
Margaret: To improve agricultural production in Uganda, we need to improve irrigation. It was also Dr. Nwanze who said that in Africa, only about 6 percent of the total cultivated land is currently irrigated. It is estimated that irrigation alone could increase output by up to 50 percent.
Simple technologies such as gravity irrigation, water harvesting, dam building and farrow digging are ways to increase the proportion of irrigated land, even in rural areas with poor basic infrastructure.
Q: Glad to hear some solutions!
Margaret: And there are more: Most seeds used in northern Uganda are “recycled seeds”. Farmers should be given more access to improved seeds. That would vastly improve agricultural productivity.
At the same time, farmers need to shift to intercropping, and mixed crops. They should not rely on a single crop for one season. They should diversify their crops. And there is an important educational aspect in there: extension agents should teach the farmers of those new crops, which crops go best together, when to sow them, etc…
Farmers should also combine livestock with crops. This will give them a higher income, but also provide a livelihood buffer; if they have a bad cropping season they can “fall back” on the income from their livestock.
Blogpost inspired by a conversation with Margaret Bulamu, one of our AASW6 social reporters.